Deandre Ayton, releasing a number one

The Suns center is being decisive in the playoffs, is on the way to signing historical percentages and is claimed within his generation. Its origins, very humble.


The Suns are one step away from the NBA Finals. Giving it, yes, it can cost, although the statistics are on your side. In the past 40 years, only the Golden State Warriors have been able to come back from 3-1 in a playoff series. Income for Arizonans is practically life insurance; But, in the tie against the Los Angeles Clippers, a bomb can be activated after each move. The Tyronn Lue-led franchise doesn't give up, and it's when its obituary gets ready that it responds most fiercely. Born survivors, an animal of a thousand lives. When the Dallas Mavericks went 2-0 in the first round, their disastrous fate seemed clear. When the Utah Jazz did the same in second, more of the same. They put the equalizer again and won again, as if both things could not be given separately, as if they were universal law. In Phoenix, they will surely be relieved: they have avoided bearing the curse. They have survived the survivors and have emerged victorious from a real war ... which continues.

There are no trenches. Surely, with more grit than success, but leaving a duel to remember along the way. Each bounce is fought as if it were the ring itself and, literally, heads are split. Devin Booker's broken nose is proof of this. So is his decision to remove his protective mask in the last round: he advances with his face uncovered. In the midst of such a collision, Booker himself is one of the leading gentlemen. He was the soldier with the sharpest sword in the first duel, with a triple-double for posterity: 40 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists. Figures that, in Phoenix, had not been seen since 1993, the work of Charles Barkley. In NBA history, only Luka Doncic and Oscar Robertson have been able to reach them at a younger age. Under the leadership of Chris Paul, loaded with veteran and quality, the 24-year-old guard is shining like few others in his first playoffs; but he's not the only one. Deandre Ayton, 22, is getting huge, even beyond her 211cm tall.

You already have an unforgettable moment for your resume, but it is much more than that. His alley-oop, in the decisive play of the third game of the series, will be NBA history; but his final phase, in full, will not be very far from it. As always, time will tell. In the calculation of the tie, he averages 20.7 points and 7.3 rebounds with 73.8% in field goals. In the entire postseason, 16.3 + 10.8. Above, in both cases, their general standards of the regular season, located at 14.4 + 10.5. If you pay attention to his hitting percentages, the impact is total: out of every 124 shots, he makes 90. He is currently above any other player in the playoffs in this section. So far, with at least 100 attempts, Clint Capela, in 2018 with the Houston Rockets, is the record holder, staying at 66%. After him, James Donaldson, with 65.4% in 1988, and Alton Lister, with 64.1% in 1986. Like Booker, he plays his first playoffs and, like him, is graduating from them.

He does it, moreover, belonging to a generation of authentic luxury: to the 2018 Draft, over the years, for sure, one of the best ever. He is not just anybody, in addition, he is number one, the first chosen in the gala of young talents: the man who, among so many stars, was chosen to shine as the most. It does not and surely will not; But, after inconsistency and irregularity, he is finally approaching the standards his status demanded. A temporary suspension in his second year, for the use of illegal substances, which added to more problems off the slopes, obscured a trajectory that, at times, seemed to be sinking mercilessly. The Suns chose to pick him ahead of Luka Doncic and Trae Young, and that's a double-edged sword - a privilege to be proud of, but also a lifelong burden. How much is going to talk about them ... and the rest. From Jaren Jackson Jr., poised to lead alongside Ja Morant; Collin Sexton, on a meteoric rise; from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, waiting for the rebuilding to bear fruit in Oklahoma or from Michael Porter Jr., getting closer to the level he promised before his back injury. Also Kevin Huerter, being a hero in these same playoffs, or Mikal Bridges, Ayton's own teammate and, although not as much as him, also being decisive in them: 11.7 points and 4 rebounds.

From plumber's assistant to a "bag" of money

Many names and, in several cases, called to be some of the main dominators of the NBA in the coming years. Ayton is there, proving that he can be among the best. To be part of them and, also, in a very special way: not everything is to be the best, among these, many times, it is almost as important to be different as the first. And Deandre is. In the midst of the age of triple, quick transitions and skill over power, Ayton is old school. Both in his game and in his appearance, for greater narrative, with a semblance, projected by his beautiful facial, that could well be located in the 80s. He is a big man, a rude pivot who does not even look at the perimeter: in every playoff, he hasn't tried a single triple. Counterproductive in current times? It may be, but, for now, it is showing that, from that game, series can also be chosen. Because it is. Also, punishing the Clippers small ball, a bloody cage for Rudy Gobert, but a salvageable trap for him. For someone who is in the process of liberation, who no longer thinks about Doncic or Young: only his possibilities, those of a number one.

In 3-1 has been one of the determining factors. As he had already been against Anthony Davis (he left him 37.9% correct), when injuries allowed him to get ahead, or Nikola Jokic (40.7%), who finished the series frustrated and sent off after a foul on Cameron Payne. 19 points, 22 rebounds and 4 blocks to reign in the paint and, in the individual field, to reach the maximum of the race in the last two sections. If the second is restricted to the attacking side, since Charles Barkley in 1993, no Suns player managed to collect 9 offensive rebounds in a fourth playoff game. He instills fear, intimidates, changes shots, with several examples of Reggie Jackson in the hottest moments, and puts out many fires that, really, do not even spark: with him as the main defender, Los Angeles are at 35.3% precision.

A total contrast with its more recent past, when, mainly, it was labeled as a focus of problems in the rear. "We are going to give him a good bag this summer," declared Chris Paul after the game, referring to the contract extension that Ayton, still with a rookie contract, must sign. "It's the best thing that has ever happened to my career," the center confessed, for his part, when talking about the veteran point guard. "The first thing he told me was that if I wanted to stay in this league for a long time I had to focus on angles. I kept thinking, angles? It's about blocking angles, angles to get a rebound, being well positioned. .. For me, the key is to play the pick and roll with him. I wouldn't say it's easy, but if one of us is alone we're going to get something positive out of the play. That's what I've been learning through repetitions with him, "he explains, already on a strictly sporting level.

"My father is from Nigeria and my mother is Jamaican and Bahamian, so I am helping all those countries in one. I am not just a Bahamian. I am Nigerian and Jamaican. So I just want the world to know," said the the night he was selected in the Draft, making it clear that he does not forget his roots. In an article by Diego Morini for La Nanción, it is clear: "Once I'm in town, I'm in town," he collects, in Ayton's own words. When he returns to the family home, he returns to his usual bed, to a bunk shared with his brother. He began playing basketball in an excessively expensive camp for his parents and, in compensation, he began working as a plumber with his stepfather. Surely, far from thinking that, one day, he would find himself one step away from the NBA Finals. That's where it is.

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