Although his postseason numbers – 15.2 points, 10.6 rebounds and 0.5 blocks – aren’t too far off what he put up in the regular season, Deandre Ayton’s impact in the playoffs has gone far beyond his raw numbers.
That’s best exemplified by the fact that he provided a borderline replacement-level swing rating in the regular season (-0.2), a far cry from the 7.4 points per 100 possessions the Phoenix Suns improve by with him on the floor in the postseason.
Ayton also did a great job defensively in the Suns’ Round 2 victory helping contain league MVP Nikola Jokic, who, granted, still put up monstrous numbers, but perhaps not as monstrous as they could have been had Ayton not been around to guard him for Phoenix.
Nuggets head coach Michael Malone even specifically mentioned Ayton when discussing a quiet second half in the series for Jokic:
Malone, while correcting a reporter’s pronunciation of Nikola Jokic’s name, on Jokic’s 7 2nd half points in Game 1: “Deandre Ayton’s a good defender so I don’t know if they did anything tricky…You give them credit. I think for us, for Nikola, I think we settled way too much.”
— Harrison Wind (@HarrisonWind) June 10, 2021
The Suns now await the winner between the Clippers and Jazz to see who they face in the Western Conference Finals.
A matchup against the former would give Ayton an opportunity to exploit what, at times, can be an undersized frontcourt, while a showdown versus the latter would let him face off with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert.
Either way, it’ll be interesting to see Ayton step up to the challenges that await him and his team.
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