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Suns’ Deandre Ayton says Chris Paul is ‘best thing that happened to my career’ amid breakout playoff run

As great as Devin Booker and Chris Paul have been during the Phoenix Suns‘ incredible postseason run, third-year big man Deandre Ayton has arguably been just as crucial to the team’s success. Ayton has averaged 16.6 points and 11.4 rebounds on 71 percent field goal shooting during his first-ever playoffs, and has almost assuredly earned himself a max contract this offseason.

Ayton recently thanked Suns coach Monty Williams for a renewed work ethic this season, but after Phoenix’s 84-80 Game 4 win on Saturday, in which Ayton put up a monster line of 19 points, 22 rebounds (nine offensive) and four blocks, he credited his development to another member of the Suns: Chris Paul.

“I love CP, man. Like I said, that’s really the only teammate that really push me. Like big bro type push. Knowing what I got and that I ain’t never thought that I had,” Ayton said after Game 4. “I think he was the best thing that happened to my career. I can say that every day.

“Just C is really a dude who pays attention to detail. It’s not how you say it, it’s what he’s saying. I think most people don’t get it. It’s just the message for real. And he cares so much, it’s actually great. I’ve never known a guy who cares so much about basketball and competing at everything. And it’s contagious, and that’s what he built in me as well, and just having him as a teammate and the experience that he’s went through and teaching me the little things has helped me. And it’s working.”

Paul, a 16-year NBA vet in his first year with the Suns, had glowing remarks about Ayton after the game as well.

“To see his growth, man, I get goosebumps. Seriously, man,” Paul said of Ayton. “We done had some heated conversations this season, especially earlier in the season, but man, I genuinely love him. You know what I’m saying? The person he is. And to see everything that’s coming to him, and the national audience getting to see who he is and why he was the No. 1 pick, I couldn’t be happier for him.”

The Suns had a plus-7.4 net rating with Paul and Ayton on the floor together during the regular season, the highest of any two-man lineups involving Ayton. In the playoffs, that has improved to plus-10, with a sparkling defensive rating of 99.8. Ayton is averaging 17.5 points per 36 minutes this postseason with Paul on the court, and 15.7 points per 36 minutes with Paul off the floor.

Williams also said that Ayton “basically won” Game 4 for the Suns — high praise for a player who was largely viewed as a disappointment heading into this season, particularly when compared to Luka Doncic and Trae Young, who were both drafted after him in 2018.

The Suns are now one win away from the NBA Finals, and it’s safe to say that they have needed the 22-year-old Ayton for every step of their journey.




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