Deandre Ayton would be unstoppable learning from Amar’e Stoudemire
The Phoenix Suns have never had a dominant interior presence.
You’ve heard people say it and you might have said it yourself at some point in relation to Arizona center and likely No. 1 overall pick to the Suns Deandre Ayton.
The closest to a dominant interior player is Amar’e Stoudemire, but where Stoudemire zigs and Ayton zags as offensive players is where Ayton could develop into a truly unstoppable offensive big.
At this stage as a scorer, Ayton relies on his physical prowess and jumper, which is not a bad thing.
Stoudemire, though, is one of the best face-up scoring bigs the NBA has ever seen.
His jab steps and ball fakes, combined with great footwork, a lightning-fast first step, tremendous finishing ability and a strong frame made him impossible to stop once he had a reliable jump shot.
Watch a more seasoned Stoudemire send Pau Gasol toward Avondale with fakes, and while lacking his explosion he had as a youngster, finish so smoothly.
That takes years of experience to develop, but Ayton has the tools.
The quickness, footwork and skill can be seen here against UNLV.
Where Ayton needs to first improve on offense is being aggressive off the dribble and welcoming contact.
His midrange jumper is fantastic, but scoring in-between touches within six feet of the basket and then peppering in those jumpers is what could make him unguardable.
That’s what Stoudemire was so great at.
Against Oregon this past season, Ayton earned a brief double but then was isolated in the midrange. With the defender playing up on him, he can initiate the contact toward the rim.
Instead, he jabs to create room for his jumper and settles for it.
Now, watch the 20-year-old Stoudemire in a similar position. David Robinson presses up on him, giving him zero space for the jumper or space to put the ball down. So, what does Stoudemire do?
He pivots a few times to create just enough space, then quickly pivots back to get his right shoulder in front of Robinson. Then it’s one dribble to bump The Admiral out of his way and Stoudemire slams it home. All of his intent is to drive, something Ayton has to do more at the next level.
Check Ayton here in a nearly identical spot.
Ayton went for a quick spin, but traveled and didn’t initiate contact enough to have space for a strong finish.
He scored, but some dude on Oregon State should be shoved aside like Stoudemire shoves aside one of the best centers of all time.
Stoudemire’s explosion pushed him over the top in this one-to-two dribble and finish area of the court. With that being said, he used superior footwork to get that explosion, even when he was No. 1 and lacked the same pop he had as No. 32.
Watch Ayton perform a spin for the bucket.
Watch that again and notice what Ayton does with his first step and right foot.
He doesn’t make his way toward the basket.
Now watch what Stoudemire does with that first step by putting himself closer to finish once the spin hits.
He’s right next to the basket while Ayton’s feet are outside the key and squished together, limiting the explosion he can plant and spring off in that situation. Stoudemire, on the other hand, comes off the spin in his launching zone, essentially.
Now, young Stoudemire was much quicker than Ayton, where Ayton has more traditional size and strength as a center.
The older Stoudemire, though, was still able to win those possessions with physicality and finishing strong.
A go-to for Stoudemire was squaring up, taking one dribble toward the baseline and not leaving any free space so he could take the contact to finish.
Ayton won’t be as fluid as Stoudemire was with getting the ball quickly into a finishing position while contorting about his body, but how about that earlier move against UNLV or even something as simple as this to get closer to the basket?
The defender is playing off Ayton, and instead of settling the jumper, Ayton attacks. The first step still needs to be a bit stretched out, but he makes up a ton of ground on the spin and gets to the basket.
The speed is similar because like the Stoudemire punish on Robinson, the double is too late to help.
Ayton will never have the fluidity and ball-handling Stoudemire shows in this four-basket run.
That’s fine because Ayton is a more imposing force around the basket.
Where he can learn from Stoudemire, however, is how he used tricks and skill from 8-16 feet to make his way to the basket.
If Ayton can do that at a certain level, he now fills in that aforementioned gap and becomes an unstoppable offensive player.