Deandre Edoneille Chidike Ayton (born July 23, 1998) is a Bahamian professional basketball player who plays for the Phoenix Suns of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He played for the Arizona Wildcats in the Pac-12 Conference in the 2017–18 season and was a consensus five-star prospect in the Class of 2017, as well as a McDonald's All-American. Ayton was selected with the first overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft by the Suns. He was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team in 2019. In 2021, Ayton helped lead the Phoenix Suns to their first NBA Finals appearance since 1993.
|No. 22 – Phoenix Suns|
|Born||July 23, 1998|
|Listed height||6 ft 11 in (2.11 m)|
|Listed weight||250 lb (113 kg)|
|NBA draft||2018 / Round: 1 / Pick: 1st overall|
|Selected by the Phoenix Suns|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Stats at NBA.com|
|Stats at Basketball-Reference.com|
High school careerEdit
Ayton attended Balboa School in California and started on the varsity basketball team for two years. As a sophomore in 2014–15, Ayton led Balboa to a 17–14 record, averaging 21 points, 16 rebounds and 6.9 blocks per game. He racked up double-doubles in 21 of 22 regular season games. That summer, he averaged 16.5 points, 13.5 rebounds and 2.2 blocks a game for Supreme Court AAU (California) on the Under Armour circuit.
Ayton, now a junior in 2015–16, transferred to Hillcrest Prep Academy in Phoenix, Arizona to play out his last two years. During this high school year, he became teammates with another top-tier Class of 2017 player in 2018's #2 pick Marvin Bagley III. Throughout his junior year, Ayton averaged 29.2 points, 16.7 rebounds, 3.8 blocks per game.
As a senior in 2016–17, Ayton led Hillcrest to a 33–6 record and national rankings across multiple outlets while averaging 26 points, 15 rebounds and 3.5 blocks. He led Hillcrest to a Grind Session World Championship, earning Finals MVP and season MVP. While representing the World Select team, Ayton played at the 2016 Nike Hoop Summit, chipping in with eight points to go along with seven rebounds.
Ayton was considered one of the top prospects in the 2017 recruiting class by Scout.com, Rivals.com, and ESPN. He was rated as a five-star recruit and the No. 3 overall recruit and No. 1 center in the 2017 high school class. In 2015, he was ranked by Scout as the top prospect in all of high school in their "Ultimate 100" list. Ayton had narrowed his choices between three schools: Arizona, Kansas and Kentucky. On September 6, 2016, he committed to play for the Arizona Wildcats, and signed his letter of intent.
|Name||Hometown||High school / college||Height||Weight||Commit date|
|Phoenix, AZ||Hillcrest Prep Academy (AZ)||7 ft 0 in (2.13 m)||235 lb (107 kg)||Sep 6, 2016|
|Recruiting star ratings: Scout: Rivals: 247Sports: ESPN: ESPN grade: 97|
|Overall recruiting rankings: Scout: 5 Rivals: 3 247Sports: 4 ESPN: 3|
Ayton made his debut with the University of Arizona on November 10, 2017, recording 19 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 blocks in a 101–67 win over the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks. His 19 points was 7th most for a freshman in an Arizona debut.Throughout his college career, he was used as a power forward instead of center; Dušan Ristić was Arizona's starting center instead. On December 9, 2017, Ayton recorded what was, at the time, a season-high 29 points and 18 rebounds in an 88–82 win over the Alabama Crimson Tide. On December 30, 2017, against the in-state rival Arizona State Sun Devils, he recorded 19 rebounds, which would be a season-high at the time. On January 20, 2018, against Stanford, he blocked 6 shots, which tied him for most in Arizona freshman single game history. He had also recorded 17 20-point games and 23 double-doubles through 34 games. However, while Ayton had some great successes during his freshman season, there were also controversies mired during his last few months there.
