Is DeAndre Ayton living up to his contract with the Phoenix Suns?

Deandre Ayton (Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Deandre Ayton (Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) /

When DeAndre Ayton signed his max contract with the Phoenix Suns, it wasn’t met with excitement. It was not signed as soon as Free agency started and was pushed into happening because the Indiana Pacers made an offer. The reports afterward about Media Day compared Phoenix’s level as excitement as “like attending a funeral”.

Ayton even went as far as to say that he had not talked to his coach since their last playoff game. Most stars who sign a big contract back with their team are usually over the moon, as is the rest of the franchise . This hypothetical moon was covered by a dark cloud entering the season with most fans anxiously waiting to see how this would turn out.

Fast forward a few months later and the Phoenix Suns look to still be a sound contender in no small part to what Ayton brings to the table. It has not been without some struggles but they are currently tied for the most wins in the conference at 19 wins and are looking to make a run at the NBA finals once more. Ayton is averaging roughly the same numbers as last year but on such prolific efficiency. He is converting over 80% of his looks around the rim which is highest amongst the entire league.

When Chris Paul has missed games, Ayton has made sure to step up in his absense. Without Paul, Ayton averages a few more points and rebounds while maintaining his elite efficiency. He is top four in both field goal efficiency in the clutch while also a leader in pick & roll possessions. At this point, the bigger question is should Phoenix get Ayton more involved in their game plan. Some say Ayton should just demand the ball more but some stars just are not built to be like that.

For example, it took Gregg Popvich really pushing Kawhi Leonard for him to take the mantle in San Antonio. The entire team had to guide and push him to be “the guy”. Perhaps this is something they need to do with the Arionza product as well. This could also help with any lingering issues between Ayton and his team.

The Phoenix Suns have everything to gain by making things work with Ayton. As Chris Paul ages, they will need talent to pick up the slack. The worst case is Ayton performs better with more touches and can be flipped as an asset down the line. It is much harder to move discontent athletes and can decrease their trade value.

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Right now Ayton is anchoring their defense while being as effcient as humanly possible with the touches he has been given. This signing hasn’t been a failure but any means but could stand to improve.  A few tweaks between both parties can put this team back in the drivers seat as the best team in the Western conference.