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Suns’ James Jones excited for Deandre Ayton’s growth with Chris Paul add

Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns looks up during the second half of the NBA game against the Detroit Pistons at Talking Stick Resort Arena on February 28, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Pistons defeated the Suns 113-111. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Phoenix Suns look a whole lot different than they did a week ago.

Gone is Kelly Oubre Jr., Ricky Rubio, Ty Jerome and Jalen Lecque and in their place stands veteran floor general Chris Paul.

Paul has a notable reputation of being all things basketball. There’s no horsing around when there’s games to be played.

He may be an All-NBAer who averaged 17.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 6.7 assists, but it was his style of leadership that Suns general manager James Jones coveted for his young team.

“He’s a guy that’s not going to back down. He’ll be out front, he’s going to lead his team in action, verbally,” Jones told Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf on Thursday. “He’s a little feisty, we all know that, he likes getting T’ed up a lot. He can talk smack and trash with the best of them, but he’s pure basketball, man. He’s a winner, and the only thing that matters to him is winning for as long as possible.

“His mentality, his approach to the game, being the first one in, the last one out, making sure he’s the last one off the court when you have teammates going through things on the floor. … That’s going to help us tremendously. … If these guys can start to learn what it means to be an elite pro and what it takes to win, I think we’ll be winning for a long time.”

Of the young guns on the roster, Jones feels Paul’s presence will significantly impact the trajectory of Suns big man Deandre Ayton.

Ayton has shown he can be an absolute force in the league. In 38 games (32 starts) last season, Ayton averaged 18.2 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. He was on the court 32.5 minutes a night and shot 55% from the field and 75% from the charity stripe.

He’s not without his off moments, however, whether it’s a mental lapse on defense or not going full speed at times.

That should be nipped in the bud with Paul’s arrival, while also providing Ayton with a talented point guard who will make him better in all facets of the game.

“Deandre’s never played with a player like Chris. He’s never been this close to what I call superior excellence, and for us, we’re always demanding more,” Jones said. “We’re always looking for ways to help Deandre improve and grow, and he wants that. In order for us to be a really good team, he has to continue on an arc.

“I know they’ll spend a lot of time together. Chris will teach him the ins and outs, the nuances, the point guard-center combo dynamic will help him. … He’s still young in his understanding of being effective in the NBA against NBA length and scheme, but I’m excited for him. It’s going to be the most fun he’ll ever have as a player because we all know the tight ends love their quarterbacks, the wide receivers love their quarterbacks and that’s what you’ll see with those two.”

Paul has thrived with big men on the floor before, a la Lob City with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Multiple playoff appearances and five straight All-Star appearances can attest to that.

He’s now tasked with Ayton, who has the potential to bring a similar presence to the floor under the point guard’s tutelage.

Alley (Oop) in the Valley does have a nice ring to it.


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