The rumblings have settled during the offseason about the postseason performance, and effort, of Deandre Ayton. In his first postseason appearance as a maximum contract player, the fifth-year center posted, on the surface, a pedestrian 13.7 points and 9.7 rebounds. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find that those points were the third highest on the team, behind historic postseason performances by Devin Booker and Kevin Durant.
Devin Booker scored 33.7 points during the Suns’ 2023 postseason run, which is the highest average ever by a Phoenix Sun in the playoffs. His teammate Kevin Durant scored 29.0 points, which is the third highest total in Suns history. In between the two was the previous postseason scoring king, the 2005 run by Amare Stoudemire, who averaged 29.9 points in 15 games.
When you downplay his offensive performance, you must take into account that two of his teammates accounted for 48.7% of the Suns total shots in the postseason. HIs 111 shot attempts were 113 less than KD’s. Demand the ball or not, it is clear that the offense drew up for the Suns was a very shallow approach that did not include any opportunity for his center to flourish.
What is posterized in our minds of Ayton’s postseason isn’t the 9.7 rebounds he grabbed a game, which led the team and was the 22nd best rebounding performance in franchise history. It isn’t screen after screen set for Chris Paul and Devin Booker, doing so on 38.7% of his possessions.
It was his effort, or lack thereof, highlighted by one rebounding sequence against the Denver Nuggets. At least it is for me.
If zero effort was a person.— NBA Memes (@NBAMemes) May 1, 2023
Ayton just standing there watching pic.twitter.com/6USnrt6Tuf
If you ever played sports and had a vocal coach, you’ve probably had something similar yelled at you during practice. “You can’t control the weather! You can’t control the conditions of the field. You can only control your attitude and your effort!”. And they’re right. Attitude and effort.
In a recent SB Nation Reacts poll, when asked how Deandre can “change the narrative”, that is where 59% of readers landed.
This has been the challenge for Deandre Ayton through his career. Consistency in attitude. Consistency in effort. The attitude aspect can perceived as aggression on both ends of the floor and fans the flames of the “he should dunk” Aytonists. The effort is playing smart and being cognizant of his place on the offensive or defensive set while executing on every possession.
As he prepares to enter his sixth year in the NBA, the effort of the 25-year old is his area of opportunity.
Rough sequence for Deandre Ayton:— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) May 6, 2023
-Can't finish against Jamal Murray at the rim
-Gets stripped after a rebound
-Slow to recover on Nikola Jokic's shot pic.twitter.com/EGk4lkw8BR
He has a new head coach who will cater to his style of play. He has three effin’ All-Stars around him now. If Ayton can’t get it done this year, if he can’t “change the narrative”, the excuses are no more. It will come down squarely on him, his ability to process the game, and his ability to execute. Whether or not we have faith that he can do this is another topic all together.
But it starts with something that only he can control. His effort.
We will get our first glance and the newly self-aware Ayton as he attempts to help the Bahamas Men’s National Basketball Team — currently ranked 56th in the world — qualify for their first-ever Olympic games. He’ll be joined by fellow teammate Suns’ Eric Gordon, Indiana Pacers guard Buddy Hield, and Charlotte Hornets forward Kai Jones as they face off against Cuba in the FIBA Pre-Qualifying Tournament. The game will be on Monday, August 14 at 3:10pm Arizona time.
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