ESPN’s Jay Williams: Suns C Deandre Ayton yet to show ‘extra gear’

Dec 19, 2020, 5:45 AM | Updated: 9:20 am
Phoenix Suns' Deandre Ayton (22) grabs the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game aga...

Phoenix Suns' Deandre Ayton (22) grabs the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

(AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

ESPN analyst Jay Williams sees a parallel between Suns forward Deandre Ayton and NBA superstar LeBron James when it comes to untapped potential.

Williams, appearing on Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf on Thursday, said the third-year forward has all the tools needed to be a dominant big man in the NBA but needs someone to help him compete on the sport’s biggest stage.

“Deandre Ayton has the talent. I don’t know if you can put a timetable on it because I still think regardless he’ll still give you really good numbers,” Williams said. “But the one thing we’re going to ask about Deandre Ayton — and if Deandre were to average 20 (points) and 11 (rebounds), you would be like ‘man, those are really good numbers right?’ But we all want to see Deandre Ayton average 25, 26 (points); 14, 15 (rebounds) because you know that he has that in him.

“And there’s nothing worse than knowing that you have more in you but you can’t get it out.”

Williams compared Ayton’s development to where James was before teaming up with guard Dwyane Wade in Miami.

Williams said that James also lacked that can-do mindset before joining Wade but soon after found that extra boost needed to lead his teams to consistent success.

He believes that the addition of veteran guard Chris Paul to the Suns roster can accomplish similar results for Ayton going forward.

“And I will say this, I know in Phoenix there’s a big thing about CP3 at this stage of his career and the one thing I can tell you is you want CP3 to spend as much time with Deandre Ayton as possible,” Williams said.

“If there’s a pit bull you want Deandre Ayton to really rub off the DNA of who he is, that’s CP3, because CP3 will do whatever it takes to beat your head into the wall.”

Williams said he’s watched some of Ayton’s action during the Suns’ three preseason games but still hasn’t seen the drive that’s needed to compete at the NBA level.

“When you’re laying the ball in — I don’t want to see Ayton lay the ball in. I want to see Ayton dunk the ball through the backboard every time,” Williams said. “You know why? Because when you do things repetitively over and over again you start to develop this habit of that’s the way that you know how to operate. And that’s the aggression that you have on the court.

“And sometimes I think, when I watch Ayton through high school, he had all the talent in the world, but there was a little part of me that wondered, ‘is this a little like Andrew Wiggins?’”

This preseason, Ayton averaged 12 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 24.5 minutes per game, ranking fourth on the team in scoring. Over his two NBA seasons, he has averaged 17 points and 10.7 rebounds in 31.4 minutes per game.

Williams believes that there’s plenty of time for 22-year-old to find that extra drive to help the Suns reach the postseason this year for the first time since 2010.

“I know he wants to be great, but does he have that extra gear? LeBron has that extra gear. Russell Westbrook has that extra gear. Kevin Durant has an extra gear. Luka Doncic, he’s a killer on the court,” Williams said.

“I don’t know if I’ve seen that version of Deandre Ayton yet … Sometimes I think you’re born with it and sometimes I’ve seen players develop it, but he has to work on that.”

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