DeAndre Ayton, number one pick, and beacon of hope in Phoenix already has All-Star center Joel Embiid talking. On draft night Embiid tweeted “Don’t compare Ayton to me either… I play DEFENSE.” And so begins the tale of two centers. Embiid is a dominant two-way center when he is on the floor. His dominant play elevated the 76ers into the playoffs. Ayton averaged a double double during his lone season in Tucson. Ayton is 19 and Embiid is 24, both were born outside the United States and started hooping in High School. The back and fourth has already begun this summer with pictures of Ayton dunking on Embiid, and Embiid feeling disrespected with Ayton comparisons on draft night. Embiid is already feeling threatened by Ayton.
Joel Embiid Kansas
G 28 PTS 11.2 TRB 8.1 AST 1.4 FG% 62.6 FG3% 20.0 FT% 68.5 eFG% 62.9 PER 28.2
DeAndre Ayton Arizona
G 35 PTS 20.1 TRB 11.6 AST 1.6 FG% 61.2 FG3% 34.3 FT% 73.3 eFG% 62.5 PER 32.6
Few TV talking heads appreciate the fact that Ayton was indeed playing out of position at Arizona where his defensive statistics were lackluster. By guarding smaller players he learned how to play defense on the perimeter an imperative skill for big men in todays NBA.
Another Arizona Wildcat was questioned about their defense around draft time just a year ago, Lauri Markkanen. The Finnisher has surpassed expectations as an on ball defender with his foot speed and proved to be more than a capable defender(Kevin O’Conner gave Lauri an F+ draft grade) and while setting the rookie record for 3 pointers made. Ayton played in the same 4 position as Lauri on defense and hopes to see similiar success defending the perimeter at the next level.
Ayton was a dominant offensive force at Arizona, Embiid could be the best two-way center in the NBA. Both have big personalities and bigger smiles, but will Ayton rise to the level of Embiid?
Embiid played with the number one pick and was relegated to the block at kansas while Wiggins ran the show. Will Embiid every play a full NBA season? Centers in basketball are like quarterbacks in the NFL, a team really never knows what it is going to get until they step on the floor. Embiid improved drastically year to year in the NBA which cannot be discounted, but there is no reason to think Ayton can’t make a similar jump based on his newness to basketball.
The Suns and Sixers will play twice, the first meeting on the 19th of November and the second meeting will be in Phoenix on the 2nd of January, that will also be Deandre Ayton bobblehead night. It is the second game on a back to back for the 76ers, but for some reason I feel like Embiid will play.
First player to dunk on the other wins.