Welcome to the next piece in the 2021-22 Phoenix Suns Season Preview series, as we continue with player previews and go through the roster, recapping last year and analyzing how they can help the Suns in their upcoming championship push. Though the roster is mostly the same, the guys are a year older, wiser, and more physically and mentally mature.
Let’s continue working our way through the roster.
Big, 6’11”, 250 pounds, 23 years old
“DA” played in 69 of the Suns’ 72 regular season games where he had career-high percentages from the field and the free throw line, averaging 14.4 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 30.7 minutes per game.
“Dominayton” showed up big time in the magical playoff run, making 65.8% of his shots and posting 15.8 points and 11.8 rebounds per outing. He was an unbelievable 79.6% from the field in the first round and started the playoffs by averaging 21.7 points and 12.3 boards in his first three matches. At times, he was the best player on a court that featured LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Chris Paul and Devin Booker needed Ayton to step up in the postseason and he definitely did that. It was great to see him break and set many records and feats in his first run.
If it wasn’t for him showing a bit of fatigue and being in foul trouble for breathing on Giannis in the Finals, he would be seen even higher around the league. Even so, the word is out. He is one of the best centers in the NBA.
- Overall grade as an NBA player: B+
- Relative grade to preseason expectations: B+
I seriously thought about giving him a higher grade but I enjoy seeing him prove critics wrong and if me not giving him an A- helps, I’ll take the flak.
Deandre is entering the final season of his rookie scale contract and will make $12.6 million in 2021-22. He is set to be getting a rookie scale extension sometime soon which will see him make a lot more and he has now quieted any doubts and proved he deserves that bag.
Strengths and Weaknesses
He can be absolutely dominant on both ends of the floor when he’s engaged. Other times, you want the sleeping giant to wake up. There was less inconsistency this past season and again, he balled out in the playoffs. However, we all know that there is a lot of untapped potential in Ayton and none of us can wait to see it. As great as his postseason was, he can be even better. That should frighten the league.
On offense, he only averaged 6.8 field goal attempts for 10.2 points and 9.4 rebounds per game in his last nine games of the season. In his first three games of the playoffs, he averaged 21.7 points.
On the glass, he had 26 games where he grabbed 8 rebounds or less. Then there was the stretch from January 18th to February 8th where he averaged 14.2 boards.
Defensively, he can protect the rim and switch out on the vertically challenged, er smaller and quicker players. As good as he is on defense, though, he can be much better. Take a look at his shot blocking. He had 30 games where he didn’t record a swat and 29 games where he had 2 or more. In fact, he had 7 blocks in the last 3 games of the Finals.
Does he need to develop a three-point shot? No. But it would be bring an evil smile to the faces of many fans as we pity opponents with how dominant he can already be inside.
Ayton just turned 23 years old and still oozes with talent and potential that hasn’t been unleashed yet. He needs to continue the wrath he was wreaking in the playoffs while still wanting, and finding, more.
One Key Factor
Monty, CP3 and Book have done wonders helping Deandre find himself and he also wants to be the best he can be, especially now that he has a kid. The addition of JaVale McGee will assist in his development and drive also. That drive is what will push him to be one of the best players in the NBA, on both ends of the court.
I really feel that what he did in the playoffs was the exact opposite of a fluke and more of a sign of what is to come. The beast has been unleashed, things have started to slow down for him and he is about to etch his name in the upper echelon of the league’s finest.