Why the Phoenix Suns are in Good Hands even without Deandre Ayton

Phoenix Suns, JaVale McGee, Deandre Ayton (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns, JaVale McGee, Deandre Ayton (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

Sunday’s matinee matchup vs the Detroit Pistons saw the Phoenix Suns take another road victory, and Deandre Ayton go down with a sprained right ankle.

The injury occurred after Ayton stepped on Devin Booker‘s foot during the first quarter. After noticing the tweak in his ankle, he promptly asked to leave the game and did not return. After the contest, Phoenix’s injury report confirmed the sprain in Ayton’s ankle, ruling the injury as “day-to-day,” which felt like a best case scenario with all things considered.

Phoenix already played 14 games this year without their man in the middle heading into tonight’s matchup vs the San Antonio Spurs. But despite Ayton playing an integral role for the Suns this year, the team survived those games fairly well, even going 11-3.

JaVale McGee has been huge for the Suns during games without Ayton

JaVale McGee and his time-on-task abilities have already made him a fan favorite and central pillar holding up Phoenix minus Ayton. When his number’s been called this season, he’s promptly answered to positively impact this team almost every single time.

On the season, McGee finds himself averaging 10.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game on a career-best 66.1 effective field goal percentage. As a starter (10 games at 21.7 MPG), his averages also jump to 12.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, and 1.2 assists per game.

All lineups including the prized big man also rank in the 89th percentile with a +8.9 point differential, and the 93rd percentile defensively by allowing 103.8 points per 100 possessions.

With McGee working beside Phoenix’s normal starting five minus Ayton of course, that lineup also ranks in the 96th percentile with a +26.3 point differential. They rank in the 99th percentile defensively by allowing just 86.7 points per 100 possessions.

In other words, although Ayton’s talents are missed, the Suns still resemble a pretty darn good team without him. More than anything this sheds light on the excellent job James Jones did in addressing the center position’s depth this past summer.

To backtrack a bit, McGee has struggled in retaining his touch since returning from his four game stint in health and safety protocols. However, he did show flashes of his prior form on Sunday with 20 points, six rebounds, and a block during the win over Detroit.

Some issues persisted, especially at the defensive end, with McGee often a half step slow on his rotations especially as the low-man in rim protection. Even fellow veterans Jae Crowder and Chris Paul were quick to let him know of it on the court.

But all the while, he did show progress, and the Spurs game grants him another opportunity to build on that. Expect McGee to continue rediscovering that Sixth Man of the Year caliber flow he previously enjoyed as he plays more minutes.

With that considered, Ayton’s (hopefully brief) absence can be a blessing in disguise.

Next. Ayton Targeted by Surprise Team. dark

For now though, the Suns are indeed in good hands as jumping JaVale is sure to display plenty more of his highlight-worthy athleticism all across the court and continue to help this team win starting tonight vs San Antonio.