EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

There’s beauty in how Suns turn Deandre Ayton rebounds into points

Apr 8, 2021, 1:48 PM | Updated: 1:52 pm
Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns puts up a shot over Rudy Gobert #27 of the Utah Jazz during t...
Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns puts up a shot over Rudy Gobert #27 of the Utah Jazz during the first half of the NBA game at Phoenix Suns Arena on April 07, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. N (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Deandre Ayton had himself a statement game Wednesday, just as his Phoenix Suns toppled the NBA’s best team in terms of record.

Though Utah Jazz counterpart Rudy Gobert dropped a 16-point, 18-rebound performance with all seven of his field goal attempts made and three steals, Ayton countered with an impact felt especially later on.

Ayton not only held up in 41 minutes of an overtime win, banging with Gobert throughout and switching to decently defend drivers with tired legs, but he controlled the game late in the fourth quarter and overtime in a way that’s becoming more apparent as his unique strength: his rebounding and what immediately follows.

It’s not only how Ayton’s seven offensive boards gave Phoenix extra possessions to pile up a total of 21 second-chance points on the night.

All year, the Suns have thrived off the big man gobbling up boards and taking defensive momentum into offensive success. It went to another level off Ayton’s rebounding in the 117-113 overtime win against Utah.

After the center’s 12 rebounds, the Suns scored 15 points — and damn quickly.

On average, Phoenix fired off a shot attempt 3.9 seconds after Ayton grabbed a rebound on Wednesday.

Using official play-by-play from the game book, here’s a rundown of all his rebounds against the Jazz, including which end they were on and how soon after the rebound a shot was taken by the Suns:

1 – Defensive – Ayton hits a 15-foot jumper on the secondary break (3 seconds after the rebound)

2 – Defensive – Chris Paul makes a 12-foot jumper (6 seconds later)

3 – Offensive – Ayton goes up quickly to make a 2-foot hook (1 second later)

4 – Offensive, Ayton makes a tip-dunk (0 seconds later)

5 – Offensive – Ayton misses a tip (0 seconds later)

6 – Defensive – Jae Crowder misses a three-pointer in transition (6 seconds later)

7 – Offensive – On the same possession following his sixth board, Ayton keeps Crowder’s miss alive to hit Paul for an open three make (3 seconds later)

8 – Offensive – Crowder misses a three (4 seconds later)

9 – Defensive – Ayton taps the ball to Chris Paul, who found a streaking Devin Booker for a transition layup (2 seconds off the rebound — The length of the court)

It’s partially about the center’s awareness when crashing the boards on either end that helps Phoenix get out in transition or score second-chance points.

10 – Offensive – Paul misses a pull-up (10 seconds later)

11 –  Offensive – Ayton again gets a second offensive rebound off Paul’s miss for a tip-in layup (0 seconds later)

12 – Defensive – Paul misses a 26-foot three that leads to two more Phoenix looks that are missed (12 seconds later)

It’s true Ayton’s seven offensive and five defensive rebounds were less than Gobert’s, you might say. The Suns center entered the fourth quarter will only two offensive rebounds and four total. Then he flipped a switch.

Consistency has obviously been the key for Ayton in his two-plus years in the NBA.

Still, he held his own in the entire game, finishing with 18 points on 9-of-16 shooting with three blocks and two steals to boot. There was a lot of good from his shot selection to his drop-coverage defense, too.

But it’s hard to remember a night before the Jazz game in which the Suns big man’s impact by doing the one thing we know he’s very good at stuck out so blatantly. The Suns turned solid team defensive possessions into so many easy shot attempts, be it from offensive rebounds or quick transition plays going the other way, and Ayton was at the forefront of that.

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