Kendrick Perkins Dead Wrong With Deandre Ayton Comparison to an All-Time Great

ESPN NBA analyst Kendrick Perkins seems never to miss an opportunity to take hyperbole to new higher levels. Such was the case recently when he compared Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton with an NBA legend.

That’s not to diminish in any way the tremendous playoff run Ayton has put together while helping Phoenix to its first NBA Finals in 28 years. He’s been magnificent. But that is a long way from all-time great. Ayton has made progress this season, his second under coach Monty Williams and his first playing with Chris Paul.

Deandre Ayton did more with less as the Suns made a dramatic turnaround

Deandre Ayton has been great in the playoffs, but Kendrick Perkins went overboard
Deandre Ayton (22) of the Phoenix Suns goes up for a shot against Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) of the Milwaukee Bucks during the first half in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. | Chris Coduto/Getty Images

The whispers were more like loud statements. The Phoenix Suns made a mistake in 2018 when they opted to draft Arizona center Deandre Ayton with the No. 1 overall pick. They took him ahead of a trio of young guards finding much NBA success in different ways. Luka Dončić went No. 3 overall to the Atlanta Hawks. The Dallas Mavericks took Trae Young fifth. The Hawks and Mavericks traded the pair, and the rest is very prolific history.

Meanwhile, Collin Sexton has been one of the few reasons to watch the Cleveland Cavaliers the last couple of years.

Ayton had a solid enough rookie season, averaging a double-double with 16.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. After serving a 25-game suspension for violating the NBA’s performance-enhancing drug policy, Ayton came back to average 18.2 points and 11.5 boards last season. His numbers dipped this year, but he did more with less. While he scored 14.4 points and grabbed 10.5 rebounds a night, Ayton improved his efficiency, shooting 62.6 percent overall. His true shooting percentage soared from 56.8% to 65.3%.

He’s stepped up considerably during Phoenix’s playoff run. Ayton is shooting 69.5% from the floor even after going 4-of-10 in Game 2 against the Milwaukee Bucks, the first time he’s failed to hit at least half of his shots in a game this postseason. He’s putting up 16.2 points and 12.1 rebounds a game as a third option. Ayton is playing at what is likely the highest level of his career to date. But Kendrick Perkins wasn’t satisfied with just saying that.

Kendrick Perkins got a little — OK, a lot — carried away in his evaluation of Ayton

After Deandre Ayton’s dominant performance in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Kendrick Perkins shared a bold opinion about Ayton’s play.

“I think he’s a David Robinson 2.0.”

Kendrick Perkins

Ayton was tremendous in Game 1 with 22 points and 19 rebounds on 8-of-10 shooting. But David Robinson?

The Admiral retired after the San Antonio Spurs won the NBA title in 2003. Perkins was drafted 27th overall a few weeks later. Perkins, meanwhile, was out of the NBA before Ayton entered the league. Their paths never crossed on the court.

David Robinson 2.0, though? That’s not giving Robinson a lot of respect for a Hall of Fame career.

Robinson averaged 21.1 points and 10.6 rebounds a game over 14 seasons. Before his back surgery in 1996, those numbers were 25.6 points and 11.8 rebounds. Here’s a comparison of Ayton and Robinson for their first three seasons.

  • David Robinson (1989-92): 24.4 points, 12.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.8 steals, 4.1 blocks
  • Deandre Ayton (2018-21): 16.0 points, 10.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.7 steals, 1.2 blocks

Robinson averaged a little more than six minutes per game more than Ayton did over their first three seasons. So normalizing per-36 minutes, we find these numbers:

  • Robinson: 23.6 points, 12.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.8 steals, 3.9 blocks
  • Ayton: 18.5 points, 12.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.3 blocks

Ayton grades out as a slightly more prolific rebounder. And that’s about it. But Kendrick Perkins has done this before, just in the 2021 NBA Finals.

Perkins and his exaggerations are well-known

Kendrick Perkins is known for going overboard. His Deandre Ayton excesses are far from his first dip at the overhyping trough.

It’s understandable. Television sports analysis has many voices, and it’s not easy to rise above the din. Unfortunately, this phenomenon hasn’t provoked better quality in analysis. Instead, we get louder, more hyperbolic, ludicrously over-the-top takes.

In one quote, Perkins managed to go to absurd levels not once but twice, per SLAM.

“Let’s not overcomplicate this and make this simple. The Milwaukee Bucks have the dumbest team in Finals history, and the Phoenix Suns have the youngest team with the highest IQ in NBA history.”

Kendrick Perkins

OK, then. Heck, reading that, it’s hard to imagine the Suns didn’t just sweep the series in two games. But here’s the thing: That’s not analysis. That’s just a cry for attention.

Statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.

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