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After a slow start to the season, Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton has dominated opponents in his last couple of games.

Assessing Ayton’s young NBA career, some believe he has struggled to live up to the expectations the Suns fans had after selecting him with the first pick in 2018. He has had a solid start but compared to Luka Doncic and Trae Young, two players selected after him, he has yet to make strides in his game to take him to a star level. 

However, over the four games, Ayton has played the best basketball of his career. He averaged 22 points, 14.8 rebounds and two blocks per game.

“It all starts with him being aggressive,” said point guard Chris Paul during a press conference, “this is how he’s got to play all the time.”

So far in the season, Ayton is averaging 11 shots per game. This is surprising given it is the least amount of shots per game during a season in his career. However, throughout this impressive streak of games for Ayton, he is consistently putting up 13-15 shots a night. For Ayton, who is shooting 59% from the field this season, this is about an extra four to six points per game. The key for Ayton is to continue to stay aggressive on the offensive side. He has shown to be a very efficient player around the paint using his post moves to get himself open. 

“He’s dominating the paint,” said head coach Monty Williams, who voiced his frustration with the little number of foul calls his team got on Friday night against the Denver Nuggets.  “I’m happy he’s playing that way, but it gets a little frustrating when he’s dealing with that much contact and when he’s above the rim and people are bumping him.”

However, the game of basketball is not just about offense. Ayton knows that he has a lot of improvement to be made on the defensive side as well. On Friday night against Denver, the Suns were defeated in double overtime 130-126. This was largely due to the Suns allowing 80 points in the paint.

“I didn’t do what I was supposed to do in the paint tonight defensively,” said Ayton after the game, “I have to be more of an anchor and a presence down low just to shut it down early.”

In order for the Suns to be realistic contenders in the West, Ayton needs to continue to dominate the paint on both sides of the ball. Offensively, he needs to continue to be aggressive and continue to be a consistent scorer every night. Defensively, he needs to become more of a presence and stop players from driving too deep into the lane. Deandre Ayton could be the difference between the Suns being a dark horse in the West or being a disappointment this season.

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