Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Deandre Ayton went first overall in the 2018 NBA Draft. He often gets overlooked due to the brilliance of Trae Young and Luka Doncic. Yet in these playoffs, his first playoff appearance, he’s holding his own.
Games 5 and 6 against the Lakers were forgettable for Ayton, as he scored 8 points in both and didn’t dominate on the glass. The first four games were a different story. Ayton averaged 19.8 points and 13.5 rebounds per game. In Game 1, Ayton had 21 points, 16 rebounds and did it on nearly 91% from the floor. He outperformed Anthony Davis and held his own against him until Davis got hurt in Game 4.
Phoenix comes into the series as the favorite. WynnBET is giving the Suns -200 odds to win and move on to the conference finals, while they have Denver set as a +175 underdog. The most likely outcomes according to WynnBET, are the Suns winning in 5 (+350), or the Suns winning in 7 (+350).
Now Ayton is facing arguably the best center in the league, Nikola Jokic. The Joker is on his way to his first MVP season averaging 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game. Deandre Ayton, while he’s no MVP, will certainly be able to hold his own against another elite big man.
In the three regular season meetings between the two, Ayton averaged 22 points and 12.3 rebounds per game, which is a rise in both categories from his season averages. Ayton seems to elevate his game when he's matched up with Jokic.
Game 1 will be a tone setter for Ayton. With the passionate and hungry Phoenix crowd behind him, he should have enough juice to put on another performance that shows he shouldn’t be overlooked.