How Deandre Ayton can be a leader on the Phoenix Suns defense

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The Phoenix Suns have been giving up too many points of late and have been struggling defensively, they need a leader, and Deandre Ayton can be that.

The first place the Suns need Ayton to do more is on the defensive end. Some of the difficulty here is the scheme, which is almost exclusively man-to-man with many switches. Additionally, Ayton often gets burned when he comes over to play help defense, and his man gets a layoff and layup or a putback on the glass.

Improving Ayton’s defensive presence for the Phoenix Suns

Of course, step one in improving the defense is having the guards and wings keep people out of the lane so Ayton does not have to help, but there are two things Ayton himself can do that will improve his play and the teams on the defensive end and change the way the team transitions.

Ayton needs to be better with his hands to block more shots

We know Deandre is not Larry Fitzgerald and doesn’t have the softest hands; you don’t need soft hands on defense, but they have to be active. If you look at another Suns center Bismack Biyombo, he is always prepared defensively with his hands, and that preparation is manifest in more blocks.

Biyombo almost always has his hands up near his shoulders and, as a result, is ready to make plays.

Biyombo averages 4.4 blocks per 48 minutes this season compared to 1.2 for Ayton. Now Bizzy has more experience than Ayton, but Deandre is four inches taller and more athletic. He will be in a better position to play, help defense, and limits the opposition by simply keeping his hands up above his waist and near his shoulders.

Playing with his hands down by his waist – like most of the team of late – reduces his size and effectiveness. A little attention to defensive basics can go a long way.

Deandre needs to drive the Suns’ transition game

Ayton has been decent enough on the boards this season, averaging over 10 rebounds per game and 16 per 48 minutes. And while the offensive rebounds create more possessions, the defensive rebounds do not do all they can.

Most of the time, when Ayton gets a rebound, he turns around and hands the ball to Chris Paul or Devin Booker. An old-school coach like Bobby Knight or Pat Riley would likely bench Ayton and the guard for that behavior. Instead of handing the ball to the person closest to him, Ayton needs to rebound and then outlet the basketball.

Currently, teams are running too much against Phoenix, and the easiest way to stop that is to run back at them. The easiest way to create fast breaks and transition baskets – other than with turnovers – is with good outlets and quick ball movement up the court.

The day we see Ayton grab a rebound, turn and launch the ball down the court to a streaking DBook for an easy bucket, we will know he is taking that next step in his development. And with two easy moves, he can do more.

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