In the latest piece of criticism, Bleacher Report’s Adam Fromal released his list of the most overrated players in the NBA; the first name mentioned on the list is Portland’s new starting center.
Fromal criticized Ayton’s lack of effort in his critique, and mentioned that Ayton, despite having the physical tools, doesn’t use them enough as an advantage while playing.
Reason for Value Disconnect: Physical tools don’t translate
A 7-footer with a chiseled 250-pound frame who can overpower defenders when he’s not showing off his delicate touch around the basket, Deandre Ayton has all the physical tools you could ask for in a big man operating within the confines of the modern NBA.
But the aggression isn’t there. The same is sometimes true of his apparent passion, or lack thereof, for playing high-effort, winning basketball, as demonstrated by a viral play in which he decided to just...not even attempt to hustle and gather possession in a three-point game late in the fourth quarter. (That’s not the first time his effort level has been scrutinized, either.)
Ayton wore out his welcome with the Phoenix Suns, and his public stock fell accordingly. But the general perception hasn’t caught up with his continuing decline as he seems to avoid taking high-leverage touches and rarely asserts himself against overmatched defenders, averaging per-36-minute scoring figures drastically below his career averages for the Portland Trail Blazers as he fails even to set the hard screens necessary to elevate the performance of the youngsters around him on the floor.
Since getting to Portland, Ayton has averaged a career-low 12.6 points per game. He has also averaged 10.8 rebounds and a career-high 1.4 steals per game. The big man has looked winded at times, but the team has put a lot on his shoulders in the early going, at least on defense.
Despite the one or two Shaqtin’ a Fool-like moments Fromal cherrypicked, the perspective from Portland fans and local media so far this season regarding Ayton’s effort has mostly leaned positive. The big man has continued to show passion and a positive attitude, even while working through early individual and team struggles. A large part of the critique on effort from Fromal seems swayed by Ayton’s past play as a member of the Phoenix Suns.
Ayton’s last few games have shown a bit more aggression on the offensive end, partly because the team has been making a greater effort to get him the ball. He is also having one of the best rebounding seasons of his career, and ranks seventh in the league in rebounds per game. If these trends continue, Ayton could begin playing himself into the form many expected in his new destination as the season wears on.