Frank Vogel: Suns will involve Deandre Ayton more on offense

Jul 14, 2023, 12:03 PM

Deandre Ayton...

Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson pressures Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022, in Phoenix. Phoenix won 134-105. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Frank Vogel operates like any head coach: He will manage the players currently on his roster.

Friday marks a year’s time since the Phoenix Suns matched Deandre Ayton’s max contract offer he signed to join the Indiana Pacers, and that date means Ayton’s veto power on trades ends this weekend. Just maybe it’ll quell the trade speculation that’s also gone on for more than a year.

As it stands, Vogel very much has Ayton in his plans.

“I’m off to a great start with him from a relationship standpoint in terms of understanding that if we want him to defend and rebound at an All-Star level, then we’re going to have to involve him a little more in the offense. That’s just basketball 101, you learn that as a youngster,” Vogel said when he joined Sirius XM NBA Radio this week at the NBA Summer League.

“You got to give those big guys the ball sometimes. When they get it, then they’ll run through the wall for you on the other end. I think we’re off to a great start with that. He’s going to be a big part of what we do.”

Of course, the Suns’ aggressive front office and new owner operate in a different realm than Vogel, one where projecting improvement via roster changes is the focus.

We saw the contrast when Vogel — quite genuinely — spoke at his introductory press conference about the excitement of preparing to coach a team with point guard Chris Paul on it. Paul was traded for Bradley Beal soon after.

“I was thrilled to get Bradley Beal but I was also sad to not have the opportunity to coach Chris Paul because I think he’s one of the greatest ever to do it,” Vogel said.

“Had just recently before the trade had breakfast together and there was an excitement level of what that was going to look like. But Bradley Beal is one of the best players in the league, quite frankly, and he’s in his prime and fits a window of our team — a three-to-five-year window — that’s going to make us one of the teams that’s going to be a favorite to win a championship every year.”

Beal, Kevin Durant and Devin Booker obviously become the building blocks to the Suns’ success in 2023-24 and beyond.

But as this current roster stands, Ayton remains the X-factor, the player who could swing the offensive-forward roster into being a two-way contender.

That will be Vogel’s greatest challenge: Leaning on Ayton to do more on defense by showing more capability of switching seamlessly between coverages more often, all while managing his desire to grow as an offensive force on a squad that can’t manufacture touches more than traditional rim-rolling situations.

“I think we do,” Vogel said. “We’re definitely more offensively talented than defensively talented on this team, there’s no doubt about that. But if the big fella plays this year the way I think he can play and really anchors our defense, I think we can have guys really scrambling around the perimeter, flying around and competing on the basketball knowing that they got that giant behind them ready to block shots, rebound and get us out on the break.”

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