Phoenix Suns: “Most Wanted Big Man” Deandre Ayton Hopes to Improve

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

Giants with incredible bounce, athleticism, a finesse only come around so often. The Phoenix Suns knew this when they selected Deandre Ayton with the 2018 NBA Draft’s first overall pick a few years ago.

Even though other prospects like Luka Doncic and Trae Young blossomed more dramatically than Ayton following their NBA debuts, the Suns still feel strongly about their pick now three years down the line, as Ayton continues to surge with both his basketball skills—and self confidence.

Yesterday, everyone except Devin Booker spent time chatting with reporters to complete the always entertaining NBA media day. When Ayton’s opportunity came, that unwavering confidence absolutely fleshed itself out, showing the unbreakable positivity which Ayton plans to carry into the 2021-22 season.

When asked about his sudden improvement last year and how opposing teams might react to it by “hunting” him, the former Arizona Wildcat referred to himself as the “most wanted big man in the league.” Ayton later referenced his defensive work to justify his take.

But Ayton eventually went onto explain how he understands his role with Phoenix, operating as its anchor down low, but this year wants to improve across other areas. Ayton even got specific, mentioning how he hopes to do more by getting to the free throw line, operating as a fast break man, making plays, and just generally improving his offensive game.

Last year, Ayton averaged a solid 14.4 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game. But with regard to his mentioned areas of improvement, Ayton indeed chose the right spots to attack.

Shooting 76.9 percent from the line, Ayton clocked in as only the 13th best free throw shooting center across last season, far too low for someone looking to become an All-Star. Ayton also averaged just 0.2 fast break field goals per contest, the third worst on the Suns last year.

But with all these inadequate numbers, Ayton is doing the best thing possible with them: acknowledging their existence, and making it a point of emphasis to improve them. Fixing errors rather than ignoring them is exactly what winners do, and Ayton certainly understands that given his comments yesterday.

When he voices his belief in himself, as well as his willingness to still grow and improve, he resembles the exact model which every team hopes their young players embody. You can almost feel Devin Booker’s confidence, as well as the winning mentality’s of Chris Paul and Monty Williams channeling themselves through Ayton as he speaks here.

Looking forward to the 2021-22 season, Ayton certainly highlights this Suns roster as a player likely to push for the league’s Most Improved Player of the Year Award. Also due for a contract extension, he might enter the campaign with money as an additional motivator, should Phoenix neglect to offer him a max extension before the season starts.

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But regardless, keep an eye out for Ayton once the Suns tip things off a few weeks from now. Focused and fearless, he sure seems ready to play his part in Phoenix’s Western Conference title defense.