On February 23, 2018, a reported FBI wiretap revealed Arizona's head coach, Sean Miller, allegedly talked with Christian Dawkins (a key figure involved in the 2017–18 NCAA Division I men's basketball corruption scandal) to discuss paying Ayton $100,000 to allow him to enter the university, with the monetary situation being dealt with directly to him. While Miller would not be coaching the next game a day later against Oregon (assistant coach Lorenzo Romar would replace Miller that night), Ayton would still be allowed to play that day as the starting center. In that game, Ayton would record 28 points, 18 rebounds, and 4 blocks in the overtime loss to Oregon. The wiretapped conversation reportedly occurred in 2016, when Ayton was still attending the Hillcrest Prep Academy. Later on October 11, 2018, a government official revealed a now-former Adidas consultant named T.J. Gassnola paid a currently unknown amount of money to Ayton's family via Christian Dawkins in order to attend some Adidas sponsored programs. On May 2, 2019, federal prosecutors played a wiretapped call from June 20, 2017 between Dawkins and former assistant coach Emanuel Richardson that Miller was paying Ayton $10,000 per month while enrolled at Arizona.
On March 3, 2018, after their last regular season home game against California, where he'd record 26 points and a career-high 20 rebounds in a 66–54 win over California, head coach Sean Miller honored Ayton, as well as underclassmen Rawle Alkins and Allonzo Trier, with confirmations that they'd all be entering the 2018 NBA Draft at the end of this season. On March 9, Ayton would record a career-high 32 points with 14 rebounds in a 78–67 overtime win against UCLA. He'd tie that career high for points the next day alongside grabbing 18 rebounds in the Pac-12 Championship game against USC, where the Wildcats won 75–61. Ayton would be named the Pac-12 Tournament's Most Outstanding Player during the event. At the end of the regular season, Ayton was named both the Pac-12's Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year, as well as become a member of the All-Pac-12 first team (in terms of both regular voting and voting through the Associated Press) and be named the winner of the Karl Malone Award. He was also voted a consensus first-team All-American. Furthermore, Ayton was one of three freshman to be a part of the All-American First Team, joining Marvin Bagley III and Trae Young for the most consensus freshmen First Team members in a season.
Following Arizona's upset loss to the University at Buffalo in the Round of 64 of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, Ayton announced his intention to forgo his final three seasons of collegiate eligibility and declare for the 2018 NBA draft, where he was expected to be a top-tier lottery selection, if not the potential #1 draft pick. On April 26, 2018, Ayton announced he signed with agent Nima Namakian of BDA Sports.
Phoenix Suns (2018–present)Edit
2018–19 season: All-Rookie honorsEdit
On June 21, 2018, the Phoenix Suns selected Ayton with the first overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft. He was the franchise's first No. 1 pick in their history. Never before had the player picked with the first overall selection gone to a team from the state where he played in high school and college before entering the NBA. Ayton joined the 2018 NBA Summer League Suns squad on July 1, 2018, signing his rookie-scale contract five days later. In his Summer League debut on July 6, Ayton recorded 10 points and 8 rebounds in a 92–85 win over the Dallas Mavericks. At the end of the event, Ayton averaged a double-double of 14.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in four games played and named a member of the All-Summer League Second Team. He also averaged 18.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1.4 assists, and 0.8 steals per game in five games during the 2018 preseason with the Suns. Near the end of the preseason, he led all NBA players in points, rebounds, blocks, free-throws, and field goal attempts.
