Suns’ Deandre Ayton rises on ESPN’s top-25 under-25 list after strong month

Apr 13, 2022, 8:12 PM
Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns celebrates a basket during the second half of a game against ...
Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns celebrates a basket during the second half of a game against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena on April 08, 2022 in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton was named as one of ESPN’s top 25 players under 25 years old for the second straight season, coming in at No. 19 on the list.

Ayton, 23, rises one spot from last year’s list when he was No. 20 after averaging 17.2 points per game to go with 10.2 rebounds.

The list is based off of rankings from ESPN NBA Insiders Bobby Marks, Kevin Pelton and Mike Schmitz. Ayton was apparently on the verge of losing his spot, but a strong finish to the regular season saw his name move up the list. Writes Marks:

After an eight-point, three-rebound game against the New York Knicks in early March, Ayton was on the verge of being left off the 25-under-25 team. However, since that lackluster effort, the center has averaged 19.6 points and 11.5 rebounds.

Ayton also gained value in the eyes of Marks due to the Suns’ record when the big man scores 20 points and snags 10 rebounds: 12-1.

Improving his shot-making, Ayton hit a career-best 63% from the field this season. Expanding his game out to the arc, the fourth-year player has provided a new element to his game.

The big development from Ayton has been his ability to shoot the 3-ball. Although it is a small sample, Ayton shot 6-for-17 from deep this season (7-37 over the prior three seasons).

Ayton and the Suns now prepare for the playoffs, where the center played some of his best basketball last season.

Helping Phoenix win the Western Conference, Ayton averaged a double-double last postseason with 15.8 points and 11.8 rebounds per game.

Of the three ESPN insiders, Marks had Ayton ranked the highest at No. 11 on his personal ballot. Schmitz had him at No. 23, while Ayton didn’t make the cut for Pelton.

For the third consecutive season, Dallas Mavericks point guard Luka Doncic (23) topped ESPN’s list.

Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant (No. 3) and Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young (No.4) were the highest risers from last year, both moving up 12 spots.

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