Phoenix Suns: How Deandre Ayton Can Shine Offensively vs LA Clippers

Phoenix Suns, Deandre Ayton (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns, Deandre Ayton (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

After passing tests against the likes of Nikola Jokic, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis the first two rounds, Deandre Ayton will be in a whole new environment for the Phoenix Suns during his round three matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers. The “other team” from LA presents an opportunity for DA to have his biggest offensive impact yet, if utilized in the right way.

When going against a small-ball lineup the Phoenix Suns will have to be smart in how Deandre Ayton is used on offense, because it could swing the series.

When Deandre Ayton is set up in the post vs six-foot eight Nicolas Batum in Game 1, it is going to be very easy to yell at the Phoenix Suns guards to give him the ball. Once he gets it, fans will get visions of a one-dribble, drop-step dunk over and over on repeat. The problem is this is just not the reality of the modern NBA, but there are ways that Ayton’s size can still make a huge impact on offense.

With the Clippers unlikely to have a center on the court, any screen that Ayton sets is likely to be switched by the defense, taking away his initial roll to the paint that typically works very well for him. That does not mean that he is played out on offense though.

One way that Ayton will need to dominate against the Clippers is on the offense glass. While the Clippers switch on screens it will still leave a much smaller player on Ayton, meaning that he could put himself in position to get rebounds, which should lead to easy points or at the very least extra opportunities for the Suns offense.

While it can be hard for a player to set up a strong post position in the half court, Ayton could exploit the smaller Clippers on the break. If he gets up court quickly and creates a strong seal near the basket, he can catch it in a great position to score with a defense that has not had time to set up yet.

If he is doing a lot of these things, getting points the dirty way and with hustle, while also sprinkling in some brute force baskets in the flow of the offense, it could force the Clippers to adjust. They will do this most likely by sending some form of a double team on a catch by Ayton down on the block.

While Ayton has never had stellar assist numbers, even for a center, he does not need to make advanced reads in those situations to help out. A quick decision by him could lead to a few perimeter passes that open up a shooter, then Ayton will have assisted without recording a stat.

The most important thing the Suns can do is to not try and force-feed Ayton down low. Not only does it take the whole offense out of its rhythm, but it puts DA in a position he is weakest at:  creating his own offense. No matter the defender guarding him, the number of shots Ayton gets should be dictated by what the Clippers allow, and how many extra energy plays he makes.

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Against the Jazz, the Clippers put a lot of pressure on Rudy Gobert to perform defensively, but he did not do the same on the offensive end. Ayton, with a broader range of offensive skills, should be different. If he brings energy and the Suns have a strong game plan, then his series should look different at the end than that of his western conference center counterpart.