Deandre Ayton was picked first overall by the Phoenix Suns back in 2018 in a draft class that also featured young superstars Luka Doncic and Trae Young. Ayton did not start his NBA career flying high like Doncic and Young, but he steadily improved his game every season. During this NBA season and playoffs, Ayton is justifying being the first overall pick and that traditional centers can still flourish in this league.
A traditional center refers to the type of traits the center position possesses, like being a rim protector and playing in the low post. In today’s NBA, there are not many traditional centers anymore because of teams valuing the ability to switch on defense. Because of switching defensively, teams tend to play smaller lineups and ignore traditional centers all together. This strategy does make sense, but Ayton is proving that traditional centers can star for teams that are successful in the playoffs.
Ayton is an incredibly skilled big man who likes to play in the low post and score around the rim. He is capable of shooting from outside and from deep if he wants to, but his main strength is his post moves. Defensively, Ayton is a rim protector who is athletic enough to switch but the Suns leave him down low to clog the lane. Suns coach Monty Williams plays to Ayton’s strengths and Ayton executes all game long.
Tuesday night in game two of the Western Conference Finals, Ayton was a star performer scoring 24 points (12-15 FG) and grabbing ten rebounds. He also scored the most important basket of the game which was an alley-oop off an inbounds pass from Jae Crowder with only .9 seconds left to take the lead. The Suns won the game increasing their lead to 2-0 in the series and Ayton will continue to play a big part of the Suns’ success this postseason.
Deandre Ayton’s skillset is a traditional center’s skillset, and he is proving that traditional centers are just as important as any other position with his performances in these playoffs.