When center Deandre Ayton got suspended for 25 games due to using a banned substance, the hype from a first-game blowout was drained immediately. However, the Suns have rallied so far in the first ten games of the season and look like a legitimate playoff contender. The play of the team as a whole is largely to thank for this but there’s one player who’s been out of his mind so far this season and that’s center Aron Baynes.
Baynes’ play is a major factor why the Suns haven’t been missing Ayton so far and we saw a microcosm of that in the Suns game against the Lakers. Baynes scored 20 points off 6-10 shooting with four beautiful threes made and racked up six rebounds and three assists. He played some strong defense against a Laker team where either Lebron James, Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard or JaVale McGee were lurking around the paint. He took a hard bump in the third quarter and was unfazed by it, showing the resilience and toughness that’ll turn the fans into members of a loyal army like with his fan account on twitter. He even hit a sick sky hook shot over James that was very reminiscent of all-time great Kareem Abdul Jabbar.
How Baynes has been playing is perhaps the best part of this Suns season so far. We obviously knew Devin Booker would be elite, Ricky Rubio would be a great addition and Kelly Oubre Jr. would be a great complementary piece. We expected Ayton to dominate like this and thrive under the coaching of Monty Williams while Baynes would be what he’s been in his career, a serviceable, backup center. With the starting opportunity presented to him, Baynes has shown the league that he can ball.
In the ten games Baynes has played so far, he’s averaging 16.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. Those aren’t game breaking stats but they’re a significant increase to the six points, four rebounds and one assist per game he averages in his career. He’s also helped the Suns improve on the defensive side, reaching 14th in defensive rating (105.5), 15 spots ahead of where they were last year. He’s an energetic anchor of the defense, aggressively defending the paint and is able to make plays around the court. He’s been a perfect fill-in for the Suns after losing Ayton.
Obviously his minutes will drop when Ayton comes back but Baynes has left a significant mark on the team and isn’t going to be relegated to bench duties. He’s also thrown his hat into the competitive race for Most Improved Player of the Year. There may be some adjusting the team and players have to go through when Ayton comes back but these are better problems than figuring out who to tank for. Those issue seems to be behind the Suns right now and prosperity is on the horizon.
Bright Side contributor Sam Cooper, better known as co-host of The Timeline podcast, recently put together this video on how Baynes has impacted the Suns. Be sure to subscribe to the Timeline channel on YouTube.com for more of these kinds of videos.