The Phoenix Suns have been hurting on the interior, both offensively and defensively, since Deandre Ayton went out with a hip injury. He suffered the injury late in the game against the Orlando Magic. Since that time he has been recovering and was not a part of the most recent road trip for Phoenix.
He was, however, looking ever so fly on the sidelines on Saturday night against the Philadelphia 76ers. Draped in leather, you could have put sunglasses on him, and I would’ve believed that he was the Terminator.
Ayton’s absence hurts. While the debate will always exist relative to his effort on the court, his affinity for finesse versus physicality, and whether or not he is worth a maximum contract, there’s one thing you can’t deny. He’s a damn good player. The primary reason he is overanalyzed is due to the fact that he is the only first overall pick in the history of the Phoenix Suns franchise.
What he brings is size, versatility on offense and defense, and stability in the center. And now he is probable to return.
Suns have upgraded Deandre Ayton to probable for tomorrow's game in Utah. He has missed the last four games with a right hip contusion.— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) March 26, 2023
Kevin Durant (left ankle sprain) remains out.
“You get kicked or kneed in a tough spot and it turns into something over time,” Monty Williams said of the injury. “The reports that I’ve gotten is he’s progressing.”
DA has been out for the past four games. Jock Landale and Bismack Biyombo did what they could to try to hold down the fort in his absence. They combined for 16 points per game, 11.5 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks. Bismack had a fantastic showing against Joel Embiid and the 76ers on Saturday, as he accounted for 17 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 massive blocks.
Biyombo credited, “trusting the gameplan,” and, “trusting your instincts” for his success against the 76ers. But let’s not fool ourselves. He’s not Deandre Ayton.
Prior to Ayton’s absence, the Suns had a 112.1 defensive rating. They’ve had a 121.5 defensive rating in his absence. They’ve allowed and increase in FG% inside of 8 feet, up 3% since Ayton has been sidelined.
His potential return comes against the Jazz, a team in 12th place in the Western Conference standings. While the elevation could be a challenging factor, it’s only been 10 days since he has played. Ayton’s legs should be fresh enough to give Phoenix the desired boost on the interior.
The reinsertion to the lineup for Ayton comes on the heels of the potential return of Kevin Durant. That will be seven games left in the regular season, and Phoenix is close to being whole once again.
Is seven games enough to learn who, and what you are? The first step to finding out is on Monday in Utah.