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Suns’ Devin Booker says Deandre Ayton ‘grew up a lot’ since contract dispute

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Suns Devin Booker says Deandre Ayton 'grew up a lot' since contract dispute
USA Today Network

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker believes Deandre Ayton is a wiser basketball player now than he was during his contract dispute with the team. In July, the Suns matched the Indiana Pacers’ four-year, $133 million contract for Ayton.

“I think he grew up a lot,” Booker told Sam Amick of The Athletic when asked how Ayton made it through his contract situation. “He’ll be the first one to tell you that it was just realizing what the NBA is about.”

Retrieved from a few NBA betting sites, the Suns have the second-best odds behind the Golden State Warriors to win the Western Conference. Some sportsbooks show higher odds for the Los Angeles Clippers.

“You grow up and you’re like, ‘I want to play in the NBA,’ but you don’t realize it’s a business,” added the Suns guard. “There’s things that go on. There’s conversations that had to be had.

And being a young top pick and coming in at 18 [years old], and him being all over in his childhood from the Bahamas to San Diego, I don’t think he realized that it’s actually business. And that was good for him. I mean, he got his money. He’s in a great situation now; he’s playing free. He’s happy.”

Suns guard Devin Booker believes Deandre Ayton has grown as a player since contract negotiations

Through 18 starts this season, Ayton is not playing as great now as he did last season. However, his numbers are still decent. The fifth-year player is averaging 16.3 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 2.1 assists.

While he’s shooting a career-low 71.1% at the foul line, at least he’s averaging 60.6% shooting from the field. Not to mention, Ayton is logging 11.8 field goal attempts and 29.2 minutes per game.

Based on his current numbers, the Suns center should strive for more rebounds. Ayton ranks 14th in the NBA in boards per game this season, 13th in offensive rebounds (56), 13th in total rebound percentage (18.6%), 12th in offensive rebound percentage (11.9%), and eighth in field goal percentage.

Last Saturday, in the Suns’ 113-112 win over the Utah Jazz, the 24-year-old recorded season highs of 29 points and 21 rebounds in 34 minutes of action. He became the first Phoenix player to finish with at least 28 points and 20 boards in a game since Amar’e Stoudemire in 2007.

On Tuesday, Deandre Ayton was named Western Conference Player of the Week for the first time of his NBA career. “I’m the main guy who has to be ready to play every night,” Ayton said after the win over Utah.

“I cannot be that guy who is easing into games. For this team I have to be that energizer, that dude who is making those plays, who is on the glass, who is dunking the ball, who is getting the crowd in it, setting all our screens, setting the tone of the physicality, moving people out of the way.”

James is a Basketball Insiders contributor. He earned his bachelor's degree in English and Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University. James enjoys watching sports and helping gamblers win money.

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