How the Phoenix Suns should utilize Deandre Ayton on defense

Deandre Ayton Phoenix Suns (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Deandre Ayton Phoenix Suns (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

After strong performances the past week by the number one pick, the Phoenix Suns may have discovered a new way to use him on defense to maximize his skill set.

It has been well documented this year that Deandre Ayton has not been great on defense. After every Phoenix Suns loss, unfair or not, his play on that side of the ball is picked apart with clips going around showing his shortcomings.

Recently though, there have been new videos that show his potential as a defender. The team may have found a new formula to bring out the best in him on that side of the ball.

The last few games should give hope, not confidence in Ayton’s ability to become an above average defender, especially after how he fared against two of the league’s best players. LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo had no idea what was coming but they know his name now.

He has made most of his plays outside by defending on the perimeter rather than close to the basket where he is still very raw. While still developing there, it is still possible find ways to use him effectively.

Ayton has shown that he has the size, length, and quickness to defend at any level. The qualities he lacks though are not physical, they are internal. He struggles with his decision making on when to rotate to help, and how aggressive he can be without wanting to get into foul trouble.

When it comes to defense Ayton is not a gambler, he almost always chooses to play it safe, which can cost him.

The difference recently though, is that when you are defending on the perimeter there is a whole new set of circumstances. Ayton is able to shine because it is often a straight one on one match-up with more jump shooting. With any shot coming from under the basket having had Ayton being fully committed to his driving man the whole play making his contest more meaningful.

This is all why moving forward for the Phoenix Suns it would be best to continue to match Ayton up on the perimeter whenever possible. In addition to guys like LeBron and Giannis, a perfect example of who to put Ayton on is Ben Simmons. Although it can come down to how the rest of the match-ups would work out, that is the type of player Ayton should begin to guard more.

This role for Ayton is essentially guarding like a power forward would, except that there is no center on the court to guard the bigger player. This is why this scheme could be limited. Even so, there is no reason not to throw Ayton into the fire and see how much and who he can handle on the perimeter.

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Although it is not a very traditional way of operating on defense this is something the Phoenix Suns could and should explore down the stretch of the season.