Phoenix Suns 2018-19 Preview: DeAndre Ayton

Phoenix Suns Deandre Ayton (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns Deandre Ayton (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images) /

In the 2018 NBA Draft, the Phoenix Suns held the top overall pick for first time in franchise history. With the selection now official and the season about to tip-off, the Suns have a top-level post prospect and hopefully a second star to pair with franchise player Devin Booker.

It’s been over eight years since the Phoenix Suns have participated in a NBA playoff game.

That’s not likely to change this season, but the core of the team that reverses that streak may finally be in place. One giant piece of that core is rookie Deandre Ayton, the highest selected Phoenix Suns draft pick ever.

Ayton is only 20-years-old and will take time to adjust to the NBA, but he does have certain skills that should translate right away to the Association. Those skills should help the Suns be a more competitive team in 2018-19.

What Ayton brings on offense

Deandre brings a full-feature offensive game to the Suns. He can be dominant inside the paint, he plays above the rim and he also hits the mid-range jumper with some consistency.

Obviously, playing against USC and Colorado is slightly different from playing against the Warriors and the Spurs, but Ayton’s offensive skills should translate quickly to the NBA. He might not be a 20/10 guy every night in his first season, but he is going to be so more often than not. He shouldn’t have a problem finding points over the course of a game this year.

His size and ability to play above the rim should allow him to feast on put-backs. Having an inside threat like Ayton should also open up the perimeter for his teammates. The Suns will shoot a higher percentage from 3pt this year and some of that increase will be due in part to the attention Ayton will demand from opposing defenses in the paint. It’s a level of attention not demanded by Suns teams in a long time.

One area to watch this year for Deandre is his ability to match the physicality of the NBA game. Ayton was so much bigger than other college players that he didn’t always have a fair matchup.

That’s going to change this season. If there’s one area of his offensive game that he might struggle this year, it will probably be in the deep paint (3-4 feet and in) as his makes the adjustment to play against bigger bodies.

Another key area for Ayton will be his shooting. One of his strengths is his ability to step out to the elbow and be an efficient shooter.

Deandre didn’t shoot many 3’s in college, averaging only about 1 per game, but he held a decent percentage at 34.3%. If he’s able to make the occasional shot beyond the arc in the NBA and he maintains that elbow jumper, it will be huge for his game and for Phoenix’s offense overall.

What Ayton brings on defense

Ayton’s defense was thought to be his largest weakness coming into the NBA Draft. Detractors pointed to his inability to stay in position on help, relatively low block numbers for someone his size, and just an overall lack of defensive awareness.

However, Ayton pretty much played his entire season at Arizona at the 4. This forced him to stay on the perimeter more than he likely will in the NBA, which will negatively affect his 3-point shooting numbers, but positively affecting his block numbers.

Ayton has the size to bang down low, and the athleticism to guard 5’s and stretch 4’s on the wing. He’s also actually pretty good at PnR defensive awareness and definitely has the ability to switch onto some guards and hold his own.

Deandre might never make an All-Defensive team, but he’s going to be an average-above average defender, with the potential to be even more. His biggest area of concern will be weak-side rotations and staying in position in deep help.

He’s likely going to get lost at least once or twice on a nightly basis early in the season, giving up a few easy looks.

What to expect overall in Ayton’s first season

Ayton is the most exciting prospect the Phoenix Suns have had in a long time – possibly ever.

He’s going to be a strong contender for Rookie of the Year, especially playing on a weak team where he’ll be on the court 35+ minutes a game.

His offense will be NBA ready from the opening tip against Dallas on Opening Night, and he’ll likely average a double-double or close to it.

He’ll have plenty of highlight dunks and if his mid-range shot stays true, he’ll easily be able to find points, even against bigger match-ups inside.

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Defensively, he’ll probably have a lot of good and bad moments. However, if he’s able to learn and really work on his weak-side rotations, the bad moments should start to subside a little by the end of the year.

No matter what happens, Deandre Ayton is going to be exciting to watch.