EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Suns’ Ayton has signature post moves, path to offensive dominance in sight

Feb 9, 2019, 5:07 PM | Updated: 5:22 pm
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)...
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

By now, we all understand when we are seeing the right version of Phoenix Suns rookie center Deandre Ayton.

When Ayton is crashing the offensive boards, constantly rolling and running the floor hard, he is impossible to contain.

He re-affirmed that point on Friday night against the Golden State Warriors, taking part in the demolition of All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins in pick-and-roll coverage as he makes his way back from a major Achilles injury.

The funny part is even with 23 points and 12 rebounds, Ayton had some stretches where he faded and easily could have had 30 and 20. As is to be expected with a young center.

Let’s get to why there should be optimism surrounding his offensive outlook.

Ayton is too fluid and quick with his movement, so when you add in his size and strength, he pushes the boundaries of defenses too far.

We finally got a look at him running full court with the ball, and my oh my is it a sight to behold.

A quick cut to the rim after handing off to Josh Jackson gets him ahead of Klay Thompson, and because of the whole freak athlete thing, he gets ahead of him in a hurry and can go get it what few can.

If Ayton shows urgency after setting a ball screen, it forces the smaller defender to track him down. If the Suns’ ball-handler baits Ayton’s defender far enough out, Ayton is now alone under the rim with a guard on him.

As the Suns’ perimeter players have learned this season, just lob that thing in there and he will snatch it out of the air.

To back-track on a point I’ve made all year on Ayton, there’s no looking around at a passing opportunity there. He’s locked in on throwing the ball through the net. That’s the mentality he must possess every night.

Stay active for post position and good passers are gonna find you. This is a terrific feed from Dragan Bender.

Ayton is picking up on some subtle stuff too. Let’s ignore the Warriors treating Bender like a real threat and instead focus on how Ayton’s roll includes a bump on Draymond Green, forcing Cousins to flash out.

That’s at least 10-14 points a night he’s going to get on rim runs and staying around the hoop if he’s that engaged every night and the Suns are looking for him.

Because the Suns’ game plan was to attack Cousins, Suns ball-handlers were looking for Ayton even more. He attempted a career-high 20 field goals.

In the post, Ayton already owns two go-to moves as well.

The baby hook is money when he gets himself within 10 feet.

His spinning turnaround off the catch is his signature.

Ayton having that in his arsenal already is where the encouragement grows that he’s gonna figure out how to add 4-5 other moves and become a leviathan on the block.

That’s another bucket or four a night as a 20-year-old.

The cherry on top is when he’s on the offensive glass.

Ignore Ayton being stripped and pay attention to his first, second, third, fourth and fifth jump to get the ball.

That is special.

Bring that factor into our points per game equation and we’re talking an easy 20-25 points per night when all of this is working.

It’s no coincidence that in Ayton’s five games this year he’s scored 25 points or more, he’s had at least four offensive rebounds, and his career-high 33 was with 10 offensive rebounds.

He’s a smart fellow. He knows this. That’s why he’s had the No. 19 taped up on his locker as a goal for the amount of rebounds he wants to get.

We didn’t even mention the jumper yet.

He’s still getting there in terms of consistency. On the three deep mid-range zones at the top of the key, Ayton is shooting 38.3 percent.

The league average is right around 39 percent, so for a rookie big man, you’ll take that number with the nearly two a game he takes.

Where it gets scary for everyone else is when he’s inevitably taking threes.

It’s gonna be extremely important to watch how Ayton balances popping and rolling after setting screens, especially after a few seconds when he can either stay there or get back around the rim to look for passes and rebounds.

But that’s when we get there. For now, it’s going from jokingly shooting a three or two during warmups to working it into his routine.

Don’t be surprised if he’s chucking these up on opening night next season.

For those that aren’t math wizards at home, we’ve got another handful of points he can provide off the jump shot to add on our chalkboard calculation.

We’ve also got a nearly complete offensive game for a center once he grows into himself more (free throws!), with Ayton becoming a guy who can put up 30-40 points any night from all over the place and dominating on at least one end of the floor.

We won’t even get into his plus-passing, the games where he’s not as engaged, how he can learn to incorporate face-up dribbles much more or the defense, because that’s not as relevant at the moment.

What is is that as a No. 1 pick, Ayton needed to show during his rookie season that he has the sky-high potential to become a future All-Star, All-NBA type of player. If you don’t see it that first year in stretches, you’re in serious trouble getting your end of the bargain for that high draft pick.

We shouldn’t be worried about that for Ayton at this stage.

Penguin Air

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