“Everyone just wants to shoot threes.” That’s the most often concern scouts and development coaches express about the young stars coming into the NBA. When those guys are guards or wings, it’s not so concerning. But we have more and more big men who are only interested in shooting threes and facing the basket. You’ve got 7 footers who don’t know how to use their physical advantage around the rim.
“You get six, you should never end the game and have less than three fouls. There’s no value in saving fouls. Fouls are there for you to be able to hit somebody.”Eddie Johnson, The Lowe Post
That was the Suns‘ analyst Eddie Johnson talking about an intimidating player, “one of the largest players in the league” players in the NBA, DeAndre Ayton. Well, intimidating when it comes to his proportions – Ayton is a legit seven-footer with a 7’5” wingspan and is listed at 250 lbs. But the frustration Johnson has with Ayton is that his game style is not intimidating.
The goal of being intimidating isn’t so that you have bragging rights. The closest we have in today’s game is Rudy Gobert, not through physicality but defensive skill. Players give up open layups against the Jazz out of fear Gobert will come out of nowhere and black their shot. Back in Johnson’s day, the concern was about personal safety.
“When I played, and I was getting ready to drive the ball, the few times I did – if I saw Kevin Willis waiting there for me; if I saw Bill Laimbeer waiting on me; if I saw Buck Williams waiting there on me, I thought about it. Because they would hurt you. They gave you the sense ‘If you’re going to come in here, you’re gonna hit some combustion,’ and you kinda hesitate.”Eddie Johnson, The Lowe Post
Last night, the Suns clinched a winning record for the first time since 2014. They are 2nd in the West at 37-15, 2.5 games back from the no.1 Utah Jazz. With Chris Paul and Devin Booker at the helm, Ayton doesn’t have to do as much as no.1 draft picks are usually expected on offense. But the defensive end is where he can make prove his worth in the playoffs.
Johnson is critical of Ayton because he believes in his talent, and work ethic. Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and Monty Williams are constantly giving him advice, and to his credit, Ayton has welcomed it with open arms. That’s crucial for a young player’s development. Ayton’s attitude is what gives Johnson confidence Ayton will get there.
“They’re all on him and they do not allow him to rest during the game. And to his defense, he has received it. I have not seen during the course of a game that he’s gone at those guys. ‘Cause they all know, that if he wanted to pick them up and break them in half, he could.”Eddie Johnson, The Lowe Post
In Johnson’s eyes, Ayton has the potential to be as intimidating as Joel Embiid is on defense. That’s a high bar to reach, but as Johnson said – if they get that from Ayton, the Phoenix Suns are going to be very difficult to beat come playoff time.