DeAndre Ayton doesn’t specialize in consistency, but after an almost perfect performance against the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday, then the Houston Rockets on Wednesday, it is time to bust a Birdman and request to put some respect on the Phoenix Suns big man’s name.
Ayton’s bumpy start is mostly due to a nagging, recurring ankle injury in his first season followed by a 25-game suspension at the beginning of his second. That, combined with a lack of aggression, did not allow Ayton to form any rhythm or flow. His third season is happening during a global pandemic, which has recently affected the Suns’ schedule. It has currently handed them a week with no games and a moment to reevaluate the team.
That week off might be just what Ayton needed. In Monday’s loss to the Grizzlies, Ayton’s 18 points and 16 rebounds were the best part of an otherwise atrocious loss. Chris Paul continuously found Ayton in the paint, connecting for three of the five dunks Ayton had that night.
The momentum continued on Wednesday, with DeAndre Ayton scoring a season-high 26 points and 17 rebounds to beat the Rockets, 109-103.
In Houston, the Suns were trying to get Ayton going early, and it paid off in the end. Ayton was 11-of-15 from the field and a perfect 4-of-4 from the free-throw line. He also got it done on the defensive end with five blocks. It was a historic night for Ayton as he joined Shawn Marion as the only Suns player with 25 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 blocks in a game in the last 30 seasons of the franchise.
Getting Ayton hot early on might be the key to his newfound consistency. It might also be the added pressure from his team. Everyone around the Suns big can see the potential and has been pushing him to become more assertive. They all agree that they want a more dominant and aggressive Ayton when he has the ball in his hands.
Suns head coach Monty Williams reiterated that feeling and told media, “That’s all [DeAndre Ayton] has been hearing for the past week is being more ferocious in the paint.” Chris Paul also said that he would continue to challenge Ayton because the potential is there.
Luka Doncic is coming into his own with the Dallas Mavericks, Trae Young is pulling lids off of baskets with the Hawks, and now it’s DeAndre Ayton’s turn to be the superstar center the Suns need.
“I want to see more. That’s what I told him. I want to see more,” insisted Devin Booker after the Suns win on Wednesday.
Be careful what you wish for.