The Leaves Us Wanting More Award – Deandre Ayton
Deandre Ayton ended the first half with the best statistical game of his career, a 26 point, 21 rebounds, 2 block (while shooting 11-15), 23-point win over the New York Knicks.
The game mirrors the first game of the season in which the Phoenix Suns blew out the Sacramento Kings by 29-points, and Ayton had his best game of the year until the Knicks, with 18 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 blocked shots.
In between those two games was his infamous 25-game suspension, a one-game return before five missed games due to a sprained ankle, five-games in which he came off the bench, and three in which he started at power forward, along-side Aron Baynes.
Ayton too has proven his worth as well, as the team is 6-5 this season in games that he plays, and 11-19 when he has missed – especially now on the heels of the upset victory over the Boston Celtics to open the second half of the season, in which he scored 26 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, blocked 2 shots, and shot 10-11 from the free throw line – reaching double-digits from the charity stripe for only the second time in his career.
In should be noted though that he shot just 8-22 from the field.
In his last nine-games (since the start of 2020), Ayton has averaged 18.8 points, 12.4 rebounds, 1.7 blocks per game, while shooting 54.5% from the field.
That said, he has been very slow to being a more aggressive center in the post, demanding teams foul him, as he is still averaging just 2.3 free throw attempts per game (up from 1.5 prior to the Celtics game), most of the rebounds that he grabs are caroms that came directly to him or that were snagged with much smaller players in his immediate circle with very few that he is muscled away from bigger opponents, and at no point yet has he dominated a game to the point where one could point to him as the reason for the victory with either stellar offense or impeccable defense.
Therefore, Phoenix Suns fans are left wanting more – although there is very good reason to believe that optimism in his ability to continue to develop, eventually becoming that game-changing center that we all hope he can be.
Ayton followed up his impressive statistical performance against the Knicks with another one against the much more difficult Boston Celtics, and a third straight against the San Antonio Spurs (whom the Phoenix Suns are competing for the eight-seed with) would be tremendous.
However, the team needs more than just positive statistical night’s in a couple of specific categories. Ayton must be willing to become more of a dominating player on both ends of the floor, affecting games in a visibly, tangible way.
Although he only appeared in 11 games in the first half, the positive win/loss record is one that cannot be ignored. If he remains healthy (and out of trouble), with the team just two games out of the playoffs as of right now, he could be a catalyst to the team that can claw it’s way back into the top-eight.