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Suns coach Monty Williams wants DeAndre Ayton to ‘own the paint’ on both ends


New Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams has been demanding of his young players early on, among them second-year center Deandre Ayton, who is expected to become one of the pillars of the team.

Ayton scored 14 points on an efficient 7-of-9 shooting performance on Monday’s 107-102 preseason loss to the Denver Nuggets, but only hauled in four rebounds, failing to attempt a free throw, while committing four turnovers and being called for five fouls in 17 minutes of action.

“We need him to play with a high level of force and dominate the paint,” said Williams, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. “He’s had his moments, but most second-year guys struggle with that. You don’t sneak up on anybody anymore, or you won’t.”

Williams noted his star center is not the only issue with this team, but said his team will depend on his production to win games.

“The issues we had tonight weren’t Deandre-laden, but for us to be a really good team, he’s got to dominate consistently,” Williams continued. “He’s got to own the paint and that’s on both ends of the floor.”

The 7-foot-1 center put out a strong double-double in his first season, trotting out 16.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per game — yet the defensive presence he’d been known to have in college has yet to show up in the pros, recording only 0.9 steals and 0.9 blocks per game last season.

The 21-year-old still has time to evolve, but the sooner he starts to “own the paint,” the faster the Suns will get out of the West’s cellar and shape into a better team.