Deandre Ayton was supposed to have a 3-point shot when the Phoenix Suns drafted him. The fact that it hasn’t appeared is surprising, and likely hurting his team.
The Phoenix Suns have inched closed and closer to becoming one of the more prolific 3-point shooting teams in the league, but the one player who most fans thought was going to spread the floor most and change the entire complexion of the game as played was Deandre Ayton: and he has yet to add that aspect to his game through his second season.
The fact that he hasn’t added a 3-point shot to his game is not necessarily slowing him down as he is averaging nearly 20 points per game while grabbing over 12 boards and blocking nearly 2 shots.
But wouldn’t it help, a little?
And help the team, a lot?
Aron Baynes had the greatest game of his career on Friday night against the Portland Trailblazers, draining 9 3’s and helping the Suns win 127-117.
Granted, this was entirely an aberration on Baynes’ part as he should never be expected to repeat this performance again (he was shooting just 25.3% from beyond the arc dating back to December 9), averaging just 33.1% on the year (he averaged 50.0% on 44 attempts in his first 10 games).
But the fact that he can jack one up is nothing but a benefit for his game when the opportunity is right.
Deandre Ayton, on the other hand, continues to roam primarily in the post, and on fastbreaks, is never looked at to shoot a 3 in transition (he has attempted a total of 7 3’s in his career, making none thus far).
But why not?
We had the expectation that he was going to have that shot when he came into the league; former head coach Igor Kokoskov said that he was likely going to let Ayton add that to his game this season; while Monty Williams is not Igor, it would be strange to think that Monty is specifically saying “hey, let’s hamper our offense a little bit and not have you ever shoot a 3”; and Ayton himself said that he had been working on the shot over the summer.
Videos of Ayton taking 3’s and draining them with regularity in practice have popped up on Twitter here and there as well.
The thought shouldn’t be that Ayton hovers around the 3-point line consistently. He is a tremendous post player and that needs to be the primary part of his game.
However, adding the threat of that shot to his game, averaging around 3-5 attempts a night – where he hopefully can make at least 33.3% would be a tremendous help for the team’s ability to spread the floor.
Whereas Amar’e Stoudemire either remained at the elbow and took an easy 15-foot jumper (something that Ayton excels at), or drove to the rim with a flourish (something Ayton too needs to do more of – it’ll absolutely create more free throw opportunities for himself) on pick-and-roll plays, Stoudemire never pulled out for the 3.
Ayton still does not yet really roll to the rim with the hope for the contact, but if contact is really not what he is looking for, he too could pull a Baynes and also roll back out to the 3-point line when his man sags down on the driver ready for a wide open pop-up 3.
Such a trifecta of offensive opportunities would only confuse defenses, open Ayton up for more wide-open shots, and open the lane up for more one-on-one drives by the guards (specifically Devin Booker), when Ayton’s man stays behind to guard the line.
Thus far it doesn’t really make sense that this hasn’t been added to his repertoire as Aron Baynes has proven that it can be hugely successful when ran.
Granted with this franchise there is way too much “hopefully over the summer, so-and-so adds this to his game, or, improves that about his game,” but in this case, hopefully when Ayton enters his third season in the NBA, he does so with the 3-point shot firmly in his arsenal ready to be unleashed.
It may very well be needed as 33-year-old Aron Baynes is an unrestricted free agent and might be off to another team anyway. There likely isn’t another spread-five out there for James Jones to attempt to sign or acquire, leaving such a roll up to the one other player currently on the roster capable of pulling it off.