Deandre Ayton should take a step forward without Kelly Oubre for the Phoenix Suns

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

While only a small sample size, Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton has had three of his best games when Kelly Oubre hasn’t played.

It is terribly unfortunate for a Phoenix Suns team hoping to break at least the 30 win mark, that they lose their third-highest scorer in Kelly Oubre to a torn Meniscus. If he misses the rest of the season as seems very likely (23 games), the team is going to need to replace Oubre’s energy and scoring from somewhere else on the roster.

In the next man up philosophy, one might believe that either Mikal Bridges or Cameron Johnson should be the player to take the biggest step forward in the offense.

The Phoenix Suns have a valuable asset that very few teams have, a potentially dominate  center who against almost every team in the league, can be slowed, but not stopped.

Of course Deandre Ayton has not had an amazing  season for the Suns; he hasn’t been quite as dominate as fans (and the franchise) would hope to this point.

There certainly is no fair comparison to Shaquille O’Neal, who he had been compared most to even prior to his draft selection.

However, following his 25 game suspension (and his subsequent ankle injury), Ayton has put together a very solid season statistically, even amping it up even to a degree in recent weeks.

Averaging 19.1 points and 12.1 rebounds per game this in 2019-20 (Ayton is already having one of the greatest statistical seasons for a center in franchise-history), he is averaging 20.2 points and 12.4 rebounds as a starter (having come off the bench five times).

Since January 28, (when he scored a career-high 31 points in a 29-point victory at the Dallas Mavericks), Ayton has upped his scoring average even more, averaging 22.2 points, 12.2 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, while shooting 58.6% from the field.

In his last five games played, he is putting up 22.8 points, 14.0 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, while averaging 60.5% from the field.

Then, in the three games that Ayton has played in this year without teammate Kelly Oubre, he has had arguably his three best games of the entire year:

January 16: 26 points, 21 rebounds, 11-15 from the field in a 23-point victory over the Knicks.

January 18: 26 points, 15 rebounds, 10-11 from the FT line in a 4-point victory over the Celtics.

February 26: 25 points, 17 rebounds, and 3 blocks in a 10-point loss to the Clippers.

Ayton has had three other games this season in which he has finished with at least 20 points and 15 rebounds, each with Oubre healthy (February 3, 8, and 22).

However, in the three games that Oubre played in that Ayton had at least 20/15, Kelly has had particularly less-impactful games (21 points in a 22-point blowout; 20 points, shooting 7-19 from the field and 3-11 from beyond the arc; and 14 points on 6-17 shooting).

Now, I do not want to state that the Phoenix Suns are better off without Kelly Oubre, but Deandre Ayton certainly does appear to play quite well without him, and at least in individual scoring, with more of an emphasis put on Ayton in the post, he should  see his stats grow in the interim period without the head-slamming fan favorite.

Granted defenses are going to be more aware of Ayton in the post, but then again, so long as his team can get him the ball, then defenses are going to have a difficult time stopping him.

Not only is scoring from 0-5 feet his forte (he is averaging 70.0% from 0-3ft and 65.4% from 0-5ft), but he is averaging 2.0 assists per game at the moment (which is .5 higher  than Oubre), and has the ability to (and he will)  find shooters around the perimeter when double or triple-teamed (Oubre’s injury should mean more minutes for Cam Johnson which means more outside shots available to him).

Although he barely reaches the free throw line still (only 2.5 attempts per game this season), he makes them at a 78% clip, which with more attempts as defenses collapse on him knowing they don’t have to worry about the slashing Oubre, will benefit the offense – the three games without Oubre too turned in his 1st, 5th, and 7th highest free throw attempt games so far this year.

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The Phoenix Suns are going to look to Deandre Ayton to turn up the offensive heat in the wake of Kelly Oubre’s injury, and at least statistically he appears to be ready to answer that call.

Playing the best ball of his career right now already, while also playing very well in Oubre’s absence thus far, fans should see Ayton take an even bigger step forward offensively in these final 23 games.