There’s one question hanging over DeAndre Ayton. Just on talent alone, the Arizona freshman should be the front-runner to be the no. 1 overall pick in the draft. At 7-foot-1 and 250 pounds with a 7-foot-5 wingspan and a reported 43.5-inch vertical leap, Ayton is as big as Steven Adams, and he can jump as high as Andrew Wiggins. Factor in his actual basketball skills and he checks off every box for a modern big man. He’s averaging 19.6 points and 11.2 rebounds a game on 60 percent shooting, and he’s shooting 67 percent from 2-point range. Bill Walton called him the best college talent at the center spot since Shaq, which is an impressive bit of hyperbole, even for Walton. “I have a lot of guys I compare myself to,” Ayton said in a wide-ranging conversation with the media at last year’s McDonald’s All American Game. “I got Kevin Garnett, David Robinson on the low block, Hakeem. I have KG’s attitude and competitiveness when I’m on the court.” Here’s the problem. A guy with Ayton’s incredible physical tools should block a lot of shots, and he just doesn’t. He’s much bigger and longer than the vast majority of the players he faces in college. If he just stands in front of the rim and waves his arms around, he should block shots by osmosis alone. It’s concerning, because centers who don’t block shots in college have not fared well in the NBA. Ayton is blocking shots at a historically low rate for a future lottery pick. There have been 17 NCAA centers drafted in the top 10 since 2010, and Ayton’s freshman year block rate is tied with Cody Zeller’s for second-lowest among the players in that group. Ayton is averaging only 1.7 blocks per game, with a block rate of 4.3 percent, a full standard deviation under the group average of 8.1 percent. Greg Monroe is the only player who blocked fewer shots as a freshman. Ayton is even behind Jahlil Okafor, who had a block rate of 4.5 percent. Monroe and Okafor are not the company an athletic young center should be keeping.
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Afraid of Rejections: DeAndre Ayton Is a Physical Marvel, but It Isn’t Showing on Defense
The Ringer | Jan 10