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Suns GM James Jones says Deandre Ayton is starting to put it together

Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton dunks against the Denver Nuggets during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 22, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

The sky is the limit for Phoenix Suns third-year center Deandre Ayton, at least according to the team’s general manager.

James Jones told 98.7 FM Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo on Wednesday that Ayton, who has posted double-doubles in each of the team’s last four games, is hitting his stride on the hardwood this season.

“He’s growing as a player. You’re watching it live. We see it right in front of our eyes – we see a guy who is starting to put it together,” Jones said.

“But you have to give him credit. He’s the one out there actually doing it. You have to give the coaches credit for coaching him to those things and putting him in a position to be successful.”

That work conveys itself for the former No. 1 NBA Draft pick when checking out Ayton’s rebounding numbers this year, in addition to boosting his field goal percentage.

Ayton’s year-to-date rebounding average of 12.2 is up from his career high of 11.5 in 2020.

The Bahaman-born big man has also upped his field percentage by almost five percentage points, from 54.6% in 2020 to 59.3% this season.

Jones said the team’s front office has not been surprised by Ayton’s development, per se, but that they’ve been quite pleased with how he’s played of late.

“It’s the micro view and the macro view. We have an ability to sit back and watch over the course of the season, over the course of practices and shootarounds, the repetition, the reps he gets,” Jones said.

“But I have to admit, and I told him recently, I think he’s continuing to do all of the things that we’ve asked of him and he’s doing them at a high level, and I think his opponents are starting to take notice.”

Jones said the key for Ayton in continuing his recent run is to make sure that he’s staying a step ahead of opposing defenses as they take note of his on-court habits.

He noted how the Denver Nuggets’ defense consistently double-teamed Ayton during the team’s games over the weekend as an example of how he’ll have to continue to evolve his game as the year progresses.

“The consistency in his approach and his effort and the team’s effort to continue to give him those opportunities, because it’ll change,” Jones said.

“So it’s always evolving. But as long as he knows that the team will continue to come back to him, that his opportunities will be there and when he has them he has to take advantage of them.”

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Jones also addressed the health of shooting guard Devin Booker during his chat on Wednesday.

He said that Booker, who has missed two straight games after suffering a hamstring injury against the Nuggets on Friday, is day-to-day right now.

“He’s out tonight. He’s day-to-day. He’s feeling better every day. Hopefully we can have him back tomorrow but I’m not really sure,” Jones said. “We’ll see how he feels tomorrow morning when we go through shootaround and we’ll just move on from there.”


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