This Phoenix Suns Player is Certain to Dictate Playoff Success

Phoenix Suns, Deandre Ayton. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Phoenix Suns, Deandre Ayton. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

On April 17th, the 2022 NBA Playoffs starting pistol will explode for the Phoenix Suns, potentially kicking off both a historic and redemptive race.

After enjoying their winningest season in franchise history this year, and with a sour taste still in their mouths from losing in last year’s NBA Finals, securing the Larry O’Brien trophy over these next few weeks would be the accomplishment of a lifetime for the Valley Boys.

After dominating the league with their 64-18 final regular season record, even winning the most games by any team since the 2017-18 season, this Phoenix squad naturally stands as the odds on favorite to indeed take home the title.

As a result, Phoenix’s players can be found riding higher than ever. Devin Booker just finished off an MVP-caliber season and seems all but certain to attain an All-NBA nod. Mikal Bridges just played yet another complete season of games, even earning some Defensive Player of the Year recognition while doing so.

And of course, the Point God himself Chris Paul can be seen wearing the assist crown after averaging a league-high 10.8 dimes per game this year. He made the podium as well in the steals department, coming up second with 1.9 per game.

But for as important as all those aforementioned names will be come playoff time for Phoenix, one other Suns player promises to have a greater impact on how far exactly Phoenix goes this year—ultimately being the deciding factor in whether or not this team wins it all.

That player is Deandre Ayton.

With the former Arizona Wildcat about to finish his fourth NBA season, and about to become a restricted free agent after this year, he finds himself with a chance to change not only this franchise’s legacy, but his own.

We all know the potential this guy has. He displayed it often throughout this past regular season, and especially last year during the playoffs. Ayton even dropped a career-high 35 points less than a month ago vs the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Coming into the 2020-21 regular season, the story was whether or not this team had enough just to get into the playoffs. At times, Ayton seemed to “float” in games and avoid taking charge as a key player.

But that all changed in the postseason last year. Even though his points per game dipped slightly, his field goal percentage shot up to almost 66.0 percent, he averaged almost 12 boards per game, and pulled off one of the greatest, most clutch plays in franchise history.

Without all that, the Suns never make it to the NBA Finals. But this year, Phoenix will need just a bit more if they want to win it all. To reach that point, Ayton needs to take that final leap in the one area of his game that remains somewhat underdeveloped: rebounding.

In their last 10 games, not including the ones where Phoenix rested their starters, the Suns have been out-rebounded on the offensive glass 114-85. Granted, six of those games were wins against playoff teams, but those numbers still point to an area of improvement for Ayton.

The most glaring example came two weeks ago, when the Suns lost on the offensive glass 16-2 (48-39 total), and lost their third game of the season to the Memphis Grizzlies. With rebounding being Memphis’s most notable strength, and Memphis being the number one threat to Phoenix, one cannot help but view Ayton as the most important playoff piece going forward to combat that.

Next. One Thing Suns Need to Get Right Before Playoffs. dark

Ayton did lead the playoffs last year in total offensive rebounds and ended up third in overall boards per game—illustrating an ability to take care of this issue for the Suns when it matters most. If he does so again, and at a slightly higher level than last year, Phoenix chances to win it all, and his chances to collect a major paycheck, grow exponentially.