No player on the Phoenix Suns has had to endure more change this offseason than center Deandre Ayton. A former first overall pick by the franchise who helped power them to the 2021 NBA Finals he is now, at best, the fourth option on this team.
Plenty of other players would actively embrace such a role, with reduced pressure and the opportunity to excel in a smaller spot, leading to what the team hopes will be a deep playoff run. Even better for Ayton personally, he has already gotten paid, so the financial end of things have already been taken care of.
But we know Ayton isn’t like many other players in the league today, and it remains to be seen how he will adapt to his new surroundings.
He has had to watch while Devin Booker has become the face of the franchise, while Kevin Durant and now Bradley Beal are always going to sell more jerseys. Ayton might not be a fan favorite like Mikal Bridges once was, and it is hard for him to do anything to change that when he is being asked to do the unseen work behind these stars.
Which makes his goals for the 2023-24 season massively important for the organization. If Ayton can buy into being the player the Suns want him to be, then a championship really is within grasp. Failure to do so however, and it could end up being a troublesome campaign for a top-heavy group of which much is expected.
3. Don’t care about the touches
The first goal for Ayton doesn’t even have anything to do with how he plays. Instead, he simply needs to not care about how many touches or shots he gets per night. Easier said than done, although the $100 million plus he has coming his way over the next three seasons surely softens the blow.
We’ve seen big men get annoyed at having to do all the dirty work and rim-running in the past, and then not get rewarded with some offensive possessions going their way. The better the big, the harder this can be to manage, and in recent times the most famous example was Dwight Howard.
Ayton needs to not end up going down the same path, and be alright with his touches and scoring going down, while hopefully his rebounding goes up. Luckily for the player and the organization, they now have a head coach in Frank Vogel who is as well equipped as anybody to strike this balance well.
Ayton has never averaged fewer than 10 rebounds in a season – an impressive stat considering he will be entering his sixth season in the league. The potential is also there to create a nice two-man game with his new teammate Beal. It is also not like the Suns are going to be foolish enough to forget Ayton is out there either. Still, he needs to be cool with being the fourth option at best.
Luke Duffy valleyofthesuns.com Roster
2023-09-15 20:17:55 , Valley of the Suns