Deandre Ayton is quietly dominating for the Phoenix Suns

Phoenix Suns Deandre Ayton (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns Deandre Ayton (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images) /

It is difficult to make broad statements about a player’s performance through only two preseason games. However, if we can at least feel particularly optimistic about one player, it is Phoenix Suns rookie Deandre Ayton.

If it’s been said once, it’s been said a million times: the Phoenix Suns have never had a dominant center it their 51-year history.

But after selecting Deandre Ayton first overall in the 2018 NBA Draft, the narrative of lackluster play from the center position has changed, and Ayton has so far looked the part of a franchise-changing renaissance man.

Although he has played in only two preseason games (including one against the Australian National Basketball League’s New Zealand Breakers), Ayton has dominated each outing, physically looking like a potentially commanding front court force, even if it seems that he isn’t playing as hard as he obviously and absolutely can.

In the Suns’ victory over the Breakers, Ayton recorded his first official double-double (the Fox Sports broadcast kept referencing that he had a double-double in the opening game against Sacramento, although the official box score said that he grabbed only 9 boards), finishing with a Suns-high 21 points, a game-high 15 rebounds, and 3 blocks including one where he pinned the ball against the backboard so hard it looked like he could have popped it.

Through two games, Ayton is averaging 22.5 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 blocks.

And from the field, he is shooting 18-29, 62.0%.

If these stats aren’t Shaquille O’Neal-like, then nothing is.

Ayton too has been playing the fastbreak to perfection, looking like a hulking locomotive as he sprints down the court, head down, reminiscent of the old Shaqtus, he appears determined on every opportunity to gain a post position before any secondary defenders can slump down upon him.

On one particular occasion in the second quarter versus New Zealand, he sped down the court ahead of the break, got into a position in the lane, caught the lob, turned, and drained a 10-foot jumper.

Like the simple yet desirous diamond, it was truly a thing of (undefendable) beauty.

That jumper is something else worth noting: Ayton has a helluva mid-range shot. He appears to be able to drain 10-15 footers with impunity. I noted on Twitter that the shot looked like both Charles Barkley and Amar’e Stoudemire, a combination of either would immediately make him one of the more unarguable centers in the league (he shot 33.3% from beyond the arc at the University of Arizona on 10-33 shooting so a mid-range shot should be well within his ability to drain without hesitancy in the NBA).

This is no exaggeration too. His shot is sweet.

What the Suns want and need from Ayton as they stroll into the regular season, is consistency.

They need a player who is going to score at a high rate when around the rim; use his body to snag as many rebounds as possible; and launch himself down court like cannon fire on fastbreaks so that a streaking guard can instinctively look his direction should a quick, pull-up 3 not become available to them.

Ayton has the size and athleticism to do each of those things, and through two preseason games, has been showing that he can do them in dominating fashion.

And the best part, he’s doing it quietly.

Sure, has given him a feature headline after each game, noting his dominance in their most recent headline, and SportsCenter has no one else’s highlights worth showing with Booker currently out, but one of the beautiful parts of Ayton’s persona is that while he is a showman, he isn’t boisterous to a degree that might cause fandom fatigue.

His interview responses are thus far wrapped in a humble tone. He is a man who is aware of his size and potential ability, but equally as aware that it is the effort behind the advancement and refinement of those skills that will make him truly great.

As the Fox Sports broadcast showed, when he was made aware of Shaq’s comments in regards to not trying to be the next Shaq but trying to be the first Ayton, you could see the young rookie blush as he gleamed that such a high profile megastar would make such a complimentary statement about a rookie who at that time had never stepped on the court in professional competition.

That combined mentality of wanting to be great but remaining humble is a pleasant reoccurring theme on the Phoenix Suns’ roster, something worth noting on a roster full of young studs.

It is a trait of Ayton’s that should eventually lead him to reach the heights that we all hope he will.

The Phoenix Suns might not see any real competition until the regular season, but Deandre Ayton also might not play to his full out potential until his statistics begin to be collected for the backs of basketballs card either, so what we’re seeing might only be the beginning.

This isn’t a critique either, just an observation, but it really does appear to me that he isn’t playing at 100% full out capacity yet either.

Much like in the Summer League, it seems that he’s holding back a little, still curious about his precise role in the offense, still trying to accept the full realization that he is in the Association, and making sure that he is getting his reps in, but most importantly staying healthy since the game’s statistics are to be eventually swept away.

Next. The Phoenix Suns should be worried about Dragan Bender. dark

For decades many Suns fans have felt the the franchise is jinxed.

It has to do with a goat, or something.

So many didn’t want to believe that Ayton could  be great until they see  him playing great.

Again, these games don’t count, and the New Zealand competition is far from NBA comparable.

But so far, Ayton has shown that he is every bit as advertised, and thus far is looking like the dominating player we all know he can be.