Deandre Ayton’s budding skillset make him a Unicorn for the Phoenix Suns

Phoenix Suns, Deandre Ayton (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns, Deandre Ayton (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

In just his second season, Deandre Ayton has flashed a new element in his game that shows that his growth is only beginning.

Deandre Ayton has seemed to develop a 3-point jumper, but this could only be the beginning signs of just how high his ceiling is.

In the first two scrimmages back from the NBA’s long layoff, Suns center, Deandre Ayton has shown us fans where his priority has been. Ayton knocking down two 3-pointers in the scrimmages has shown that he is trying to take that next step into becoming a player that can compete in the more modernized league.

Prior to the layoff, Ayton was just starting to find a rhythm and was beginning to look like the player worthy of a number 1 overall draft pick selection, flashing explosion, running the floor with a purpose, finishing with both authority and finesse around the rim, dominating the glass, improving with his post game, and finally showing signs of wanting to protect the rim.

Now, that sounds like a complete center and one that can help the Suns win a lot of games. Take everything that was just mentioned and picture what that would look like if a 3-point shot was added to that arsenal. Unicorn. Ayton has always shown his ability to shoot 15-foot jumpers with decent touch, as well as that baseline turn-around jumper he so loves, but he had yet to finally stretch it behind the 3-point line. However, it looks as though he dedicated a lot of his off time to working on that 3-point shot and getting comfortable shooting it in a game-type atmosphere.

Deandre Ayton shouldn’t necessarily fall in love with his newfound three-point shot, but there is no denying how valuable of a weapon it is.

There are many takeaways from Ayton’s newly developed 3-pointer. The first being: the sky really is the limit when it comes to Ayton’s game. If Ayton could put together what looks to be a pretty decent 3-point shot in a matter of a couple of months, who know what his game will look like come the start of next season or when he begins to approach the prime of his career.

Folks, we have to remember Ayton is still a kid. He just turned 22 years old, a fact that still blows my mind. Although minor, this development in his game gave me hope that if Ayton really wants to be great, he can. The second takeaway: I really hope he does not become complacent and comfortable.

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Do not get me wrong, having our 7’1 center be able to stretch the floor, pick-and-pop, and keep the defense guessing is phenomenal, however, there is a small part of me that thinks he will be happy with where he is at. I know I just praised his work ethic in developing this part of his game, but so often in today’s league we see seven-footers fall in love with being able to shoot the 3, and it hurts their overall game.

Ayton has the potential to be a future all-star and generational great, and that is due to his all-around skill and raw ability. If Ayton becomes complacent with being able to shoot threes the rest of his game will truly suffer.

The third takeaway: this opens up so many opportunities for this Phoenix Suns team. We all marveled, and continue to marvel at the way Aron Baynes can shoot the ball from deep and when he is hitting how much better this team is. Imagine if that part of Baynes’s game can be adopted by Deandre Ayton. Obviously, Ayton has only made two NBA 3-pointers, in games that do not count whatsoever, but the growth we have seen from him only makes me think that he will continue to improve this aspect of his game.

The unpredictability will jump to another level if he can see consistency in his jumper and it will make both him and the Suns so much more difficult to defend. Imagine Devin Booker coming off an Ayton ball screen and the number of options that can come from that.

Here, let me walk you through some. First, obviously Booker turning the corner and getting to the rim and finishing. Second, god forbid they go under and Booker buries a three and trots back the other way. Here is where it gets fun. Third, Ayton rolls hard to the rim as they look to trap Booker. Booker either has a direct pass to Ayton for an aggressive finish or a quick pass to a teammate who finds the rolling Ayton. Fourth, Ayton pops! Booker finds him and Ayton knocks down a three and Kelly Oubre blows the fans some kisses just because.

Fifth, knowing how lethal both Booker and Ayton are at scoring the ball, Booker comes off and Ayton rolls hard, requiring some help, which leaves either Cam Johnson or Kelly Oubre open with a great look. Sixth, Ayton decides to pop again, the defense realizing his ability to shoot it from deep rotates over, but Ayton finds the open man, causing the defense to scramble, ultimately resulting in more high-quality shots for the Suns.

These are just a few options in how Deandre Ayton’s ability to stretch the floor can improve the Suns offense drastically and make them a better overall team.

The fourth and final take away from Ayton’s ability to suddenly hit the three is this: the NBA and its players have drastically changed. Obviously, we have seen the impact Stephen Curry and others have had on this game, but to sit here and be writing about how Deandre Ayton is hitting threes is really unbelievable.

The fact that someone had the cojones to say to him, “Look you are going to have to be able to at least hit some threes this year,” blows my mind. However, it speaks volumes to the way Steph changed the game and the ability of players to develop and get that much better. For example, look at Brook Lopez and the growth he has made in becoming one of the more deadly shooters on a championship-contending team. He is an obvious example, but there are also players like Kristaps Porzingis, Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, Karl Anthony-Towns, and many more who all have the skill and capability to dominate in the paint with their back to the basket and create problems for opposing defenses, but who will oftentimes resort to the three-pointer. I am not here to say whether that is a good or bad thing, but I will say that Deandre Ayton is right on track to becoming talked about with the likes of those players and with continued work and development will become a household name for years and years to come.

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