Deandre Ayton: Young, Talented, & Overrated
Through the Suns making a deep playoff run into the NBA Finals last year, Deandre Ayton seemed to rise tremendously in value as the young star center of the team. Although this is partly true, many people should hold their opinions when calling him “the next superstar center” or even calling him a top-10 center, because as you’ll see, Deandre Ayton is slowly becoming an overrated player who simply isn’t as impressive as people say he is.
Having 2 of the best guards in the NBA as teammates (Chris Paul and Devin Booker) certainly make Ayton into the player he is. When he’s been out, we’ve seen his backups such as JaVale McGee and Bismack Biyombo revive their careers, and the Suns winning percentage this season is actually higher when Ayton hasn’t played. Ayton ranks among the highest in the NBA in % of field goals made that were assisted, meaning he almost never creates offense for himself, but rather, a teammate is setting him up to score. For reference, Mitchell Robinsons % of field goals made that were assisted this season is 56.1%. Montrezl Harrell is at 66.2%. Ayton sits at a massive 80.0%. If Ayton wants to prove that he is among the best centers in the game, he needs to be able to create offense for himself and others rather than relying on others to do it for him.
A Top 10 Center?
Many members of the media were quick to call Ayton “one of the best centers in the NBA” during the Suns playoff run, and to me, forget top five, top 10 may not even be a possibility for him. I think it’s easy to agree that Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Rudy Gobert, and Karl-Anthony Towns are all better than Ayton at this moment, and then there are a whole crew of players who I’m simply more impressed by when I watch them play. In my opinion, Bam Adebayo, Nikola Vucevic, Jarrett Allen, Kristaps Porzingis, Jusuf Nurkic, and Jonas Valanciunas are all more talented, complete players that are able to help their teammates as much as their teammates help them. That’s already 10 centers that I believe are at the very least, sitting slightly ahead of Ayton in this moment. There’s also very little separation from guys such as Clint Capela, Myles Turner, and Christian Wood. Oh yea, and I haven’t even mentioned Giannis or Anthony Davis, who have certainly been playing a lot more center than power forward this season. At the end of the day, seeing how many very solid centers there are in the NBA today, there is no conclusive reason why Ayton can be considered inside the top 10.
Suns’ Front Office Decisions
This past offseason, the Suns made a decision that was surprising to some by not giving Deandre Ayton the max contract extension he was looking for. Ayton believed that his production, coupled with the team’s success, merited a huge payday for himself with the Suns, but this was not mutually believed. Instead, the Suns invested money in Mikal Bridges, giving him a four-year, $90 million contract extension just before the 2021-2022 season began. This was a huge move, as it showed that the Suns were willing to give out money, but they simply believed Ayton shouldn’t be the recipient. The only centers in the NBA currently making the max are Rudy Gobert, Karl-Anthony Towns, Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Bam Adebayo, and if you consider him to be a center, Anthony Davis as well. To me, it doesn’t make sense to put Ayton in this list of players, as someone who has never gotten much All-Star consideration and has fewer career Defensive Player of the Year votes than Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. To put it simply, the Suns front office is one of the best in the NBA right now, and they don’t see Ayton as an elite center, so why should we?
At the end of the day, having team success and high potential, but being unable to unlock it has made Deandre Ayton overrated. He was given the luxury of being on a contending team in year three in which every single player on the roster succeeded, and it’s important to see his success from this objective angle. As for the rest of his career, I’m genuinely rooting for his success and a Suns championship would certainly be lots of fun.