SACRAMENTO – Deandre Ayton received more than the game ball after his dominant 20-20 performance Saturday night against Utah.
The Suns big was named Western Conference Player of the Week on Monday as he averaged 23.7 points on 67.4% shooting, 16 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in Phoenix’s 3-0 run last week.
“I’m the main guy who has to be ready to play every night,” Ayton said after Saturday’s game. “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."
This is the first time the top overall pick in the 2018 draft out of Arizona has been named conference player of the weekr.
“I’m the tone setter,” Ayton continued. “When I do that, my team follows, and everything falls into place when we play Suns basketball the right way.”
Ayton capped the three-game stretch with a dominant 29-point, 21-rebound performance in leading the Suns to a 113-112 win over the Jazz on the second of a back-to-back. His 21 rebounds tied a career high.
He posted 28 points and 12 boards in Friday’s 108-102 victory over Detroit.
“To do that after how he played (Friday) night says a lot about the conditioning,” Suns coach Monty Williams said after Saturday’s game.
“He’s put the work in. What a lot of people don’t know is the young man has been coming to the gym at crazy hours, lifting with (Suns head strength and conditioning coach) Cory (Schlesinger), so that he can be prepared for moments like this. And it’s just good to see the work pay off and it’s good to see him have monster games against a really good team on a back-to-back. That’s pretty impressive.”
The 29 and 21 are season highs for Ayton as were the nine offensive rebounds and 7-of-9 shooting from the free throw line. His last offensive rebound as time expired sealed the win over Utah.
“He’ll say something to (the media) about how I am on him all the time, but this is why,” Williams said. “You know what guys are capable of. They may not be able to do it every night, but we have guys that cannot just put-up numbers, but they can put up numbers that allow you to win games and when you put up monster numbers like that that effectively help you win games. That is the standard.”
That was Ayton’s third career 20-20. He became the first Suns player since Amar’e Stoudemire to post 29+ points and 21+ rebounds in a game.
Stoudemire went for 33 and 21 against Sacramento on March 22, 2007.
“I want to be a great player, and you have to be willing to put up numbers and win games night in, night out,” said Ayton, who started the week with 14 points and 15 boards in a 115-105 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. “I think I’m to that point where this should be a norm. This is how I’m supposed to play.”
Ayton has posted five straight double-doubles to match his longest streak of those. He averaged 20.2 points on 66.7 FG%, 13.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.4 blocks during that five-game stretch.
The Suns went 4-1 as they’re on a four-game winning streak after losing Nov. 18 at Utah.
“It is what we need out of him, he is bringing it,” Suns All-Star Devin Booker after Saturday’s game about Ayton.
“Not even about the 29 points and 21 rebounds, just the physicality. I think he is going to realize that is what comes with it. It is tough on teams when he is getting those second chance opportunities. Getting the and-ones and making free-throws at the same time. Stellar performance, back-to-back nights for him. We’ve got to keep it going.”
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Deandre Ayton named Western Conference Player of the Week for 1st time