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Deandre Ayton

Deandre Ayton Is A Top-Three Center In The NBA

Deandre Ayton
(Photo by Aaron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Deandre Ayton Proving To Be Worth The Suns’ 2018 First Overall Pick

After another huge night, one rebound shy of a 22-point, 20-rebound game, Deandre Ayton has officially proved why he was the first pick in the 2018 draft. Obviously, Luka Dončić, the third overall pick from that draft, is the better player, but there is no chance the Suns are in the Finals if Dončić is on the roster instead of Ayton. I believe Ayton is the most valuable player on the Suns and is the catalyst behind their postseason success. In addition to his size, rebounding, and defense, Ayton is an athletic freak who can run up and down the court for 40 minutes a game. He is also proficient at double jumping, although this skill often goes unappreciated. Whenever the ball is tipped in the air, he is right there quick-jumping to snag the rebound.

Ayton knows his role better than anybody on the Suns’ roster. He plants himself in the paint on both sides of the floor, and rather than trying to play out of himself, he plays his game and does not force anything. Ayton is also a constant communicator on the defensive end, and is much more than just a rim protector, as he can step out and guard players on the perimeter. With the injury to Dario Šarić, Ayton will have to play even more minutes to compensate for the lack of size across Phoenix’s roster.

Ayton Is A Top-Three Center

Ayton has solidified himself as a top-three center in the NBA with his recent play in these playoffs. He is not better than 2020-2021 MVP Nikola Jokic or runner-up Joel Embiid, but he is now in the class of those two players. He was a question mark early in his career, with many questioning if the Suns had whiffed on another draft pick after Ayton’s lethargic play early in his career. In addition to his slow start, Ayton was also suspended for PEDs just one game into his second season, and his resulting 25-game absence slowed his development and negatively affected his team.

After a bubble in which the Suns went 8-0, Ayton looked prepared to make another leap coming into this season under head coach Monty Williams, who had coached the team to their undefeated bubble record. Ayton also benefited immensely from the addition of future Hall-of-Famer Chris Paul, whose leadership, encouragement, and tough love pushed him towards reaching his full potential.

Through 17 playoff games, Ayton has averaged 16.5 points on 71% shooting, 12.2 rebounds, and almost a block per game, and he has been the perfect complement to Paul and Devin Booker. He has been putting in all-out effort on defense and on the glass, and his improved post game and face-up shots put him above other elite centers like Rudy Gobert. Ayton’s play has led the Phoenix Suns to their first finals appearance since 1993, and the team is currently three wins away from capturing the first championship in franchise history. It is safe to say Deandre Ayton is a cornerstone piece for the Phoenix Suns. He has played himself into a max contract when this season comes to an end, and he may well have a championship ring on his finger to boot.

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