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Celtics’ Brad Stevens on Suns center Aron Baynes’ growth: ‘Now he’s Kyle Korver’

Brad Stevens, Suns, Celtics, Aron Baynes

Sitting at fifth place in the West, the Phoenix Suns have been off to a blazing hot start at 7-4. Led in part by offseason acquisition Aron Baynes, the center’s sniping from deep has been one of the most surprising feature’s of this year’s Phoenix team.

The big New Zealander is knocking down 46.8 percent of his triples while attempting 4.3 of them a game, both are career highs.

Sure enough, Baynes’ old coach — Boston Celtics guru Brad Stevens — has taken notice.

The former Celtic was traded to Phoenix, along with the draft rights to Ty Jerome, for a 2020 protected first-round pick. Baynes played for Stevens for two seasons and shot more threes at a higher percentage after a year in the Boston offense.

Stevens started Baynes down the path towards becoming a stretch five, and while happy for his player, he must be disappointed he can’t reap the benefits.

The two teams face off on Monday night. At 10-2 Boston, has the second best record in the league. Baynes’ old team leads the East and is just half a game behind the Lakers.

Along with Ricky Rubio, Baynes has helped set the tone as a strong veteran presence on a young Suns team. Having started his career with the Spurs, he knows what teams have to do in order to succeed in the playoffs.

The continued improvement of Devin Booker can’t be overlooked, but Rubio and Baynes have played major roles in making the Suns one of the best teams of the young season. Phoenix has the league’s fourth highest net rating, 6.5, trailing only the Celtics, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Lakers.

The only question mark for Baynes and the Suns is what happens to the rotation when 2018 first-overall pick Deandre Ayton returns from suspension next month. Ayton was suspended for the first 25 games of the season after testing positive for a diuretic, violating the league’s anti-drug policy.