DeAndre Ayton is a big. Bigs - due to their tendency to be oversized at an early age - are often pushed into basketball, instead of pushing themselves to get better. That can sometimes lead to a lack of detail, motivation or seriousness. We've seen it with Dwight Howard, Shaq and Joel Embiid, to name a few. All great, all flawed.
Ayton talked about this on the Woj pod:
"Definitely, basketball found me. Basketball wasn't [my] first sport for a minute. I'd say, in the Bahamas I played a lot of soccer. Softball and soccer."
Shortly after a 12-year-old Ayton was discovered at a basketball camp in his home country of The Bahamas, he was sent to the United States to pursue the sport.
"I was like a gem. You ever seen Lord of the Rings?" Ayton said, "When you have that ring you get evil. That's what they did. The mentor that had me the first years of my life in America? He trained me so well fundamentally, to where it almost like I was naturally gifted, like I had this all along."
All that to say, there will be defects with Ayton.
One of Ayton's defects - a general disregard of the rules - showed itself Monday in what turned out almost to be a catastrophe. Ayton almost missed the Oklahoma City game after missing his Sunday Covid-19 test, but ended up missing only the1st quarter after completing a test earlier that morning.
This is, quite simply, life with most great bigs. Ask the 76ers about Embiid's eating habits. Ask the Lakers about Dwight Howard's general weirdness.
Luckily, though, Ayton is on pace to follow a path more similar to Shaq's, than Joel Embiid's or Dwight Howard's.
Like Shaq, Ayton has the right coach, and the right co-star.
In his most productive years, Shaq played under Phil Jackson, and next to Kobe Bryant. Jackson was always more psychologist than schemer, and Kobe had a will that made him the obvious face of the Lakers, even if his talent didn't always supersede Shaq's. Shaq benefited from Jackson's tender touch, and Kobe's large shadow.
There's that tender touch for Ayton.
There's that enormous shadow. From the logo.
DeAndre Ayton will be OK. Suns fans will get on him, but he seems too sure of himself to let that truly effect his game. He'll screw up - like he did when he tested positive for a diuretic, forcing him to miss 25 games on suspension - but Monty Williams will let cooler heads prevail. And, Ayton will have some amazing nights, but I'll bet even on those, Devin Booker plays better.
That's exactly how it should be.