Ayton made his NBA debut in the season opener on October 17, 2018 and earned a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds, as well as a season-high 6 assists, a steal, and a block with 36 minutes played as a starter in a 121–100 win over the Dallas Mavericks. It made Ayton the first player to record these stats in their debut game since Lew Alcindor in 1969, as well as the third player since Oscar Robertson in 1960. Five days later, Ayton recorded a double-double of 20 points and 14 rebounds (alongside 5 assists) in a 123–103 loss to the Golden State Warriors. On October 27, he recorded 24 points on near-perfect shooting (12/13 shots made) alongside 5 assists in a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. He became the second rookie in 40 seasons (first being Adam Keefe) to score at least 12 shots with a 90% or higher field goal percentage. Six days later, Ayton recorded a double-double of 17 points and a season-high 18 rebounds in a 107–98 loss to the Toronto Raptors. Ayton later recorded a new career high of 33 points, alongside 14 rebounds, in a 122–118 loss to the Denver Nuggets on December 29. Through the first half of the season, Ayton started in every game for the Suns when he was healthy, save for one. On January 29, 2019, Ayton was named a member of the World Team for the Rising Stars Challenge in the 2019 NBA All-Star Weekend. On March 27, Ayton broke Alvan Adams' rookie record for most double-doubles recorded by a rookie in franchise history. However, Ayton sprained his left ankle three days later against the Memphis Grizzlies, ending his rookie season early. He became the third rookie in a decade to average a double-double in their rookie season, joining Blake Griffin and Karl-Anthony Towns. At the conclusion of the season, Ayton was named as one of three finalists for the NBA Rookie of the Year Award in the 2019 NBA Awards show. On May 21, Ayton was selected to the 2019 All-Rookie First Team.
2019–20 season: Improving as a sophomoreEdit
On October 24, 2019, after the 2019–20 season opener, Ayton was suspended for 25 games after testing positive for a diuretic, violating the league's anti-drug policy. He returned from his suspension on December 17 against the Los Angeles Clippers, putting up 18 points and 12 rebounds in a 120–99 loss. Ayton was later immediately sidelined for the next five games due to a sprained right ankle before returning again, this time coming off the bench, on December 30 in a 122–116 win over the Portland Trail Blazers. He returned as a starter proper, albeit as a power forward, on January 3, 2020 in a 120–112 win over the New York Knicks. After a few more games, Ayton became the team's starting center again on January 16. That night, he scored 26 points and grabbed a career-high 21 rebounds in a 121–98 win over the Knicks. He became the first Suns player since Steve Nash to put up a 20/20 kind of game for the team (first player since Amar'e Stoudemire in terms of points and rebounds specifically), as well as the youngest player to have 25+ points and 20+ rebounds in the Madison Square Garden. On January 28, Ayton scored a season-high 31 points in a 133–104 win over the Dallas Mavericks. Two days later, Ayton was announced to return to the Rising Stars Challenge for the World Team; he joined only Amar'e Stoudemire and Devin Booker as announced participants in the event for the Suns as both a rookie and sophomore, though he would not play due to a left ankle injury, eventually being replaced by Nicolò Melli. On February 8, Ayton scored 28 points and grabbed 19 rebounds in a loss to the Denver Nuggets. He became the quickest player in franchise history to reach 1,000 rebounds at 94 games, as well as the fourth-quickest player to reach 1,000 since 1992. Ayton later matched his performance of 28 points and 19 rebounds on February 22 in a 112–104 win over the Chicago Bulls. After getting an ankle injury on March 3 against the Toronto Raptors, Ayton returned to play in the resumed season's bubble games on July 31, getting 24 points (including 2/3 three-point shooting for his first professional three-pointers made) and 12 rebounds in a 125–112 win over the Washington Wizards. He started in 7 of the team's 8 games in the 2020 NBA Bubble to give them a perfect 8–0 record there, giving the Suns their first 8-game winning streak since the 2009–10 season, ending their regular season with a 34–39 record.
2020–21 season: First playoff appearance and NBA FinalsEdit
After struggling on the offensive end earlier on in the season (focusing more on defense instead), Ayton would return from the team's three-game suspension (due to COVID-19 protocols in the middle of January) with back-to-back nights as the team's leading rebounder and scorer on January 18 and 20, 2021. In the January 20 game against the Houston Rockets, Ayton had 26 points, 17 rebounds, and a career-high 5 blocks in a 109–103 win on the road. He became the first Suns player since Shawn Marion in 2007 to put up at least 25 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 blocks in a single game, as well as the only other Suns player to do it in the last 30 seasons. Ayton would help Phoenix clinch their first playoff berth since 2010.
