As newly hired Phoenix Suns head coach Frank Vogel prepares for his first season in the Valley, he enters a season where anything less than a championship would be considered an abject failure. After already having a former number one overall pick in Deandre Ayton and two All-Stars in Devin Booker and Kevin Durant, the Suns added another premiere player when they acquired star shooting guard Bradley Beal from the Washington Wizards.
The Suns’ front office has done its part in surrounding their stars with serviceable role players. They added Eric Gordon, Yuta Watanabe and are among the front runners to sign versatile seven-footer Bol Bol. But Vogel says that the Suns’ core players will have to “carry their own weight” on defense for the squad to be successful.
“You can never have enough defensive talent. I like the guys who we’ve added. This is going to be a team that the stars are going to have to step up and really bring it on the defensive end as well,” Vogel said to Duane Rankin of Arizona Republic.
“They’ve got to carry their own weight. When you put together a group that we have with Bradley, Devin (Booker) and Kevin (Durant), and the big fella (Deandre Ayton) behind us, all those guys are going to be heavy minutes guys. They’re going to all have to draw a primary matchup and they all expressed in doing so. They’re all excited about that challenge and it’s going to be great.”
Vogel Names Deandre Ayton Defensive Catalyst
One player the Suns will be particularly reliant on this season is their starting center, Deandre Ayton. Ayton’s last two playoff appearances have been nothing short of a disappointment. In this year’s playoffs, his play was so lackluster that former head coach Monty Williams would often bench the former top pick, for undrafted center Jock Landale.
Landale parted ways with the Suns this summer to join the Houston Rockets. And for now, the Suns have no true backup center, which could leave Ayton having to log heavy minutes at the five position this season. Vogel says that Ayton will have to be the catalyst of the Suns’ defense.
“I think it starts with the big fella [Ayton],” Vogel said. “I’ve always had elite rim protectors, and you can get the job done without that, but boy when you got a guy like that in front of the basket deterring everything that comes to the rim. You just get stronger in everything.”
Frank Vogel Makes Bold Deandre Ayton Prediction
Vogel has experience tapping into the potential of centers with raw talent. During his time as coach of the Indiana Pacers, center Roy Hibbert made the NBA All-Defensive team and was named an All-Star twice. When he got to the Lakers, Vogel helped Anthony Davis take the leap defensively that helped him win the only title of his career thus far. Vogel believes that Ayton has that same kind of potential.
“I think he can be one of the best centers in the league. I think he’s shown that at times throughout his career, and I know he showed that when we played him in the playoffs a couple of years back and he shot about 80% from the field and deterred every drive, every cut, every effort to attack the basket,” Vogel said.
“He can be a big-time deterrent. There are still areas that he can grow offensively. But I’m intent on really connecting with him and restoring him to an all-star level player.”