There is an old sports saying that says “the numbers don’t lie” and usually the numbers tell you lots of things you need to know about a player and his performance on a nightly basis.
Center DeAndre Ayton has put up some pretty ok numbers that he thinks are enough to warrant the big contract that was rewarded him in the off-season.
The question is, what do the numbers really tell us about the worth of Ayton, and are his numbers just numbers that look good in the box scores, but don’t match the level of being paid as a max type guy.
When it comes to determining who is worth the big money and who isn’t, the eye test plays a very huge part in figuring that out along with consistency.
Some guys are so talented and have been so all of their playing lives, that they become blinded to how good they can really be because they felt entitled all their lives.
Arizona has watched two number-one overall picks in two different sports make their way into their respective leagues, and both have had some sense of entitlement slow down their growth as professionals.
The sad part about both these guys is in their own minds and hearts they believe they are giving their absolute best because they are so reliant on their talent alone, but there are some things missing that could bring out their entire potential as a player.
Deandre Ayton should be further along and should be dominating the league in certain categories every night, and granted, he needs another person to get him the ball in some situations, but there is an element missing from his game that could make him unguardable.
The knock on Ayton from most analysts has been a lack of aggression at times in the paint, but what is the missing ingredient that controls aggression? In other words, there is an underlining issue at the root of all of his problems.
Charles Barkley from the TNT crew had a conversation about DeAndre Ayton following their loss to the Dallas Mavericks without Luka Doncic,
“He’s the guy, they paid him that money because they thought he was gonna take the next step. You know how much I love Chris Paul, but he’s 102 years old. It has got to be (Devin) Booker and Ayton. Booker is gonna do his thing. Ayton is the guy. There’s no tall guys for the Mavericks, he should be killing them.”
Kenny Smith chimed in adding “Ayton is paid like a scorer but he is not a scorer”
Of those two takes, from the eye test both can be correct, but when it comes to pure scoring talent, DeAndre has every element needed to be a dominant scorer in the league.
So Kenny’s take is a bit inaccurate, but it’s understandable why he came to that conclusion, and it is because with the eyes test, Ayton has not looked like a player that should be getting paid as much as he does without the matching performance that should follow.
After watching the performance against the Mavs and many other lackluster performances, the missing element is pretty simple.
DeAndre Ayton simply does not “Hustle” on a basketball court to his maximum ability every second he is on the floor, I have watched him stand around after a shot goes up and give a half-hearted effort to relentlessly hunt down the basketball.
There are many times on tape that he is seen watching the man he is defending go get the ball, and if the ball doesn’t just conveniently drop in his 7-foot territory “so to speak” then he doesn’t make the hustle effort necessary to go force the outcome of a rebound.
The same goes for his offensive game as well, if he is hustling, all of his efforts would be going towards the basket and contact, not always fading away in the paint.
A person that is hustling is led by desire and determination, those things are severely lacking in Ayton’s game, at times he doesn’t show that he wants it more than the guy that is guarding him.
So we all get fooled by the gaudy numbers that he is getting because he has a good shooting night with the fade-away jump shot and the rebounds are coming off the rim in his general vicinity.
But his numbers would be astronomical if he adds the mindset of a hustle guy that never takes any plays off.
There are guys with way less talent, like Bismack Biombo and Jock Landale, these guys are far less talented than Ayton and yet when they are on the court the offense seems to be getting its maximum force from within the paint in terms of being determined to own every inch of it.
They have to hustle every night giving their all to maintain their minutes in this league, but a guy like Ayton with the entitled talent mindset may feel he doesn’t t have to give that effort because of his status.
If you were to put Biombo’s (heart and desire) and Lansdale’s (hustle and determination) into a star-caliber talent like DeAndre Ayton he would be far better than Joel Embid, and he’d be in the class with Nikola Jocic.
Hustle and desire will breed aggression, which is what everyone wants to see from Ayton.
There is no reason that Deandre should not be shooting 12-14 free throws a night, with his size and scoring ability, he should be able to draw fouls consistently whenever he wants.
Just because one can dunk a basketball with no one around or off a lob from a good passing guard, doesn’t mean they are aggressive.
But to dunk a basketball after grabbing a rebound and using your big frame to make the space to go towards the basket with determined force to dunk over anyone in the area without thought is aggression, and that is the hustle and desire this talented kid is lacking.
The question is can this be fixed because Charles Barkley’s take about Ayton is 100% correct, “he is the guy” Ayton is the guy that will make the difference in this team being a championship contender or a pretender.
Ayton is the key, and hopefully, he can bring his level of understanding to know, that he is not giving all that he could give and until he is sold out to give everything, he will never reach that superstar tag that is on his head from being the number one overall pick in the 2018 draft.