Reviewing DeAndre Ayton’s Battle 4 Atlantis

DeAndre Ayton had an incredible Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, despite Arizona being upset in each of the three games they played in, by NC State, SMU, and Purdue. The three losses resulted in Arizona dropping out of the top 25 entirely, but don’t associate Arizona’s team performance with DeAndre Ayton’s individual performance. DeAndre Ayton did not disappoint in front of his hometown crowd where he averaged 22 PPG, 12.3 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.7 SPG, and 1 BPG on 62% shooting.

DeAndre Ayton is my #1 ranked center, and he faced off against Omer Yurtseven (#8 ranked center) against NC State. SMU has a top 60 player in their combo guard Shake Milton. Purdue has three undrafted targets in Carson Edwards, 7’2 center Isaac Haas, and Vincent Edwards. Ayton impressed on most levels, despite shooting 28.6% from 3 over the three games. Here’s how Ayton looked in each department:

  • Low post scoring:
    • Ayton used his size, athleticism, and strength in order to feast on the NC State defense. The only defense NC State could provide when Ayton had positioning was to foul, leading to 17 attempted free throws. Against Purdue, he faced two 7’0+ players, but still had an impressive outing, as he was able to use his athleticism to beat the slower defenders.
    • His best post move is a very quick post spin that either results in drawn fouls or easy buckets.
    • Ayton runs the floor very well, leading to quick post ups, often leading to fouls. This element of his game reminds me of Atlanta Hawks rookie John Collins.
  • Jump shooting:
    • Ayton was able to get many open looks, thanks to frequent pick & pops and a quick faceup jumper. His jump looked flat at times, but he can make teams pay from deep. Having a reliable jump shot could give him ‘unicorn’ potential. He needs to improve consistency on mechanics, but the potential is there for a lethal jumper.
    • Ayton’s best element of his jumper is out of the faceup. He works quickly in the faceup, making defenders a step behind his jumper. Ayton also has a faceup spin he likes to go to. If he can master the spin, his faceup game could be one of his best traits early on in his NBA career.
  • Athleticism:
    • As mentioned earlier, Ayton runs the floor very well. When the ball is in his hands he is just as quick, which is the area that most impresses me.
    • Ayton knows how to use his athleticism in game. He had a couple of nice alley-oops in the tournament, but I would like to see him cut to the basket off ball more, as he is an elite aerial threat. Additionally, he looked to dunk everything and was playing above the rim all weekend. His explosiveness was on display throughout the tournament.
  • Defense:
    • The biggest takeaway from this weekend’s tournament was that DeAndre Ayton is not a strong helpside defender. Ayton rarely took chances leaving his matchup on cutting offensive players, which hurts his chances at recording a block. He would also turn his back on cutters when guarding the mid range.
    • Ayton’s most effective defense was his perimeter defense. Ayton was able to switch very smoothly on screens, and frequently shut down opposing perimeter players’ attempts to drive towards the basket. He has incredible lateral quickness, which helps him guard virtually anyone on the floor.
  • Rebounding:
    • Ayton was a glass-eater in the Battle 4 Atlantis, and has been one of the best rebounders in the nation. His physical tools and high motor make him an excellent rebounder, indicated by his 12 rebounds per game in the tournament.
  • Passing:
    • Ayton must improve his vision out of the post in order to take his game to the next level. He missed a couple of cutters out of the post against SMU, and was hesitant to pass out of the paint against taller defenders versus Purdue.
    • However, Ayton was able to make good post entry passes from the perimeter. His game has a lot of point guard traits on both ends, and this adds to his offensive versatility.

Overall, Ayton was one of the best players of the entire Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. He displayed his elite athleticism, great rebounding, outstanding perimeter skills, and great low post offense. While it would be nice to see his 3 point shot fall at a higher rate, he is hitting his free throws at a high rate, which is often a better indicator of NBA shooting success. He is also able to switch on pick n rolls, and completely shut down perimeter drives. Ayton also plays the passing lanes well, especially along the perimeter. He can often get too aggressive in the passing lanes, but also is often too passive on help side defense.

Ayton has the physical tools to dominate in the college level, but must continue to refine other areas of his game in order to succeed at the next level. He has shown his faceup arsenal to be a threat, with a spin move and a lethal mid range jumper. Ayton also displayed himself as a threat in the pick & pop, which is where his 3 point shot was most successful.

Lastly, Ayton’s inability to play help defense was a major flag for me. While the perimeter abilities are excellent to see, his value is much higher as a center if he can protect the rim and block shots. He must be more aggressive, while also being smart about when to attempt a block, towards slashers. Ayton only bit on two pump fakes all weekend on my count, which is the positive side of his lack of aggression.

Ayton moved up to #2 on my board over this long weekend, as news broke that Michael Porter Jr will undergo potentially season-ending surgery. Ayton shows potential to be a ‘unicorn’, contributing to the great rise of all around big men. Ayton is a perfect fit on the Mavericks for multiple reasons: first, his talent would make the team significantly better, and besides player-to-player fit, his talent is hard to pass up. Second, Dennis Smith has shown a growing potential in the P&R, and Ayton will significantly aid his growth. Lastly, Ayton’s defensive versatility and athleticism is perfect for a Rick Carlisle center. Since Ayton can switch, he is a good fit for the modern NBA. Additionally, Ayton shows a high basketball IQ on the defensive end. As we’ve seen this season, a high basketball IQ is necessary in order to play for coach Rick Carlisle. Ayton is a must-watch for any basketball fan, and has a chance at becoming the #1 overall prospect by the end of the season.

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