ESPN: Ayton’s brief NCAA Tournament appearance showed red flags

Mar 20, 2018, 6:00 AM | Updated: 7:11 pm
California forward Roman Davis drives on Arizona forward Deandre Ayton (13) during the first half o...
California forward Roman Davis drives on Arizona forward Deandre Ayton (13) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, March 3, 2018, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

After the Buffalo Bulls pulled off a first round upset against the Arizona Wildcats, Deandre Ayton’s flaws on defense were highlighted once again.

Although Ayton had 1.89 blocks a game, the third most in the Pac-12, Arizona and the center struggled on defense this season. ESPN writer Jonathan Givony points out this didn’t change come March as the Bulls embarrassed the Wildcats in a 21-point blowout on Thursday.

Ayton played embarrassingly poor defense all night, giving up 23 points to Buffalo JUCO transfer power forward Jeremy Harris, and looking lost in pick-and roll and help defense. Numerous times, Ayton was caught spinning around aimlessly, unaware of where he was relative to the ball, his man or his place in the defensive scheme, showing that same lack of awareness and overall instincts that makes it difficult for many scouts to see him ever emerging as a plus defender at the pro level. The NBA game is about being able to defend in space, and Ayton’s well-documented struggles here are something the team that drafts him will simply have to live with.

Ayton’s stats may not seem poor on paper with a 98.8 defensive rating and nearly 2 blocks a game, but when compared to other notable big-men Ayton falls short on the defensive side of the ball.

Texas’ Mohamed Bamba is perceived as the best rim protector to possibly enter this NBA Draft class. Bamba averaged 3.7 blocks a game as he broke the Longhorns’ single season block record in only 21 games.

Another strong defensive star is Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr. who averaged 5.5 blocks per 40 minutes, more than double Ayton’s 2.25 blocks per 40 minutes.

However, what sets Ayton apart from the rest of the talented big men expected to declare for the draft is his tremendous offensive skill set. Unfortunately for Arizona, Ayton’s skills weren’t at their highest level against Buffalo.

He surprisingly elected to pop out on screens rather than roll to the basket and try to overpower a physically inferior opponent. He missed some good looks around the rim that he normally makes, as well as free throws.

Following the Pac-12 Tournament and Selection Sunday, experts were high on Ayton saying he was in a different class from the rest of the NCAA’s top players and a future Hall of Fame player. Max Kellerman even called him, “Shaquille O’Neal with more skill at this age.” Givony thinks these experts may have been a little premature on those comparisons.

There is no questioning Ayton’s physical gifts, offensive skill level and tremendous rebounding prowess, but he may not be the can’t-miss future Hall of Famer that some college basketball analysts painted him as in the lead-up to this game. He still has a great chance to be the No. 1 pick, and will have a long and excellent NBA career, but it’s important to remember that, like everyone else, he has plenty of things to work on.


Comment guidelines: No name-calling, personal attacks, profanity, or insults. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate comments by reporting abuse.
comments powered by Disqus

Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats guard Bendu Yeaney #23 with the ball is defended by Arizona State Sun Devils guard...
Wills Rice

ASU leading scorer Jade Loville transfers to Arizona Wildcats

The Arizona Wildcats women's basketball team picked up a big transfer on Tuesday in Arizona State's leading scorer Jade Loville.
5 days ago
Christian Koloko #35 and Bennedict Mathurin #0 of the Arizona Wildcats celebrate during the second ...
Arizona Sports

Trio of Arizona Wildcats to participate in 2022 NBA Draft Combine

Bennedict Mathurin, Christian Koloko and Dalen Terry will represent the Arizona Wildcats at the 2022 NBA Draft Combine.
6 days ago
Head coach Tommy Lloyd of the Arizona Wildcats looks on as his players take on the Colorado Buffalo...
Arizona Sports

Report: Arizona basketball to play Indiana in Las Vegas

Arizona basketball and Indiana are reportedly planning on playing against each other in Las Vegas on Dec. 10.
12 days ago
NCAA president Mark Emmert listens during a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee h...
Associated Press

NCAA President Mark Emmert to step down no later than 2023

NCAA Board of Governors Chairman John DeGioia announced the move Tuesday and said it was by mutual agreement.
21 days ago
Arizona guard Dalen Terry (4) reacts to a play against TCU during the second half of a second-round...
Arizona Sports

Arizona Wildcats G Dalen Terry declares for 2022 NBA Draft

Wildcats G Dalen Terry announced his plans Friday to enter his name into the 2022 NBA Draft while also maintaining his college eligibility.
25 days ago
Center Christian Koloko #35 of the Arizona Wildcats and forward Kur Jongkuch #15 of the Northern Co...
Arizona Sports

Arizona C Christian Koloko declares for 2022 NBA Draft

As a junior for the Pac-12 champions, Koloko made a leap in 2021-22 after starting just 19 games his first two seasons in college.
29 days ago
ESPN: Ayton’s brief NCAA Tournament appearance showed red flags