If Deandre Ayton was a finished product he’d be a good NBA player. A player with his frame, motor, and shooting touch is a generational talent that can change a franchise.
Deandre Ayton is considered the top prospect by most draft gurus so he’s going to kick off my coverage. The first thing you’ll hear about Ayton is that he is chiseled. His NBA-ready body is part of why he’s sitting atop many people’s lists. Though the draft class is loaded with young bigs, many of the other prospects are still coming into their bodies. This gives him one advantage over his peers but this is not the only reason that he’s sitting at the top of a loaded big-man class.
Weight: 250+ lbs
At 7’1″ 250, Ayton is taller than Joel Embiid and just as heavy. What this means is that he should have no problem having an immediate impact for whatever team drafts him. Though he is top-heavy, he will be able to bang with some of the current centers in the NBA. I’m sure once he arrives in an NBA program they will make sure he’s not skipping leg days. I do also believe he still has room to fill out some more.
Strengths – Scoring ability
Though his physical profile is what gets discussed, it’s actually not going to be what determines his success at the next level. The next part of Ayton’s skill-set that draft gurus love is his shooting ability. Ayton has a very strong mid-range game and will be a force running the pick-and-pop. He only averaged one 3-point attempt per game but shot 34% from there. Even if he never develops true range out to the NBA 3, his jumper is enough of a threat to keep defenders honest.
He’s going to be most dangerous when he catches the ball at the free throw line extended. He loves to turn and face and will freeze his man from the triple-threat position. He has the height to shoot over most guys but also the quickness to get by them if they go for a fake. Even if they don’t go by him, if he can get his man moving he’ll use his bulk to power through them to get to the rim. He also has an array of moves to get to the basket from this position and scoring is not something I would worry about being an issue for him.
Strengths – Athleticism
Because of the way most teams like to play, you need athletic big men. Ayton checks this box as well. He moves incredibly well for a big man, runs the floor, and is quick off the ground. He has great feet which helps him in his rebounding and in his post scoring. Though he doesn’t always show explosiveness in a crowd, he does love to show this in space and will throw down intimidating dunks when given the opportunity.
Because he was a man among boys at the college level, I noticed that he got a lot of his rebounds by just out-leaping his opponents. With that said, he does keep the ball high when he rebounds. He holds his ground underneath the basket when a shot goes up and he pursues boards with both hands.
Opportunities for growth – Defense
Most reports will tell you that the defensive side of the ball is where scouts question Ayton. From the time I’ve spent watching him I have noticed a few flaws in his game at the defensive end and not all of them are fixable. We’ll focus on two here.
First, he struggles to get back to his man when hedging. This one is fixable. From what I’ve seen he usually comes out too far on his hedges and then has to run back across the court to get to his man. This was not exposed much at the college level but will be a problem if it’s not tightened up at the next level. I would expect this is something that is addressed as soon as he arrives at a training camp.
Secondly, though he averages 2 blocks per game, his block percentage is just 6.1%. For comparison purposes, Mo Bamba’s is 13% and Jaren Jackson’s is 14%. I point this out to say that he is not going to be described as a rim protector by anyone. He will block shots if someone challenges him, but he’s not going out of his way to do so. This is one reason I say he’s not someone I’d want as my center. I think of the center almost like a goalie, and I want my goalie to take someone scoring at the rim personally and that is not Deandre.
With that said, I have always thought of Ayton as a power forward though many list him as a center. I recently learned via an old interview that he sees himself as a stretch 4 also, and this is a factor in how he approaches the game. Whatever team drafts him should put a defensive minded big beside him.
A team that finishes 3rd in the lottery likely has a lot of needs and a scoring big is one of them. If the Mavs were to land the first pick in the draft, they could not do better than adding Ayton to their roster. He’d be in position to potentially average 20 points per game and he’d help our rebounding issues as well. On the defensive end, our coaching staff would push him to improve in this area and he’d improve his defensive IQ at the very least. I would not have any complaints if this scenario were to play out. I would still expect them to treat him like Dirk for the first few years and put a rim protector beside him.
Is there a bad fit?
I honestly can’t say there is. Unless you’re a team with two all-star big men (and none of those exist in the lottery) then adding Ayton is going to help your team immensely.