The Drive with Jody Oehler

The Drive with Jody Oehler

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The Suns Are Going to Sink or Swim with Deandre Ayton

Whether you are mentally or emotionally ready for it or not, the Suns play again tonight.

In the aftermath of a devastating second half breakdown against the Kings, fans have repeatedly turned north hoping a new savior will come town.

That isn't going to happen.

Karl Anthony Towns isn't walking through that door.

First of all, the Timberwolves have zero reason to trade Karl Anthony Towns. Second of all, the NBA has no interest in having a 24 year old star in the first year of a five year max contract try and force his way out of the city that drafted him.

And lastly, the Suns may not have the assets to acquire such a player anyway. Deandre Ayton is basically a 7 foot version of Andrew Wiggins at this point and I don't think the Twolves are looking to model their franchise after Andrew Wiggins.

But more importantly, the fantasy of a Karl Anthony Towns trade detracts from the reality of the Suns: This team is going to have to pull itself up by its bootstraps.

The Suns have tried importing leadership and culture. They've tried draft saviors and free agent splashes. They've tried changing GM's, coaches, players and philosophies. Short of changing owners (which we've talked about A LOT), nothing has worked at changing the Suns.

Is more change the answer or is only one specific change needed?

I still firmly believe Monty Williams is the right man for the job, despite his growing frustration trying to change this Suns team.

The only way the Suns direction changes is if Deandre Ayton changes.

Nearly 80 games into his NBA career, Ayton's biggest asset in the NBA is that he's tall.

He can roll out of bed and put up a double double, which is what it often actually looks like.

To this point, while Suns fans dream of an alternate reality where Luka Doncic is dropping a triple double a night in a Suns uniform - Ayton's practically invented his own version of a triple double.

As a friend of mine put it to me, an Ayton triple double is double digit points and rebounds and a double digit loss.

Nothing is going to change with the Suns until Ayton changes.

He likes to sound the part, saying everything he knows his coaches want to hear about effort and energy. He likes to look the part, kicking a chair in frustration or getting emotional on the bench. But he rarely actually plays the part.

No one denies Ayton is dripping with talent. He'll never be a bust because he's simply too productive to be lumped in with the Anthony Bennett and Michael Olowokandi's of the NBA Bust World.

But he also rarely makes enough of an impact to justify his top overall selection.

The NBA game has changed, likely permanently, and centers are rarely the driving force behind the success of an NBA team. I don't need Ayton to dominate, I just need him to matter.

I want Ayton to positively impact the outcomes of more games.

While Suns fans dream of another team's star swooping in and rescuing this team from its own failures, I'm old enough to remember when that was exactly what Deandre Ayton was supposed to be.

I don't believe Ayton is going to be a Doncic-esque difference maker but I do believe he can make a difference for the Suns, all he has to do is make a change.

Easy enough, right?

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