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The rise of Deandre Ayton in the midst of Chris Paul's injury

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Arjun Julka
ANALYST

DeAndre Ayton, the No.1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, has had quite a tumultuous journey in the NBA so far. Though injuries and controversies have kept him from performing to his full potential in the nascent stages of his NBA career, there is no doubt that Ayton is one of the most talented centers in the league today.

Deandre Ayton's performance in round one of the 2021 NBA Playoffs has been nothing short of impressive, especially since Chris Paul's injury in Game 1 put the Phoenix Suns in a very critical situation.

This moment of crisis saw the 22-year old Ayton elevate his game to a whole new level, playing the perfect supporting cast to 2x NBA All-Star Devin Booker and veteran point guard Chris Paul.

The perfect matchup against Anthony Davis

Los Angeles Lakers v Phoenix Suns - Game 1
Los Angeles Lakers v Phoenix Suns - Game 1

Deandre Ayton played a major role in the Phoenix Suns' Game 1 win over defending champions LA Lakers. The 7-foot center put up one of the greatest defensive performances against 8x All-Star and NBA champion Anthony Davis, limiting him to a dismal 13 points in the first game. Ayton did a terrific job of restricting Anthony Davis, who was 5-for-16 from the field and 0-for-2 from the 3-point line.

Deandre Ayton has been extremely efficient from the field

2021 NBA Playoffs average: 21.7 PPG, 12.3 RPG, and 0.3 APG

Deandre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns
Deandre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns

Deandre Ayton had a double-double in a win against the LA Lakers in Game 1, during which he was 10-for-11 from the field and had 16 rebounds at the end of the night. This efficacy was repeated in Game 2 as well when Ayton shot 84.6% from the field and had 10 rebounds at the end of the game. However, the Phoenix Suns lost to the Lakers 102-109.

During Game 3, Chris Paul continued to struggle with a shoulder injury which was visible in his performance as well. But this did not deter the 22-year old Deandre Ayton. He rose to the occasion once again as he scored 22 points and had 11 rebounds with an FG% of 73.3 in that match.

Unfortunately, the Suns ended up losing the game, giving the LA Lakers a 2-1 lead in the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs.

The mentor in Chris Paul

Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns
Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns

There is no doubt about the fact that Chris Paul is one of the best floor generals in the NBA today. His ability to lead a team and his basketball IQ is what separates him from the other point guards in the league. Deandre Ayton had this to say about Chris Paul's addition to the Phoenix Suns:

"He’s definitely showing me different ways how to get to the basket easily, how much of a threat I am to the basket when it’s in a pick and roll. Definitely, angles off the screen, you know, getting us both open. And just you know, always being a presence at the rim. He gave me this key to be the anchor of the defense... be everybody’s eyes and you know, protecting our rim and it’s a big deal when it comes to our team and he gets me the easy baskets and spoon-fed me most of the time... you know, it's lit."

Conclusion

Deandre Ayton is one of the most valuable assets of the Phoenix Suns. The 7-foot center had a rather rocky start to his NBA career, whether it be his ankle injuries or being suspended for 25 games for violating the league's anti-drug policies.

However, his performance on the court was never questionable. In his second year, he became the quickest player in the Suns' franchise history to reach 1000 rebounds, doing so in 94 games. Ayton also played a major role in the Phoenix Suns' perfect 8-0 run in the 2020 Orlando Bubble.


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Edited by Prem Deshpande
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