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Williams: Suns undecided on starting Ayton in return, ‘more than likely’ will

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - OCTOBER 23: Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns looks to pass guarded by Richaun Holmes #22 of the Sacramento Kings during the first half of the NBA game at Talking Stick Resort Arena on October 23, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Deandre Ayton’s return from suspension is just 10 games away and with the Suns in legitimate contention for a playoff spot, his integration back into the rotation be of utmost importance.

Whether that means he will be inserted directly into the starting lineup or initially come off the bench is yet to be determined by head coach Monty Williams.

“We’re still undecided as to how we’re gonna do it,” Williams said on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Doug & Wolf show. “Are we gonna start him right away or ease him back into it? Not quite sure.

“More than likely were gonna start him because that’s who he is.”

The Suns have gotten the most out of 6-foot-10 center Aron Baynes in Ayton’s absence. Baynes is averaging career-highs in nearly all major categories on his first season with Phoenix, including minutes per game.

However, Baynes has missed the last five games with a hip contusion and lacks the athleticism and upside of the No. 1 overall pick of the 2018 NBA Draft, Ayton. Baynes is expected to return to action against the Mavericks on Friday.

The question of who will start at center upon Ayton’s return will come down to one of those two big men.

“I’m excited about that issue or that problem if you will,” Williams said.

Bringing Ayton back into the fold could complicate the continuity established in the first 26 games of this season, but Williams knows that Ayton adds another dimension to the frontcourt.

“His talent alone is something that is going to make us a better team,” he said. “We started to script plays with him so he understands our offense better. He’s in everything we do outside of the game.”

Suns general manager James Jones also kept close to the vest what Ayton’s role will be upon his return when he joined 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Burns & Gambo Tuesday.

“There’s a plan to keep his conditioning level up, his skill level up. And as we get closer to the games, coach will start to reintegrate him in our pregame routine, our practice routine, our practice plan, so it’ll work itself out,” Jones said.

Ayton’s suspension expires on Dec. 17 when the Suns take on the Los Angeles Clippers on the road. He was suspended for 25 games on Oct. 24 for violating the league’s substance abuse police testing positive for a diuretic.

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