The 5: Most impressive Phoenix Suns rookie debuts
After three consecutive years of sup-optimal season openers (who could forget last year’s 48-point blowout), Phoenix Suns fans got a look at No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton, who helped the team get a lead over the Dallas Mavericks before guard Devin Booker shut the door.
Ayton finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
He joined Alvan Adams and Shawn Marion as the only rookies in franchise history to record a double-double in their debut, according to the Suns.
Where does this performance rank among those of other top Suns draft picks? Let’s take a look at some past stars, in descending chronological order.
Deandre Ayton: Oct. 17, 2018
Stat line: 36 minutes, 18 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, 1 block
The Suns’ first-ever No. 1 draft pick jumped out to a quick start off his promising preseason performance, getting five points and three rebounds within the first two minutes of the game.
From 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station writer Kellan Olsen in the game recap:
“If there’s one aspect of Ayton’s evaluation that seems like the safest bet right now, it’s his production.”
Ayton was an ultra-efficient 8-for-11 from the field and made both of his free throws despite going up against veteran center DeAndre Jordan. Phoenix was plus-17 with Ayton on the court.
In addition to joining Suns lore with Marion and Adams, Ayton became one of two No. 1 picks since 1985 (Philadelphia 76ers’ Ben Simmons) to have a double-double and five or more assists in the first game of his career.
The Suns hope he can be the franchise center to build around that they’ve coveted for so long.
Shawn Marion: Nov. 11, 1999
Stat line: 35 minutes, 14 points, 14 rebounds, 2 blocks
In posting a double-double with 14 rebounds — five of which came on the offensive end — Marion gave Phoenix an early glimpse at the athletic forward that would become a cog of the dynamic Seven Seconds or Less offense.
“The Matrix” started 38 games that year but was forced to miss all but one game in December and January due to a knee injury, according to the Orlando Sentinel. He returned to help the Suns win 53 games and clinch the fifth seed in the west.
Marion was named to the All-Rookie Second Team with an average of 10.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and one block per game.
He went on to play eight full years with the Suns, averaging a double-double over the span before being traded in 2008.
Armen Gilliam: Nov. 6, 1987
Stat line: 39 minutes, 14 points, 9 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks
Gilliam, who the Suns drafted with the No. 2 overall pick in 1987, displayed his versatile strengths right off the bat. The power forward was named to the All-Rookie team while averaging 14.8 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game.
Despite this initial success, “The Hammer” fell out of the Suns starting rotation in his third season and was traded after 16 games to the Charlotte Hornets as part of a deal for Kurt Rambis.
Gilliam was a steady role player throughout his career, averaging 13.7 points, 6.9 rebounds and 28.4 minutes per game over his 13 years.
Walter Davis: Oct. 19, 1977
Stat line: 31 minutes, 20 points, 6 rebounds, 5 steals, 2 assists
The Phoenix Suns’ all-time leading scorer (15,666 points) made his presence felt immediately.
With resounding success in his debut, Davis was on his way to earning an All-Star appearance and winning the Rookie of the Year Award in the 1978 season.
His 24.2 points per game as a rookie was the highest total of his career, which included six years of 20-plus points per game.
Davis made the All-Star game six times, including each of his first four years, during a span in which he averaged 21.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, four assists and 1.5 steals.
Alvan Adams: Oct. 25, 1975
Stat line: 34 minutes, 14 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 steals
The fourth overall pick of the 1975 draft turned into the Suns leader in games played, minutes played, rebounds and steals, and led the franchise in assists before Kevin Johnson and Steve Nash came along.
To open his career-long commitment to the Valley of the Sun, he posted a double-double and tacked on eight assists for good measure.
Adams put up an impressive stat line that filled each column that first year: 19 points, 9.1 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks. He was an All-Star and became the first Suns player to win Rookie of the Year.
After his 13-year career in Phoenix, Adams became the second player inducted into the Suns’ Ring of Honor in 1988.
Connie Hawkins was not drafted by the Suns, merely assigned to the team after two years in the American Basketball Association. He posted 16 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in his NBA debut on Oct. 16, 1969.
Steve Nash’s first career start came eight games into his rookie season. In 46 minutes of game time on Nov. 14, 1996, he posted 17 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds.