Phoenix Suns centre Deandre Ayton is seen during the first half of a game on February 5 in Detroit. On Saturday against the Nuggets, Ayton grabbed his 1,000th career rebound.
(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
DEANDRE Ayton continues to set franchise records for Phoenix in just his second NBA season.
Ayton finished with 28 points, 19 rebounds in the Suns' 117-108 loss to the Denver Nuggets at the Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona, on Saturday night.
His work on the boards made him the fastest Suns player in franchise history to collect 1,000 rebounds for his career. Ayton did so in just 94 games.
"It shows where my hard work is going," Ayton said. "I want a 'W' thats the best milestone you can possibly get, but it's good to know that."
The 2018 No. 1 overall pick has scored 20-plus points in four of his last five games and is averaging 22.2 points on 54.2 per cent shooting, 13.6 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 3.4 assists per game over that stretch.
Suns lead guard Devin Booker said Ayton continues to progress despite little fanfare of media recognition.
"It's very special, especially with just how under the radar his career has been. Since day one, even averaging 16 and 10 as a rookie on very efficient numbers, unbelievable," Booker said.
"Every time he's out there he's taking that next stride. You don't hear about it that much but he comes in here with the right mindset and right approach everyday so that's what matters."
Against the Nuggets, Ayton also added three steals, two assists, and one block in a season-high 42 minutes.
He went head-to-head with Nuggets All-Star centre Nikola Jokic who finished with 23 points, nine rebounds, six assists and praised Ayton's growth as a player.
"He's a monster down there," Jokic said, "He's a big guy, he knows how to use his body. He just needs a little bit more experience and he's going to be great. He's going to be a really, really great player."
Ayton has posted 15 double doubles in just 23 games this season, shortened by his 25-game suspension for violating the league's anti-drug policy.
The second year centre is averaging 18.2 points and 12.7 rebounds per game this season.
For the second consecutive year, Ayton was named to the roster of the World Team for the 2020 NBA Rising Stars Game, to be hosted February 14 at NBA All-Star Weekend at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.
He will be joined on the World Team by Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (Slovenia), New Orleans Pelicans guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Canada), New York Knicks guard/forward RJ Barrett (Canada), Memphis Grizzlies forward Brandon Clarke (Canada), Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Canada), Washington Wizards forward Rui Hachimura (Japan) and centre Moritz Wagner (Germany), Detroit Pistons guard/forward Svi Mykhailiuk (Ukraine), and Minnesota Timberwolves guard Josh Okogie (Nigeria).
Team USA features Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young, Charlotte Hornets forwards Miles Bridges and PJ Washington and guard Devonte' Graham, Chicago Bulls centre Wendell Carter Jr, Miami Heat guards Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn, Memphis Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr and guard Ja Morant, and Golden State Warriors forward Eric Paschall.
Pelicans forward Zion Williamson was selected by the NBA as the replacement for the injured Carter.
Ayton is one of four World Team players who participated as campers in Basketball Without Borders (BWB), the NBA and FIBA's global basketball and development community outreach programme.
Others include Barrett (BWB Global 2017), Hachimura (BWB Global 2016) and Gilgeous-Alexander (BWB Global 2016).
It will mark the fourth time a Bahamian player made an appearance in the game following Buddy Hield's selections in 2017 and 2018.