When Phoenix Suns selected Deandre Ayton with the pick one in the 2018 NBA Draft every fan, executive, and player in the franchise expected him to have an immediate impact on the team on both sides of the court.
However, his breakthrough took longer than expected, but since the arrival of Chris Paul to the organization, the Bahamas center exploded with all possible force and transformed into one of the most dominant in the NBA at his position.
Although his contract extension with Phoenix is not settled yet, Ayton is clear that will be his motivation for this season as he continues to look to show his best and most reliable side.
Meanwhile, Nick Anderson, a former Orlando Magic, Sacramento Kings, and Memphis Grizzlies player, discussed how Ayton mirrors Shaquille O'Neal, who was his teammate at the Florida-based franchise for four consecutive seasons, and detailed where he needs to improve to get closer to him.
"I would say Deandre Ayton. The only thing is that I would like to see Deandre Ayton be more aggressive. Don’t be tentative. When Shaq got that ball on the post, all hell would break loose."
Shaquille O'Neal spent only four seasons with the Magic, but even at a young age, he was one of the most dominant players in the league. He led the franchise to the 1995 NBA Finals, where they lost 4-0 to the Rockets. Hakeem Olajuwon was unstoppable, but that experience was invaluable for the young center because he later went to the Lakers and was the MVP in the three-peat with Kobe Bryant.
Shaq averaged 27.2 points, 12.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 2.8 blocks in his time with Orlando. On the flip side, Deandre is having 16.0, 10.6, and 1.7 in his NBA career. Perhaps this comparison is a bit of an exaggeration, but Ayton is young and can become better because of his talent to open the court with his shooting and his defensive display in the matchups against smaller players without any problems.
Phoenix is coming off an excellent season in 2020/21 and is looking to repeat it in the upcoming campaign, with the same core of players that made it to the NBA Finals.
Milwaukee Bucks frustrated the desire of the Arizona team, but the search for a rematch is what keeps them motivated at the moment.
So far, the Suns have been looking very good and won three of their four games in the 2021 preseason. Dendre competed in all of those and is averaging 10.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 1.0 assists in 17.9 minutes.
Now, the intern has an extra motivation, which is to prove that he deserves that contract extension. He is one of the most interesting members of the 2018 Draft class and perhaps this season will come to his ultimate explosion.
Beyond Paul, both he and Devin Booker will have to prove that they are ready to lead Phoenix in the quest for the first NBA championship in franchise history.