Deandre Ayton off to Slow Start in 2021

Deandre Ayton

What’s up with Deandre Ayton and his slow start? The former first overall pick has shown promise that he could be a star for the Phoenix Suns after his first two seasons in the NBA. Yet we are seeing his scoring drop off quite a bit from last year. Let’s take a look as to why Ayton has gotten off to a slow start this season offensively.

Slow Start for Deandre Ayton in 2021

Lower Usage Rate for Ayton

Phoenix had a successful offseason as they were able to get Chris Paul in a trade. It gave them the floor general that the Suns needed to pair with Devin Booker. As a result, Paul’s acquisition made Ayton the third option on offense for Phoenix behind their ball-dominant guards. 

This season, Ayton is averaging 13.9 points, 12.2 rebounds, and a blocked shot per game while shooting 59 percent from the field. The scoring has been down from last year along with his usage rate. After the Suns got Paul in the offseason, Ayton’s usage rate is down from 23.7 percent to 18.8 percent this year. 

This comes after Ayton averaging 16.3 points and 18.2 points per game in his first two seasons. But that’s only one reason as to why Ayton has been underwhelming so far offensively.

Ayton Playing Passive at Times Offensively

Even with a lower usage rate, Ayton could still be productive. However, Ayton has looked passive on offense at times this season. To put it simply, he has not been aggressive enough when he touches the ball. There have also been times where he hasn’t looked confident offensively.  The former first overall pick is only taking a career-low 10.3 shot attempts per game and 2.3 free-throw attempts per game.  

Ayton is not a bad shooter by any means. He is shooting 57.3 percent from the field and 74.3 percent from the free-throw line in his short career. However, whenever Ayton plays near the basket, he tends to shy away from contact by shooting fadeaway shots. This is the biggest reason why Ayton rarely gets to the free-throw line. His lack of free-throw attempts in return hurts his scoring average.

Expectations for Ayton Moving Forward

While the Suns have played well this season thus far, they will need Ayton to play better offensively as their third option. However, he has disappeared in games too often on that side of the ball. The good news is that there’s still more than half of the regular season left for him to develop more chemistry with Paul. Ayton has a diverse skill set as he can score from in the paint and from mid-range easily. His three-point shooting is still a work in progress but it is something that will be in his arsenal.

Aside from rebounding the ball well, the most impressive thing about Ayton this season has been his defense. He is the anchor of that top 10 defense that Phoenix has right now. This is something that he does that doesn’t show up in the box score, but he has altered many shots in the paint with his length. Ayton wasn’t known for his defense in college and it became his calling card this season. 

Phoenix’s defense is a reason as to why they are fourth in the Western Conference right now. However, their offense can be better. Once they hit their stride, they will be a difficult team to play against in the playoffs. 

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