In a league that has progressed quickly to make all of the rules aid the offensive player, we have seen astronomic numbers put up by some of the greatest one-on-one players in the NBA.
The Phoenix Suns watched their scorer Devin Booker lead them out of the gates at the beginning of the season to a surprising start that had them atop the West for a while.
Then they watch Booker drop 50 plus points twice within in a seven-game span shooting a blistering 80% from the field, finishing with a masterful 58-point outing on 60% field goal percentage, and was put on the shelf after that game from a growing issue.
Ever since that point, the Phoenix Suns have looked like a team that cannot function without Devin Booker, and this is the same team that seemed to find a way to stay relevant when key players went down in the past.
But injuries are a part of every sport and when they happen its nothing you can do about when, where, and to whom they occur, the only thing that can be done is to make sure your team is stacked with guys that can pick up the slack and hold it down until a key injured player returns.
The Phoenix Suns find themselves barely holding on to keep their heads above water (so to speak) until Devin Booker returns.
The question is will it be too late by the time he does return?
It is very difficult to lose your star player, the guy that intensively played hard on both sides of the court, one who commands double teams and can get a desperate bucket when needed at any time, and above all else, brings it on a very consistent basis each night.
The Suns with Booker are a team that stands behind all that he brings to the table in a dog fight, when the other team looks intimidating, its a relief to teammates to know you are fighting with a guy that relishes in those types of intense moments and leads with the dog that’s in him.
It’s like a little brother that talks all big and bad when his older brother is standing next to him, and as soon as the older brother is gone they don’t talk as tough.
The Phoenix Suns are probably way too Devin Booker-dependent, and the results we have seen since his injury prove the point that no one else on this team can bring the intensity to the level of Booker on a consistent basis.
Booker’s game allows guys like Mikal Bridges, DeAndre Ayton, and even Chris Paul to flourish more on the court because he demands so much attention, and that Breeds confidence as they watch him compete.
When that security blanket is removed those pieces have not been able to stand on their own consistently.
No one is able to take over the scoring load and play defense on a night-in-night-out basis, leaving this band of role players to fend for themselves has been disastrous and the team is barely holding on by a thread.
The most disappointing thing that comes out of this fast fall to the bottom of the west is that this is a team that possesses the 2018 number overall pick in the draft, and that guy has yet to step into that spotlight in his career.
Deandre Ayton, after four and half years, should be way further along than he is currently, he should equal as an all-star with Luka Doncic, instead of looking up at him as the far better draft choice.
People can look at that draft and compare the top two picks to that of the Greg Oden and Kevin Durant draft class.
One superstar (Luka) and a mediocre role player at best.
In the absence of Booker, this was the opportunity for Ayton to really step up and shut up the voices of those that do not believe he was worth that contract he signed in the off-season, but it is quite evident he doesn’t have that level of competitiveness in him to be the leader.
To be a leader is all about confidence along with skill, and you can’t have one without the other, cause if you do it will yield the up-and-down player we have come to know in DeAndre Ayton.
It’s always the skills on display for Ayton, there is no doubt at all that his skills alone can get him decent numbers that look impressive in the box scores, but after you watch how he got those numbers you would question his intensity and desire to be great.
If there was one simple word missing to describe what we see every night missing from Deandre Ayton, it would have to be the word “Aggression” by far.
That is no secrete around the league, the biggest problem is that Ayton believes he is bringing big man aggression every night.
In his eyes when he is making finesse fadeaway jump shots from 10 to 15 feet from the rim he believes that is aggressive, particularly when he is making those shots at a high clip.
But that is far from aggressive in the sense that he is seven feet tall and 250 plus pounds and should be far more intimidating in the paint on a nightly basis.
How can it be so simple to say that DA is not aggressive enough? It’s not always about scoring the ball, the numbers do not lie, for a big man with his skill set DA does not shoot enough free throws, which is a clear sign of a lack of aggression.
Example: Deandre gets a rebound, in his head the job of being aggressive is done because he got an offensive rebound and passed it out to a teammate, but it doesn’t stop there, aggressive is getting that rebound and no matter who is under the rim, attack the rim and try and dunk the ball on someone’s head and force them to foul you trying to stop it.
There are numerous opportunities in a game where Deandre can be at the free throw line 10 plus times per game, but he shy’s away from the contact and is not willing to take the man-size beating that comes along with playing seven feet in stature.
Until we see that type of aggression from Ayton on both sides of the floor, he will never live up to that number one overall pick in this league and can easily be labeled the dreaded “S” word throughout the league.
Aggression is a desire fueled by confidence, it cannot and refuses to be denied, and that is either built in a personality or it’s not, it is not something that can be learned.
If you put the attitude and heart and desire of Devin Booker into Deandre Ayton, then we would truly see an unstoppable force and superstar.
But the Suns are currently in a place where they can find themselves playing in the play-in tournament and out of the chance to compete for a ring.
Booker has to get back soon that’s without question, but this team needs another guy that has that dog mentality in them, that can score and demand a double team with that fearless personality to compete for no matter what.
Will they add this piece during the trade deadline or will they continue to trust in a seven-foot guy that doesn’t quite see the big picture yet?