Suns Wars: Return of the Ayton
The Phoenix Suns were not expected to be good this season. After much of the same this decade, only extreme fans expected much of a difference this season.
The team started the season with a bang, winning their first game and home opener by a large margin. However, the happiness and optimism wouldn’t last long as news broke that Deandre Ayton was suspended for 25 games as he tested positive for diuretics.
Fans were left asking themselves why they can’t have good things.
Fast forward through the first quarter of the season and Phoenix is eyeing a playoff spot. They’ve hovered at around .500 without Ayton, which is simply impressive, and they’re ready for their young stud big man to come back.
Thanks, Aron Baynes
First things first, there has to be a shout out to veteran center Aron Baynes, who has been nothing short of phenomenal holding it down while Deandre has been out. He’s averaged about 14 points, 6 rebounds and 1 block per game while shooting over 50% from the field and nearly 40% from downtown, making nearly 2 triples per game.
It’s not his statistics and the fact that if he kept it up, he’d have to be given strong consideration for Most Improved Player this season, something very rare for a guy who’s over 30. What he’s done for this team with his leadership, his grittiness and his don’t quit mentality has done more than stats could ever show.
What has stung the team recently is their lack of a physical big man altogether, as the team is 8-8 when either Ayton or Baynes plays and 3-6 when they’re both out. When Deandre returns, they’ll have arguably one of the best center duos in franchise history. As much of a shame that it will be that Aron has to go back to the bench, the team will be that much stronger.
Did the suspension light a fire?
Whether there actually was anything in his system other than diuretics, which are often used to hide something else, the fact of the matter is he was punished pretty harshly. Due to the positive test, he had to miss over a quarter of his second NBA season.
What fans will hope is that he learned a lesson from this, matured and comes back into the rotation and eventually, if not immediately, the starting lineup ready to make up for missed time.
One of my main knocks on him thus far in his very young career is his overall demeanor. He just seems so laid back and passive. He needs to realize that as dominant as he’s been on the inside and in the post, he needs to draw fouls, take threes as part of the modern game and use his instincts and athleticism to play strong defense.
March us to the playoffs
I hope he’s been watching all this time and sees that the Suns are a potential playoff team and his return can be equal to the acquisition of a star player. Please tell me he’s seen how Trae Young and Luka Doncic, other top players in this draft class, have balled out early this season and that he seriously aims to be at their level, if not at a higher level.
Phoenix is off to a solid start this season, despite some bad fortune and injuries. They can use Ayton’s return to slam through that .500 gate and be a winning team on their way to their first playoff battle in way too long.
Deandre needs to realize that the Suns are for real, that he is one of their top players and that with him coming out at a high level and with a chip on his shoulder, that he can help march this team to the postseason.