Monday, Jul 13, 2020
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Coach Monty Williams looking to lead center Ayton to stardom

“We’ll play through Devin and DeAndre.”

That’s a reported quote from the new head coach of the Phoenix Suns, Monty Williams.

Reference is to the 7’ 1” Bahamian center with the Suns, DeAndre Ayton, and 6’ 6” Devin Booker, the shooting guard of Coach Williams’ premier group of players.

So, there is a conversation ongoing about the potential for Ayton and Booker to evolve into the present-day Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. Such an expectation is lofty, but not particularly unrealistic. O’Neal and Bryant, together, led the Los Angeles Lakers to three world championships and formed a legendary combination.

Ayton and Booker showed signs of emerging as a dynamic duo last season. Ayton was a double-double threat each game and Booker had brilliant flashes. Shaq and Kobe make for a tall order, but let’s examine the few similarities as of now.

Ayton is 7’ 1”, just like Shaq, although not has heavy. The Bahamian goes around 250 pounds whereas Shaq was comfortable in the 300-pound neighborhood. Ayton is, however, shiftier in the pivot and, in my view, could compile Shaq-like numbers.

Booker could be an offensive sensation at times. He is 6’ 6”, just like Kobe, and has nifty moves offensively.

If they get a point guard who buys into Coach Williams’ court structure, in total, the Suns could become a playoff team in Ayton’s second season. It sounds as though Williams will insist upon his point guard utilizing the Ayton-Booker combination, as the first option as a rule.

Hopefully, one particular development with Shaq and Kobe does not surface with Booker and Ayton, though. Ego came into play with the Lakers pair and they eventually broke up, Kobe winning two titles without Shaq, who won one more. Who knows where they would have put the bar, had they stayed together?

It has to be established that Ayton and Booker are co-leaders of the team. This is the area where, I think, Coach Williams will have his greatest challenge. In Ayton and Booker, he certainly has the combined talent that could take the Suns into playoff territory, for years.

Watch the egos though. Ayton and Booker are really good. The big question will be whether they can pool their physical and mental resources into the kind of unifying element that will take the Suns to the playoff level.

Ayton is a finalist for the NBA’s Rookie of the Year Award. He has been selected to NBA All-rookie First Team. It looks like a lot is in store for him.

Coach Williams will be depending heavily upon Ayton and Booker.

Best wishes to the Bahamian and his Suns’ associates.

• To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at e-mail address or on WhatsApp at (242) 727-6363.

The Bahamas wins me
‘Peace on Da Stree