On May 23, Ayton made his NBA playoff debut, scoring 21 points on 10-of-11 shooting, to go along with 16 rebounds, in a 99–90 victory in Game 1 of the First Round over the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. In Game 2 of the Conference Finals, Ayton put up 24 points, alongside a buzzer-beating, game-winning alley-oop dunk, and 14 rebounds, in a 104–103 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers to take a 2–0 series lead. In Game 4 of the Conference Finals, Ayton put up 19 points, 22 rebounds and 4 blocks in a 84–80 victory over the Clippers. In Game 6 of the Conference Finals, Ayton put up 16 points and 17 rebounds in a 130–103 victory over the Clippers, to lead the Suns to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1993. In Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks, Ayton put up 22 points and 19 rebounds in a 118–105 win. The Suns went on to lose the series in 6 games.
2021–22 season: Franchise record in winsEdit
Ayton and the Phoenix Suns were unable to agree to a rookie extension before the season. On March 23, 2022, Ayton scored a career-high 35 points on 15-of-24 shooting from the field and grabbed 14 rebounds in a 125–116 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Ayton and the Suns finished the regular season with the league's best overall record at 64–18. On April 22, Ayton scored a playoff career-high 28 points, grabbed 17 rebounds and tied his playoff career-high with 3 steals in a 114–111 Game 3 win against the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round of the playoffs. On May 2, in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals, Ayton logged 25 points and 8 rebounds in a 121–114 win over the Dallas Mavericks. The Suns jumped to a 2–0 lead in the series before losing in seven games.
Unable to agree on a contract extension with the Phoenix Suns, Ayton became a restricted free agent in the offseason. On July 14, 2022 he signed a four-year, $133 million offer sheet with the Indiana Pacers, the largest in league history. The Suns quickly matched the Pacers offer. On July 18, 2022, Ayton signed the Suns' multi-year contract.
Ayton is known for being a physically demanding center at 7 ’1” in shoes, with a weight of 250 pounds being reported during his rookie season with Phoenix. His wingspan has been projected to be at 7'5", while his vertical leap is slated to be at 43.5". He sees his game as something akin to Hakeem Olajuwon's (primarily with his footwork, which allows him to keep up with smaller players) with the competitive mentality of Kevin Garnett. ESPN analyst Jay Williams compared him to David Robinson and Anthony Davis.
|GP||Games played||GS||Games started||MPG||Minutes per game|
|FG%||Field goal percentage||3P%||3-point field goal percentage||FT%||Free throw percentage|
|RPG||Rebounds per game||APG||Assists per game||SPG||Steals per game|
|BPG||Blocks per game||PPG||Points per game||Bold||Career high|
Accomplishments and awardsEdit
- Karl Malone Award (2018)
- All-Pac-12 tournament team (2018)
- Pac-12 Tournament Most Outstanding Player (2018)
- NBC Sports First Team All-American (2018)
- AP Pac-12 Player of the Year (2018)
- AP Pac-12 Newcomer of the Year (2018)
- AP Pac-12 First Team All-American (2018)
- USA Today First Team All-American (2018)
- Sporting News First Team All-American (2018)
- Pac-12 Player of the Year (2018)
- Pac-12 Freshman Player of the Year (2018)
- All-Pac-12 First team (2018)
- All-Pac-12 Freshman team (2018)
- All-Pac-12 Defensive team (2018)
- USBWA District IX Player of the Year (2018)
- USBWA District IX All-District team (2018)
- USBWA First Team All-American (2018)
- NABC First Team All-American (2018)
- NABC District 20 First team (2018)
- AP First Team All-American (2018)
- High School
National team careerEdit
Ayton represented The Bahamas in the 2016 Centrobasket, the regional basketball championship of FIBA Americas for the Central American and Caribbean subzone where he averaged a tournament-leading 11.1 rebounds per game.
In the days after Hurricane Dorian struck the Bahamas, Ayton donated $100,000 to various relief efforts and held a relief drive on September 10, 2019 to collect further supplies and donations to give to those affected by the hurricane.
On March 6, 2021, Ayton welcomed his first son Deandre Obinna Ayton, Jr.
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