Bahamian DeAndre Ayton was a double-double machine for the Phoenix Suns this past season and was certainly one of the impactful rookies in the National Basketball Association (NBA), but at the end of the day, it wasn’t enough to overcome the efforts of Dallas Mavericks sensation Luka Dončić and Atlanta Hawks’ point guard Trae Young for the Kia NBA Rookie of the Year (ROY) Award.
The third annual NBA Awards ceremony was held Monday night at the historic Barker Hangar at the Santa Monica Airport in Santa Monica, California, USA. It was staged by Turner Sports in conjunction with the NBA and presented by Kia on Turner Network Television (TNT) on Monday night. The show honored the league’s top performers from the 2018-19 regular season, as well as legends Larry Bird and Earvin “Magic” Johnson as Lifetime Achievement Award winners and Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts.
Ayton finished third in voting for the Kia NBA Rookie of the Year Award behind Dončić and Young, but all three were voted to the NBA All-Rookie First Team last month. They were joined by Memphis Grizzlies’ forward Jaren Jackson Jr. and Sacramento Kings’ forward Marvin Bagley III – the top five picks from the 2018 NBA Draft.
In the individual rookie of the year voting, Ayton, the top overall pick of the Suns in the 2018 draft, finished third with 66 points. He had one second-place vote and 63 third-place votes. Dončić, a 20-year-old small forward from Slovenia, was a runaway winner of the award with 496 total points based on voting from a global panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters. He received 98 first-place votes and two second-place votes.
Young got the other two first-place votes and finished second with 301 total points. Ayton, the 20-year-old, 7’1” center of the Suns, settled for third. Jackson was fourth and Collin Sexton of the Cleveland Cavaliers finished fifth in the voting. Only the top three finalists were invited to the awards show and the winner was revealed on Monday night.
Dončić, who was the number three overall pick in the June 2018 draft, accepted his trophy from RJ Barrett, who went to the New York Knicks as the number three pick in this year’s NBA Draft. The 2019 draft was held just last week.
In voting for the 2018-19 NBA All-Rookie First Team last month, Dončić and Young were unanimous selections. Ayton received 95 first-team votes and five second-team votes. Jackson had 60 first-team votes and 39 second-team votes, and Bagley rounded out the top five with 56 first-team votes and 44 second-team votes.
With Ayton going number one, Bagley at number two, Dončić at number three, Jackson with the number four overall pick and Young at number five, this marked the first time since the 1984-85 season that the top five picks in the previous NBA Draft were all selected to the NBA All-Rookie First Team (there was no All-Rookie Second Team that season). The selectees 34 years ago were Hakeem Olajuwon (No. 1 pick in 1984), Sam Bowie (No. 2), Michael Jordan (No. 3), Sam Perkins (No. 4) and Charles Barkley (No. 5).
This year, the NBA All-Rookie Second Team consists of Los Angeles Clippers’ guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Cleveland Cavaliers’ guard Collin Sexton, Clippers’ guard Landry Shamet, New York Knicks’ center Mitchell Robinson and Hawks’ guard Kevin Huerter.
Despite falling short of the NBA Finals by two games, the Milwaukee Bucks were the big winner on Monday night as their all-star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo earned Most Valuable Player (MVP) honors, Mike Budenholzer won the Coach of the Year Award and Jon Horst took home the Executive of the Year Award.
As for Ayton, he finished at 16.3 points and 10.3 rebounds in 30.7 minutes per game for the Suns in his rookie season in the league. He was the only rookie in the league to average a double-double and was just the third player in the past decade to average a double-double in their rookie season, joining NBA All-Stars Blake Griffin and Karl-Anthony Towns. Ayton shot 58.5 percent from the floor and finished with one of the highest field goal percentages among rookies in the history of the league. He led the Suns in rebounding, was second on the team in field goal percentage and third in scoring.
Ayton led all rookies in rebounding and field goal percentage among those with at least 300 attempts, was fourth in scoring and seventh in blocked shots (0.9 per contest). He was 10th in the entire league in field goal percentage, 13th in rebounding and 54th in scoring.
Ayton finished with 39 double-doubles this season, breaking the franchise rookie record of 37 that was set by Alvan Adams in the 1975-76 season.
In his professional debut, Ayton earned a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds to go along with six assists that ended up being a season-high (done twice), a steal and a block in 36 minutes of play as a starter in a 121-100 win over Dončić and the Mavericks. With that stat line, Ayton was the first player to record those numbers in a debut performance in the NBA since Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) in 1969 and the third player to do so since Oscar Robertson in 1960. On October 27 last year, he recorded 24 points on near-perfect shooting (12-of-13 shots made) along with eight rebounds and five assists in a 117-96 loss to the Grizzlies. With that performance, Ayton became just the second rookie in 40 seasons (first being Adam Keefe) to have at least 12 shots with a 90 percent or higher field goal percentage.
Ayton had a career-high of 33 points, alongside 14 rebounds, in a 122-118 loss to the Denver Nuggets on December 29 last year and pulled down a career-high 18 rebounds on three occasions including twice in a four-day period when he tallied 18, 17 and 18 rebounds in three consecutive games.
Through the first half of the season, Ayton started every game, except for one, for the Suns when he was healthy. On January 29, 2019, Ayton was named a member of the World Team for the Rising Stars Challenge during the 2019 NBA All-Star Weekend. Representing The Bahamas, Ayton had 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists for the World Team in that game.
Ayton sprained his left ankle on March 30 against the Grizzlies, missing the Suns’ final five games of the regular season.
Despite his contributions, the Suns finished last in the Western Conference of the NBA with a 19-63 win/loss record and missed the playoffs for the ninth straight season.
Education: College of The Bahamas, Associates in Accounting