Deandre Ayton has been the unexpected star contributor to this Phoenix Suns Finals run. Everyone already knew coming in that Chris Paul and Devin Booker were very good basketball players. It was also widely understood that Ayton was a solid player. But he's soared into star territory with his postseason performances, averaging 16 points and 12 rebounds per game while shooting an astounding 71 percent from the field and playing quality defense all the while.
The Bahamian big man is as crucial a piece to this iteration of the Suns as any of his teammates. In Game 1 of the Finals, Ayton did not shy away from the biggest spotlight in basketball as he posted 22 points and 19 rebounds on 8-of-10 shooting. If he wasn't already a household name among casual basketball fans, he is now. Such recognition leads to discussion on a national platform. In that vein, Kendrick Perkins spent Wednesday going to bat for Ayton on ESPN and arguing the 2018 first overall pick is the second coming of David Robinson, AKA The Admiral.
He first tweeted this sentiment after Statmuse posted a graphic demonstrating how impressive Ayton's Finals debut was.
Big Perk was then given a spot on Sportscenter to further make his case.
It's a fairly accurate physical comparison, if anything. Both Ayton and Robinson are absolute mountains with the athletic physique of someone much shorter than they are. Robinson was a bit taller and skinner (7-foot-1, 235 pounds) than Ayton (6-foot-11, 250 pounds), but between that and the way both big men move on the court, you can see where Perk is coming from.
Now, obviously Ayton has a long way to go before we can take these comparisons seriously. Ayton is good on both ends of the court but he isn't yet great in any facet of his game other than rebounding. He can post up smaller players and finish with nice touch in the restricted area, but he isn't dominating defenses in that manner the way Robinson did in his heyday. Similarly, Ayton is a deterrent around the rim defensively but has a lot of work to do before he's Defensive Player of the Year-caliber on that end as Robinson was.
The fact that we aren't collectively laughing this take out of the room speaks to how impressive Ayton has been. No, he is not yet anywhere near the kind of player Robinson was. But it's not hard to imagine a future in which he could be. Opinions were much different before the season, or even the playoffs, began. Ayton is showing how high his ceiling is in only his third season. The future is bright, even if he never quite reaches MVP levels of dominance as Robinson did in San Antonio.