EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Suns’ Deandre Ayton ready to adjust for round 2 with Clippers’ Marjanovic

Dec 10, 2018, 12:42 PM
Los Angeles Clippers' Boban Marjanovic (51) grabs a rebound next to Phoenix Suns' Deandre Ayton (22...
Los Angeles Clippers' Boban Marjanovic (51) grabs a rebound next to Phoenix Suns' Deandre Ayton (22) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

PHOENIX — They say that the NBA is full of new experiences and things rookies have never seen before and that never felt truer for Phoenix Suns No. 1 overall Deandre Ayton than on Nov. 28.

The Suns were in Los Angeles taking on the Clippers, and backup center Boban Marjanovic got the start in place of usual starter Marcin Gortat.

Marjanovic is unlike anyone Ayton has ever played against. Not only is he two inches taller than Ayton, but he outweighs him by 40 pounds. He’s simply on a whole other level physically and Ayton didn’t seem prepared for it.

Marjanovic had 12 points and 12 rebounds in 19 minutes, including eight on the offensive glass in a 115-99 Suns loss.

Ayton clearly had no idea what to do with him and he said as much afterward.

With the Suns taking on the Clippers Monday night, Ayton gets a chance to redeem himself after one of his worst performances in the NBA thus far.

Like he has in round two of matchups with the likes of Steven Adams and LaMarcus Aldridge, Ayton is ready to adjust.

“Put all my strength into Boban to keep him off the glass,” Ayton said Monday after shootaround of what he will do to counter Marjanovic. “He’s my responsibility tonight and I know the rest of my teammates have my back on the boards so I’ve just got to keep him out of the way.”

The one thing to watch for Ayton on Marjanovic is how he is going to be physical on the defensive glass.

If there was ever a game for Ayton to learn the difference between putting a body on someone and actually boxing out, that was it.

Ayton’s habit of relying on his hands or arms to do the work instead of boxing out is not good enough, especially against someone like Marjanovic, as Ayton learned on the first possession of that game.

Ayton didn’t adjust. Once this shot gets up he needs to get low and try to move Marjanovic. That’s something he rarely did in college, though, and has rarely done in the NBA.

Ayton looks back at Marjanovic here but doesn’t slide over to box him out.

Among the 24 centers who play at least 25 minutes a game, Ayton ranks 21st in box outs per game at 5.4.

Ayton also couldn’t get going offensively against Marjanovic. He missed all three of his mid-range jumpers and his lone make around the basket came when Marjanovic wasn’t on the floor.

That’s arguably where the bigger test is for Ayton. Because Ayton doesn’t use his dribble to get by slower bigs when he faces up, he can’t take advantage of Marjanovic’s critical weakness of foot speed.

Instead, Ayton has primarily relied on the jumper, finishes around the rim and hook shots out of the post to score. In order to get a comfortable hook shot out of the post, though, Ayton needs to back his opposing player down and he can’t move Marjanovic.

Look for the Suns to attack Marjanovic more in pick-and-roll, where the test will come for Phoenix’s starting point guard to make the right read.

“We told him, ‘OK, now you know who he is,'” Kokoskov said Monday of Ayton’s preparation for Marjanovic.

When Ayton was asked what he does in order to learn from the first matchup, he watches himself.

“I go back and watch film and my team and I sit back and focus on what I needed to do that game or what I should have done that game and I’m pretty hard on myself seeing how I play on film so I know next game I’m going to be pretty good,” he said.

The hope is that Ayton is ready to grow in the key areas where he needs to improve. A player like Marjanovic is not one of the 10-20 best bigs Ayton will face this year, but he highlights some of Ayton’s weaknesses and that’s where the struggles come from.

WARREN WILL PLAY

That last game against the Clippers was also the last time the Suns had T.J. Warren. Warren has missed the last five games because of right ankle soreness but will be back on Monday in limited minutes.

“T.J. is a scoring machine,” Ayton said of Warren. “I call him our assassin killa because dude don’t say much when he’s scoring the way [he] scores.”

Warren’s averages are down from last year but he has been terrific for the Suns as a power forward this season thanks to an improved three-point shot. He’s shooting 45.0 percent from deep on 4.0 attempts a game after shooting under 27 percent the past two seasons.

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