Their time in the bubble may be done, and they might have slightly missed the playoffs, but the Phoenix Suns, featuring Bahamian center DeAndre Ayton, was one of the most talked about teams after their unbeaten play during the seeding games.
Additionally, Ayton and Devin Booker, the two young stars of the Suns, were recently ranked as two of the top players in the National Basketball Association (NBA), under 24 years of age, according to CBS Sports, USA Today and other media and social media platforms. They are both listed as two of the top young players in the game.
Both were fantastic in the NBA seeding games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida, leading the Suns to an unblemished 8-0 win/loss record. The Suns was the only unbeaten team in the bubble, and missed the playoffs by mere percentage points.
Now, they are quickly becoming the talk of the NBA.
Booker, in particular, had his coming out party in the bubble, averaging 30.5 points, six assists and 4.9 rebounds while shooting 50.3 percent from the field in 33.8 minutes per game. USA Today Sports’ Jeff Zillgitt recently ranked him as No. 4 on a list ranking NBA players 23 years of age and under. Only the Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Dončić, Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum and New Orleans Pelicans’ Zion Williamson were ranked ahead of Booker, according to Zillgitt.
Booker, who won’t turn 24 until the end of October, was one of three finalists for the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award of the seeding games. He finished second in voting for ‘Bubble MVP’ to Portland’s Damian Lillard and his buzzer-beating shot over Los Angeles Clippers’ stars Paul George and Kawhi Leonard was one of the most dramatic and exciting shots of the seeding games.
Booker was named to the Kia NBA All-Seeding Games First Team, and Suns’ Head Coach Monty Williams was a near-unanimous selection as the Coach of the Seeding Games. Williams led the Suns to eight straight wins – their longest winning streak since two-time MVP Steve Nash led them to 10 straight in 2010. The Suns came within a Caris LeVert game-winning attempt of making the play-in series for the eighth and ninth seeded teams in the Western Conference of the NBA.
As for the 22-year-old Bahamian big man, he came in as No. 12, according to ClutchPoints, a mobile app for iOS mobile operating system and Android that aggregates live sports information to a user’s device, particularly for the NBA. It was launched on desktop and social media. Ayton is also No. 12 on a NBA Bleacher Report list of the top players 23 years and under. In fact, several Suns players are included in recent lists ranking young NBA players.
ClutchPoints Author Bruno Manrique said of Ayton: “DeAndre was already a double-double giant sneaking under our noses during his rookie year, overshadowed by the eventual rookie of the year – the Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Dončić. He’s posting even better numbers in his second season, despite facing a 25-game suspension early on. Ayton is finally putting together the offensive and defensive combination that made him the consensus No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.”
Ayton is regarded as one of the top young centers in the league, possibly developing into an all-star in a year or two. He had a Suns’ rookie record 39 double-doubles in his rookie season in 2018-2019 while averaging 16.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 0.9 blocks per game, and shot 58.5 percent from the field. This past season, Ayton averaged 18.2 points, 11.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.5 blocks per game while shooting 54.6 percent from the field despite sitting out for 25 games early in the season due to a suspension, and also missing time due to injuries. He also hit the first three three-pointers of his career during the NBA seeding games.
Behind Ayton and Booker, the Suns could be in the mix for a spot in the playoffs next season. They still have work to do to continue to get better in a loaded Western Conference but they possess tremendous potential and upside, and appear to be on the right path.
The immediate future looks bright for Ayton and the Suns.