It’s very common in the NBA to have players that were studs in college come into the NBA and struggle to adjust the style of the league. No draft profile, positive or negative, can completely predict how a rookie will perform until they are suited up.
And while some might crash and burn, others hit the ground running and become immediate impact players. That is the case of DeAndre Ayton.
The first overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft met high expectations before he set foot on the Phoenix Suns’ hardwood. And high expectations can easily turn into heavy criticism
However, in his case, Ayton has risen to the occasion. He currently averages a double-double of 17.5 points and 10.3 rebounds per game – ranking third and first amongst rookies in those respective categories. He also ranks 14th overall in the league in total rebounds, making him the only rookie to rank in the top 20.
The 20-year-old appears to be comfortable with the NBA’s pace and style. His smooth jumper that he was famous for in college has translated well in the league. He has also showcased his proficient passing skills early on which helped elevate Phoenix’s anaemic offense.
He boasts the best offensive rating of the team (113) and he currently posts an offensive win share of 0.7 (a metric that estimates the number of wins a player produces for his team due to his offensive ability) which is the same as LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis and Jimmy Butler.
His impact is undeniable.
When he is on the floor, the Sun’s post an offensive rating of 107.2 and record an efficient 60.3 true shooting percentage. However, when he is on the bench, the team’s offensive rating plummets to an atrocious 84.9 while their true shooting percentage drops to 43.2.
With these kind of stats, it’s more than reasonable to have him as a key part of the offense. However that is not the case.
His assigned starting role and his average of 31 minutes per game may give the impression that he is but Ayton only posts a usage rate of 19.9 percent. Five other players on the roster have a higher usage rate - Devin Booker, TJ Warren, Josh Jackson and Elie Okobo – and only one of them posts higher points per game than Ayton.
In last week’s 117-96 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, the Nigerian-Bahamian center posted 24 points on an efficient 12-of-13 field goal shooting to add to his eight rebounds and five assists. And while it’s an impressive stat line, Ayton did a lot with a little.
He didn’t get a lot of touches on the ball and in the fourth quarter of that game, he was only fed the ball twice.
Similar things happened in the Sun’s 103-123 defeat to the Golden State Warriors. Ayton only registered 11 attempts in that game and he was yanked out early in the first quarter when Phoenix was trailing by six points. By the end of that quarter, the Warriors had a double-digit lead that the Suns could not claw their way out of.
Phoenix has to incorporate Ayton more if they want to revive their struggling offense – which is a bottom feeder in the NBA in both offensive rating and points per game. That means he needs to be fed the ball more and head coach Igor Kokoskov needs to run more offensive sets where he can take over. Phoenix cannot afford to afford to ignore Ayton at the moment, especially considering that they have lost six straight games.
Last night’s contest against the Spurs was a step in the right direction as Ayton got more looks at the basketball and he was allowed to play substantial minutes in each quarter. Hopefully this trend continues so that Ayton can show more of what he is capable of and get the Suns more wins.
All statistics were sourced on the 1st of November and were provided Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com unless otherwise stated.
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