(First posted at Upside & Motor.)
There is already a ton of hype surrounding DeAndre Ayton.
The 18-year-old born in the Bahamas is the next big teenage phenom NBA teams dream of years before he’s even eligible for the draft. On some corners of the internet, he’s already written of as a legend in the making.
His participation at the 2016 Nike Hoop Summit and the 2016 Centrobasket helped shed some light into the specifics of his skill-set, though didn’t necessarily provide a full picture of where exactly he is at in this stage of his development because both teams he was a part of were pretty weak.
PHYISICAL PROFILE & ATHLETICISM
The first thing that stands out about Ayton is his combination of size, length and athletic ability. According to Draft Express, he was measured in Portland at seven-feet tall with a 243-pound frame and a seven-foot-five wingspan. That’s remarkable for someone his age, though perhaps more impressive are his coordination and agility at that size.
Defensively, Ayton’s athleticism translates in his ability to guard above the foul line. He was asked to defend middle pick-and-rolls by extending outside the lane. Ayton isn’t polished enough to keep opponents from getting dribble penetration by positioning himself well but proved able to recover and block shots from behind on drives opposing guards turned the corner around him.
Ayton also showed some potential picking up smaller players on switches. In the game against Mexico, he found himself on Jorge Gutierrez three times and proved himself able to keep pace on straight line drives well enough to block from behind or prevent him from attempting shots at the rim, though in a previous game against the Virgin Islands, Walter Hodge didn’t have as much trouble getting by him and finishing at the basket before Ayton caught up to him.
His top skill at this stage is his shot blocking rotating off the weak-side. He can shuffle his feet and rise up off the floor very easily out of one foot, averaging 5.4 blocks per 40 minutes at the 2016 Centrobasket – based on stats available at fiba.com.
Though he’s flashed the ability to elevate almost as explosively out of two feet out of standstill position on a couple of occasions, Ayton wasn’t as impressive a rim protector stepping into the front of the basket. Guys like Victor Liz and Juan Coronado managed to finish around his nine-foot-three standing reach on a few drives in the game against the Dominican Republic.
On offense, Ayton hasn’t shown to be particularly impressive changing ends of the court, which is disappointing for someone with his athletic prowess. He played with pretty poor guards both with the World Team and the Bahamas National Team and was not given enough opportunities diving to the basket out of pick-and-roll, though he did flash appealing coordination catching the ball on the move around the elbow, taking two steps and exploding out of one foot to finish with power uncontested in the game against the Dominican Republic on a possession the Dominicans tried pressing at half-court.
As a part of those teams, Ayton’s athleticism translated best in his ability to generate second chance opportunities. He plays with nice energy pursuing the ball off the rim at a high point, has long arms to rebound outside of his area and second-jump-ability to fight for 50-50 balls and attempt tip-ins – averaging 5.4 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes in Panama. That pressure he put on opposing big men also led to 6.6 foul shots per 40 minutes, which he converted at an 82.4% clip.
SKILL LEVEL & POLISH
Defensively, Ayton is hit-and-miss with regards to his boxout responsibilities. Jarrett Allen, Angel Delgado and Eloy Vargas were successful establishing inside position under the glass against him. But Ayton’s pursuit and massive rebounding area assured him as an above average rebounder against those levels of competition, grabbing five defensive rebounds in 26 minutes at the Hoop Summit and averaging 11.6 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes at Centrobasket.
Ayton looked huge against his age group in Portland but a little less physically imposing against grown men in Panama. Nonetheless, he proved himself strong enough to establish decent position in the mid-post area but played with guards who consistently failed to enter the ball to him well in both settings.
Whenever he did get the ball with his back to the basket, Ayton showed some glimpses of appealing skill but is evidently still a work in progress. His footwork is fluid, if not necessarily well polished yet. He doesn’t have power moves or shot-fakes but flashed nice touch on a turnaround right-handed hook within five feet. That touch was also present on non-dunk finishes around length at the basket when he spot-up along the baseline.
Ayton flashed a little bit of passing, especially on a couple of possessions when he passed it quickly to cutters on give-and-go’s, but mostly still struggles handling double-teams, turning it over twice in the game in Portland and nine times in four appearances in Panama.
As a dribbler, he was not particularly comfortable with the Bahamas National Team, looking to give up the ball to a teammate as soon as he could after collecting a defensive rebound. But Ayton did show great coordination grabbing a loose ball at half-court and taking it to the basket at full speed unimpeded on one occasion in the game against Mexico.
Playing for a bad team that couldn’t get him decent interior looks, Ayton relied heavily on his outside shot at Centrobasket. His shot selection is suspect, as he was prone to taking quick shots whenever he went a while without touching the ball. And the results are mixed at this point of his development.
Ayton elevates with great balance off the catch, his mechanics appear pretty clean, his touch looks pure and the arc on his shot seems great when the ball goes in. But quite often he releases on a flat straight line to the front of the rim. Ayton missed seven of the nine three-point shots he took at Centrobasket and his unimpressive 44.9% two-point shooting was a consequence of his so-so mid-range jump-shooting – almost all of them taken out of standstill position, as he was rarely put in the pick-and-pop.
Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor and at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara