Deandre Ayton had major expectations entering Phoenix Suns Summer League, and he didn’t disappoint.
There are very few situations in sports with more pressure than being the number one pick in a draft. For Deandre Ayton, those expectations so far haven’t seemed to phase him one bit. Without putting too much stock into summer league, I’m going to put too much stock in summer league. Ayton is a bright piece of this core for the Phoenix Suns.
Let’s start with the good. Ayton has a true basketball body mixed with supreme athleticism, which he showcased on his first basket as a pro. He’s immediately the most explosive big man the Suns have had since Amare.
All the tools are there for Ayton on offense. His mid-range jumper is going to help him to be effective if he’s struggling to score down low on a given night, and over time opponents will have to step out to guard him from that range, giving him room to drive to the hole and use his size and strength to score.
His on and off-ball defense is better than previously thought coming out of college. He showed the ability to switch onto smaller defenders while holding his own in the post. There’s still plenty of room for improvement on defense, but in the brief glimpse that we got, Ayton showed that he can be a competent rim protector for the Suns moving forward, and could possibly develop into a great one.
To me, what stood out the most was his passing. He didn’t force anything, though plenty of people hoped he would have been a bit more aggressive. However, he made the right pass when he needed to, and he was already drawing double teams.
There isn’t a lot of bad, and most of the bad can be corrected with coaching and time. Ayton relies too much on size and athleticism as a defensive rebounder instead of striving to get good position and boxing out his man. There were numerous possessions where Ayton missed a rebound that he probably should have gotten, allowing the opposing team another possession.
As I mentioned earlier, Ayton was also very passive offensively at times, deferring to teammates when he had a favorable matchup on the block. That aggression will come with time and comfort in the system and his game against opponents on the NBA level. It’s a problem nearly every rookie deals with.
A lot of fans were hoping Ayton would dominate summer league, but at the end of the day, he showed exactly why the Phoenix Suns took him first overall. He has all the tools and most of the skills necessary for him to be a top center in this league, and under the tutelage of new head coach Igor Kokoskov, Ayton stands to become a dominant force down low for this Suns team.
Despite him not putting up the god-like numbers fans were somewhat unfairly expecting of him, Deandre Ayton was still second team All-NBA Summer League. He put up 14.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in just 27 minutes per game, all while shooting 60 percent from the field and adding one block and one steal per contest.
Suns fans should have lots of hope for the future with this pick. Ayton can potentially be the best player on this team, even better than Devin Booker or Josh Jackson. A lot of development will need to occur for that to become a reality, but the potential is there. Just watch for yourself.