Suns’ center JaVale McGee on mentoring Deandre Ayton: ‘He’s a sponge’

Apr 16, 2022, 11:30 AM

NBA veteran JaVale McGee logged 558 games and won two championships before the Phoenix Suns took center Deandre Ayton with the first pick in the 2018 draft.

When McGee signed with Phoenix ahead of this season to be Ayton’s backup, he knew part of his role was going to be teaching the young big what he knew about succeeding in the league.

“That’s definitely one of my job descriptions,” McGee said on 98.7 FM Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke on Friday. “My job description was to come here and work hard, anchor the defense on the second unit and also mentor Deandre to be a great center even though he’s already a great center at this young age.

“But it’s some intricacies that he can change or he could do to be even a greater center and help lead his team to an NBA championship.”

The Suns came within two games of winning their first title last season, and Ayton stepped up during the playoff run. He was especially effective in the Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Ayton was held to 58 games during this past regular season, and McGee played well in relief on many occasions. Still, Ayton produced strong performances in Year 4 of his career, especially down the stretch.

Ayton closed the season scoring 18.9 points with 11.5 rebounds per game over his final 12 contests.

McGee has been impressed by Ayton’s willingness to keep learning and improving his game.

“No, not common at all, most No. 1 overall picks come in thinking they know everything,” McGee said. “But just being here the little time I’ve been here, he’s been responding, he definitely listens to advice and different things to do. He’s definitely a sponge, he’s a great listener and once he figured something out, he can just go out there and do it.”

The Suns are set for another crack at winning a title, as they take on the New Orleans Pelicans in Game 1 of the opening round on Sunday.

One area the veteran sees room for growth is Ayton’s aggression on both sides of the ball, which he feels is the next step in the 23-year-old’s evolution.

“I feel like he has so many offensive skills and sometimes he just doesn’t do it all out there at once, but sometimes he needs to just go ahead and be aggressive,” McGee said.

The Suns take on New Orleans Sunday at 6 p.m. You can tune in on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

Phoenix Suns

Boston Celtics' Jayson Tatum celebrates after scoring during the first half of Game 5 of the NBA ba...

Associated Press

Celtics win 18th NBA championship with Game 5 victory over Mavericks

Jayson Tatum had 31 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds as the Celtics topped the Mavericks to break tie with Lakers for most titles.

3 hours ago

Tyler Kolek #11 of the Marquette Golden Eagles reacts during the second half against the Villanova ...

Arizona Sports

Yahoo NBA mock draft: Suns ‘zeroing in’ on Tyler Kolek at No. 22

The Phoenix Suns are "zeroing in" on selecting Marquette PG Tyler Kolek with the 22nd pick in the NBA Draft, according to Yahoo Sports.

5 hours ago

Eric Gordon...

Kevin Zimmerman

Report: Eric Gordon expected to join Bahamian team for Olympic qualifying

Eric Gordon is expected to join the Bahamian national team for the Olympic qualifying tournament. Will he be on the Phoenix Suns by then?

7 hours ago

Steve Sarkisian celebrates...

Arizona Sports

Dia Bell, son of former Suns guard Raja Bell, commits to Texas football

Dia Bell, a top passing talent in the 2026 class and son of former Phoenix Suns guard Raja Bell, committed to Texas on Monday.

8 hours ago

Marquette guard Tyler Kolek...

Arizona Sports

2024 NBA mock draft tracker: Who might the Phoenix Suns select with the 22nd pick?

The Phoenix Suns own the No. 22 pick in the 2024 NBA Draft and with a salary-capped roster have few avenues to improve their team.

15 hours ago

Tyler Kolek #11 of the Marquette Golden Eagles reacts during the second half against the Villanova ...

Kellan Olson

22 for 22: Is point guard the way to go for Suns in 2024 NBA Draft?

The majority of the Phoenix Suns fanbase wants to see the team target a point guard in the NBA Draft. Is that the right call?

15 hours ago

Suns’ center JaVale McGee on mentoring Deandre Ayton: ‘He’s a sponge’