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Suns’ Deandre Ayton shares special gift he received from Nikola Jokic

Suns, Deandre Ayton, Nikola Jokic

Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton and Denver Nuggets star big man Nikola Jokic seem to have a greater appreciation for one another after doing battle in the playoffs.

Ayton shared a picture of a signed jersey Jokic gave him after the Suns defeated the Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinal. Jokic called Ayton a “beast” and encouraged him to keep working.

The Suns center has proven some things to more than a few people throughout the course of the playoffs.

Ayton is averaging 15.6 points and 10.6 rebounds per contest during the playoffs. However, it was Ayton’s effort on the defensive end that stood out more, especially in how he made things more difficult for “The Joker.”

Jokic averaged 25.0 points, 13.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists during the course of the series, but he shot 47.7 percent from the field and just 27.8 percent from beyond the arc. Those shooting percentages fall well behind his numbers during the regular season, a real credit to Ayton’s ability to be more physical and also switch out and get back to Jokic in pick-and-roll.

The Suns will assuredly need Ayton to maintain his high level of play and energy going forward.

Ayton could be a handful for a somewhat lackluster Los Angeles Clippers frontcourt, while he would have to battle for the boards with Rudy Gobert in the event the Utah Jazz overcome their 3-2 deficit. He gives Chris Paul and the Suns an outlet as a rim-runner in pick-and-roll as well as a guy who excels in transition and will fight for loose balls.

Perhaps Ayton will try to channel a bit of Jokic as Phoenix tries to get back to its first NBA Finals since 1993.