Monty Williams: Deandre Ayton ‘doesn’t know how dominant he can be’

Jan 3, 2020, 11:20 AM | Updated: 5:53 pm
Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton, left, passes the ball away from Portland Trail Blazers center Ha...
Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton, left, passes the ball away from Portland Trail Blazers center Hassan Whiteside during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Monday, Dec. 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)
(AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)

Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams understands fans’ feelings when watching second-year center Deandre Ayton.

That’s because he feels the same way.

Williams is blown away when, as Ayton did Monday against the Portland Trail Blazers, the nimble big man switches onto elite guards like Damian Lillard to contest tough jumpers. And on the other end of the spectrum, Williams wants more when Ayton dives into the paint only to search out attempts with finesse layups rather than raw power.

Does Williams wish Ayton would just yam on people?

“I do,” the Suns coach told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “I think he doesn’t know how dominant he can be, and most young bigs don’t. Think about the young bigs who’ve come into the league at that age outside of Shaq. Most of ’em took time to realize how big they were and the impact they could have physically. I think that’s going to come.

“Mark Bryant, our big-man coach and bench coach, tells me all the time: ‘With bigs it just takes awhile.’ I think it’s something he’s going to grow into. He’s got physical abilities that not many bigs have had in this league, historically. But I’m like you: I want him to dunk everything.”

Frustration over Ayton’s game, of course, hasn’t been alleviated with the 2018 No. 1 overall draft pick playing in just four games so far.

Ayton put together a strong season debut before he was suspended 25 games for diuretic use and has been slow to find a rhythm after returning from that and then spraining an ankle. Since the injury, Ayton has come off the bench twice.

He last put together an efficient 16-point, 14-rebound game on Wednesday in Phoenix’s failed comeback against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Williams’ patience in Ayton has shown in how he’s brought the center off the bench behind veteran Aron Baynes, something that might change in the near future and with the Suns playing two bad first quarters in their last two games.

Patience might not be a virtue with Phoenix potentially finding itself out of the playoff race with a bad month of January. But Williams knows that adding to the pressure on Ayton isn’t helpful.

“He’s the No. 1 pick, so that brings a level of pressure that, to be straight, is at times unrealistic,” Williams said. “I think as much as we want him to go out there and dominate, it’s really only five, six games for him since last year. We do have to be patient.

“At the same time as a head coach, I’m always pushing him to dive, I’m always pushing him to put it on somebody’s head. And yet I see the things he does. In the Portland game, not many people can dominate (center) Hassan Whiteside and get offensive rebounds the way he did and guard Lillard and guard C.J. McCollum … in end-of-game situations. I see that and I’m like, ‘That young man is going to help us win a ton of games this year, and that excites me.'”

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Monty Williams: Deandre Ayton ‘doesn’t know how dominant he can be’