Welcome to our Phoenix Suns Season in Review series where we do individual PLAYER REVIEWS of each man that contributed in the 2022-23 season. We go through the roster to analyze what went right/wrong for them, and what they can do to get better for next season. We’ve done Devin Booker and Damion Lee. It’s time for DA.
- Position: Center
- Vitals: 6’11” tall, 250 pounds, 24 years old
- Experience: 5 years
- Stats (regular season): 18.0 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 1.7 APG, 58.9 FG%, 29.2 3PT%, 76.0 FT%
For a season that started out in a very tumultuous way for Phoenix Suns big man Deandre Ayton, in retrospect, the results weren’t as bad as they felt.
From going to a summer with zero communication with his head coach after a falling out to averaging 18.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 0.8 blocks in 30.4 minutes across 67 games. Ayton’s shooting looked like 58.9% FG, 29.2% 3P (24 attempts), and 76.0% FT. Here’s what his best moments looked like:
Continuing with the stats-based look, Ayton did have a couple of his best career games, including two of his four career 20-rebound games this season, one of which was a 29-point, 21-rebound game against the Utah Jazz for what was nearly his first career 30/20 game. He also posted five of his nine career 30-point games, including a career high-tying 35 points in February at Brooklyn.
Regular Season Recap:
His routinely up-and-down season featured a few really solid stretches of basketball:
- Nov. 25 — Dec. 28 (17 games): 21.2 points, 10.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.0 block in 29.6 minutes on 65/57/76 shooting
- Jan. 26 — Mar. 1 (14 games): 22.0 points, 11.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.1 blocks in 32.4 minutes on 62/na/81 shooting
These stretches, the latter of which includes that career high-tying game, do a great job of showing what Ayton can be at his peak. The trouble is the effort level during those games is so infrequent and inconsistent from quarter-to-quarter, let alone from game-to-game.
Almost immediately following that second strong stretch, Ayton played just six of the final 12 games ahead of the playoffs with a pretty lackadaisical stretch (that accounts for six of his 15 missed games over the season):
- Mar. 27 — Apr. 6 (six games): 14.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 0.7 assists, and 1.0 block in 29.7 minutes on 58/na/84 shooting; was a net +2 over a 6-0 stretch for the Suns, so he was not in any real way the reason they were winning those games
This bled into what became his worst playoff showing of his career. Most notable to me was how he didn’t have one game as a net-positive over the Denver series, including a combined -17 over the two wins
the Suns Devin Booker and Kevin Durant were able to muster. Here’s what his numbers look:
- Apr. 16 — May 9 (10 games): 13.4 points, 9.7 rebounds, 1.0 assist, and 0.7 blocks in 31.9 minutes on 55/na/52 shooting; didn’t play in the game 6 elimination
Ayton was memed more than he was productive, getting eviscerated online for a sequence against the Nuggets.
If zero effort was a person.— NBA Memes (@NBAMemes) May 1, 2023
Ayton just standing there watching pic.twitter.com/6USnrt6Tuf
He averaged a pedestrian 13.4 points and 9.7 rebounds in 10 games played, missing the Suns’ elimination experience against the Denver Nuggets.
All that can be brushed under the rug if you believe all Ayton’s problems are tied to Monty Williams, now happy with his up-to-$100 million in Detroit. While I don’t agree with that line of thinking at all, I’m willing to hear it out because in a lot of ways it doesn’t matter whether we like him or not.
Maybe you’re down to go into the next CBA (which starts on July 1) with Ayton being the fourth player making $30M-plus over the foreseeable future. There’s much too much to understand, let alone explain, especially since it’s still being finalized in ink, but here’s ESPN’s Bobby Marks explaining the most immediate implications:
Explainer on the Second Apron Rules— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) June 19, 2023
As you can see below, the restrictions double starting next offseason.
TPE= Traded Player Exception
That’s why it is urgent and imperative, in my eyes, to trade Ayton and trade him before July 1, preferably even before the draft to pick up a rotational player or two and/or a draft pick or two; those draft cabinets are looking pretty empty at this point (although ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on a podcast Monday morning that he doesn’t expect #52 to be included in the Beal trade). If not now, then certainly before the trade deadline.
If he does stay here, Ayton’s looking at ~$102M over the next three years with the annual value increasing by ~$1.5M each year. The only funky language in the contract stipulates that because of the offer sheet Indiana signed him to last July, Ayton has a no-trade clause until July 14, and can’t be traded to Indiana under any circumstances until then.
It’s possible to agree to terms with a team before then and just wait for the date if Ayton is holding it up or if it’s with Indiana, but that would take some heavy tampering and handshake agreements if a draft pick is included in the deal.
Final Season Grade:
Ayton, over the course of this season (and really over his Suns tenure if this is all she wrote), earned a D grade from me based on the expectations he set for himself and had built-in by way of being a very talented number one overall pick. But what do you think?
What grade does Deandre Ayton get for 2022-23?
This poll is closed
Keep an eye on the situation developing in Golden State with Draymond Green declining his player option and set to explore all options, including sign-and-trades. I’m willing to go on the record now that for my money, Green would make a better fourth starter on this squad than Ayton as a still-elite defender and table-setter. Maybe there’s a situation where the two are swapped for each other.