Suns center Deandre Ayton is playing in the Western Conference finals three years after being the first selection in the draft, but he tells Marc J. Spears of the Undefeated that most fans don’t see him as an elite player. Ayton had the highlight of his career Tuesday night when he dunked off an inbounds pass in the final second to give Phoenix a 2-0 series lead. It put him in the national spotlight after missing the playoffs during his first two NBA seasons.
“I still think they doubt me. I still think they don’t believe yet,” Ayton said. “I might be turning some heads with people that know basketball, like front-office types, and people that really know the game. I know I am probably stepping into the right direction. But I don’t think the world truly, truly sees that. But if I can win this whole thing, that is where I can get my reputation. That is where I can be a star.”
Although he has been effective since entering the league, Ayton has mostly been overshadowed — by Chris Paul and Devin Booker on the Suns and by Luka Doncic and Trae Young in his draft class. Ayton was suspended for 25 games during his second NBA season and has been criticized for a casual attitude, but he credits the arrival of coach Monty Williams and the success the team had after last year’s restart with turning that around.
“Winning was contagious and we added pieces like (Paul), Jae (Crowder), E’Twaun Moore, Langston Galloway and Torrey Craig,” Ayton said. “Those are guys who have been in the game and played at high levels like this. That is the best way I can think of how I turned my career into a positive one.”
There’s more from the Pacific Division:
- The Suns have listed Paul as probable for Thursday’s Game 3, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times. Paul has missed the first two games of the series while in the league’s health and safety protocols, but he expects to receive clearance to play tomorrow.
- The Kings need more help than the draft can provide, so they should be aggressive about trying to get Ben Simmons from the Sixers, contends Jason Jones of The Athletic. He suggests offering Buddy Hield or Marvin Bagley III along with the No. 9 pick.
- The Warriors have two selections in this year’s lottery, and president of basketball operations Bob Myers won’t say if he plans to hold onto both of them, per Kendra Andrews of NBC Sports. Golden State already has one development project in center James Wiseman and may not have room for two rookies as it hopes to get back into title contention. “We’re not trying to develop players at the risk of losing,” Myers said. “We’re not going to develop and have it cost us games. That’s not the plan.”