Apr
19
2021

Phoenix Suns: Ayton Lost And Found

There is nobody that has been harder on Phoenix Suns Deandre Ayton than I have been. Rightfully so, I am still very bitter that the Suns passed on an obvious franchise player in Luka Doncic. But the young center has shown signs of turning the corner.

2018 NBA DRAFT

In 2018 the Phoenix Suns had 5 point guards on their active roster. None of which would qualify for 2nd string job on any other NBA club. At the center, they had Tyson Chandler and Rashaun Holmes who has turned into a bonafide NBA starter for the Sacramento Kings. What did the Suns’ brain trust do, they didn’t draft the superstar they drafted the project in Ayton?

Project? Hey, I am not alone. Look at any of the “2018 Re-Drafts” from a year ago, very few “experts” would draft Ayton before No. 5 in the draft. When drafted, DA was a ’90s center; soft, couldn’t play defense, couldn’t shoot outside of 15 feet, and literally couldn’t guard anyone.

AYTON SHOULD BE TRADED

Trade talks regarding Deandre have been growing for the last two years. The Ringers Bill Simmons on the Lowe Post stated;

“I would be shopping him right now. If I were the Suns, I wouldn’t want Ayton on that team.” Simmons said of the second-year center. Bill Simmons wasn’t alone calling for the trading of Ayton, ESPN Analyst Dave Pasch said in 2020;

“They looked at trading him last summer, it didn’t work out,” Pasch told Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf.

In March, I would have called the Kings up and offered Ayton for Rashaun Holmes and a first-round pick. That is how little I thought about the former #1 draft pick. Check out Holmes’ stats and you will see that the stats for Holmes are as good as Ayton’s. Ayton should aspire to be Holmes who plays tough defense and is the junkyard dog Ayton is not.

BIG MAN’S INFLATED STATS

Deandre Ayton currently ranks 36 in the center rankings in the ESPN Plus/Minus ratings. That would be okay if he ranked in the top 10 for defense, but he doesn’t.

Ayton during his first three seasons has averaged a double/double each season, how can those numbers be overlooked? To me, they are meaningless. Ayton has never consistently played with a good rebounding player taller than 6’6″ by his side over his short career. He should average a double/double.

The reality is that DA was a good player on a bad team and was the recipient of inflated stats. His second year started by cementing my dislike for him when he was suspended for 25 games for steroids. It wasn’t until February of 2020 where I finally thought wow, this kid can play.

For that one month, the Suns’ big man averaged 21.5 pts, 12.5 rebs, and 1.9 blk shots a game. He played like an All-Star and I wondered if I was wrong? No, I wasn’t wrong they still should have taken Luka, but this was a good sign for the Suns.

But then March and the NBA Bubble happened, Ayton went back to being not “Luka”, playing consistently inconsistent.

AYTON’S LIGHT BULB MOMENT


After going through a preseason Chris Paul Bootcamp, which was a very real learning curve for the Suns and in particular Ayton, now have positive results. The light appears to have come on for Ayton. It has taken almost five months, but since April 2nd, he has become consistent. Ayton is averaging 17.6 points, 10.1 rebounds, 1.4 steals, and 1.4 blocks a game. Ayton now has actual confidence, he is more mature and not rushing plays, and the game has slowed for him.

The real test as to whether the bulb is on or off will be the eastern road swing for the Suns this week. Phoenix will face the best that the East has to offer. We will find out if the light is on and a 20-points, 10-rebound Ayton is indeed possible or the Sun’s future or an inconsistent role player.

Going forward, DA will have inconsistencies like the ones he demonstrated in the last game against the San Antonio Spurs. Undrafted free agent center Drew Eubanks made Ayton look like an undrafted free agent. But even Devin Booker and Chris Paul have off nights. We can hope.

MONTY WILLIAMS TRUST

Last month, Ayton was being pulled out at the end of the games because he couldn’t be trusted. Ayton continued his funk through the end of March when things suddenly turned around. I believe it was at that point that Monty Williams started to trust Deandre Ayton for the first time.

There is no reason why Deandre Ayton can’t be a 20 point, 10 rebound-a-night player. The Suns will have a definitive answer whether to give him new a new contract after next year or if they should ship him out.

NOTE OF THE WEEK: Backup center Gorgui Dieng was signed by the Spurs late in March for a million dollars. Seven other teams went after Dieng including the Phoenix Suns. Evidently, they all cheeped out when they shouldn’t have.

He would have been a perfect addition to this Suns team with his defense and a high motor. They had the money to outbid the Spurs by a lot. By not doing so, GM Jones leave the Suns very vulnerable at the backup center in this year’s playoffs.