Last year, the Phoenix Suns picked University of Arizona Center Deandre Ayton with the first overall pick in a stacked 2018 draft. Though he didn’t win the Rookie of the Year award, Ayton had himself an extremely solid season, averaging a double-double over the season (16.3 points per game with 10.3 rebounds per game). Now, with all the changes made to the coaching staff and roster, Ayton is set up to have a tremendous sophomore season.
Last season the Suns played most of the season without a
high quality point guard and relied mostly on shooting guards Devin Booker or Tyler Johnson to run the show. This hurt the offense in general but the one player that got the shortest end of the stick was Ayton. Without a true point guard and with the offense former head coach Igor Kokoskov was running, the first overall pick didn’t get the ball as much as he should’ve. He wasn’t able to run point or take the ball up the court, he had to rely on the offense designing plays to get him the ball and that rarely happened.
This offseason, the Suns looked to fix that. The signing of point guard Ricky Rubio will benefit the entire offense and especially Ayton. Rubio is a playmaker that gets the most out of his teammates as he isn’t looking to take 20-30 shots a game. That attitude is something that’ll benefit Ayton the most from as he’ll be fed in the paint and in the pick and roll constantly, whether it be Booker or Rubio doing it with him. That will inevitably lead to Ayton getting double teamed at the paint and when he picks but that’ll allow him to kick it out to his open shooters for an easy bucket.
General manager James Jones has placed an emphasis on getting shooters on this team and that spacing will allow Ayton to thrive in the paint. The team has all the potential in the world given how talented the roster looks to be. Booker is a walking bucket and keeps getting better each season, Kelly Oubre Jr. finished the season strong and Mikal Bridges had flashes of brilliance. If Ayton can be a force in the middle, there’s no telling what could happen for this team. There’s one specific move that Jones made that could make the biggest difference for Ayton’s second season.
The hiring of Monty Williams as coach is great for so many reasons as Williams is well respected throughout the league. He has a lot of experience in the league and coached the Pelicans to the postseason in 2015 and he’s worked with some of the best centers in the league. Throughout Williams career, he’s worked with the likes of Tim Duncan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Anthony Davis, Steven Adams, and Joel Embiid. He’s seen how top tier Centers/Power Forwards workout, practice and play and he has experience coaching them. That information will be invaluable in turning Ayton from a high potential player to a budding superstar.
Ayton had a solid, albeit, underrated rookie season. He spent most of the season about how good third overall pick Luka Doncic and fifth overall pick Trae Young were. This offseason, the Suns have done everything it can to build a decent team surrounding the top pick and Booker. Ayton will have every chance in the world next season to turn the story around and show the NBA just what he can do.