Deandre Ayton‘s recent success has helped the Phoenix Suns through a week with a limited Devin Booker. Although the Suns have dropped their last two games, they have had a lot of success that they can build upon. The majority of this success can be contributed to their young big man, Deandre Ayton.
Ayton has been playing so well that fans have coined the term “Dominayton” in reference to his success. Last week, I predicted that this week would be a huge test for the young big man, and it certainly was. Ayton played against two great big men in DeMarcus Cousins and NBA Superstar, Nikola Jokic. Let’s say he passed that test. But what has contributed to Deandre Ayton’s recent success?
Deandre Ayton’s Recent Success Leads Suns
Deandre Ayton’s Recent Success as a Rebounding Machine
Ayton has been dominating the glass all season and especially this past week. In his past three games, he grabbed 17 rebounds against the Houston Rockets and grabbed 13 rebounds in each game against the Denver Nuggets. Not only is Ayton grabbing these rebounds by muscling his way into the paint, but he is also in the right spot at the right time.
You could credit this to luck, but when you’re grabbing 12 rebounds a night, it’s a little more than luck. Ayton possesses an ability that is rare in today’s game: the ability to see where the ball is going after a shot and grab the board. This combination of muscle and basketball IQ makes Ayton a dominant big man. Ayton is quickly developing into a premier big man and will undoubtedly continue to developed these skills as he progresses.
Scoring the Ball
In the Suns’ recent games, Deandre Ayton has made his presence known on the offensive end. The big man scored 26 points in the Suns’ win over Houston, 26 and 17 on Friday and Saturday night’s losses to Denver respectively. Although the Suns dropped two games to Denver, those were hard-fought games that sent the Suns and Nuggets into overtime and double overtime in back to back games. Not only is Ayton scoring the rock, but he is shooting an efficient 66% from the field.
The addition of Chris Paul
Chris Paul has undoubtedly helped the entire Suns’ roster, but he has also contributed to Deandre Ayton’s recent success. Paul has experience playing with some of the league’s best big man. Guys like DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin, and Clint Capela all saw an increase in production while playing with the all-star guard.
Ayton is no exception to this rule. Paul is teaching Ayton the ropes of successfully running the pick and roll and how to score in transition. Not only is Paul helping Ayton by verbally teaching him these things, but he is also feeding him the ball a lot. On average, Paul makes 13.9 passes to Ayton. This alone is a huge step in the right direction for Ayton. Paul is quickly helping Ayton develop his offensive skill set while helping the Suns win basketball games.
Strong Defensive Presence
This right here is one of the most underrated aspects of Deandre Ayton’s game. Ayton stands at 6’11” and has a 7’6” wingspan. So to say blocking shots is natural to Ayton would be an understatement. Ayton has proved this past week that he can be the next best defensive big man in the league.
Although Ayton is only averaging 1.3 blocks per game, he recorded seven blocks in his last three games. That is an amazing accomplishment considering that in today’s game getting anything more than two blocks is considered a great defensive game. On the rare occasion that Ayton can not block the shot, he will definitely contest the shot and force a miss.
Why has Ayton’s defensive presence improved?
Ayton’s defensive ability has improved not only because of his hard work in the offseason, but also in part to his teammates. The Suns as a whole have been a much better defensive team since last year. In the 2019-20 campaign, the Suns defensive rating was 112.27 and ranked 17th in the entire NBA. This year, the Suns have improved their defensive rating to 108.9, which ranks eighth in the NBA.
I am very excited to see Ayton improving in all aspects of his game, especially in these last couple of games against Nikola Jokic. It seems Ayton’s is progressing nicely and will only improve. Ayton has improved so much this year, that it is hard to imagine that just over a year ago he was serving a 25-game suspension for violating the NBA-NBPA anti-drug policy.