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Deandre Ayton was ‘handcuffed’ in Arizona’s ‘archaic’ offense

Arizona didn’t know how to use Ayton properly, one talent evaluator opines

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NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Buffalo vs Arizona Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Deandre Ayton put up monster numbers in his lone season with the Arizona Wildcats, averaging 20.1 points on 61 percent shooting, but some think he could have been even better in Tucson.

One anonymous evaluator told that “Arizona didn’t know how to use him properly” and that Ayton was “handcuffed at Arizona by playing without a true point guard and with another big.”

FOX Sports’ Jody Oehler piled on, calling Arizona’s offense “archaic” and Phoenix Suns vice president James Jones, whose franchise is considering selecting Ayton with the No. 1 overall pick, agreed that Arizona’s offense makes it difficult to evaluate Ayton.

“Pretty big indictment of (Sean) Miller,” Oehler commented.

Most reckon Ayton will play center in a four-out, pace-and-space offense in the NBA — the type of scheme that has become the norm at the next level.

Plus, Ayton will be surrounded by better guards and wings, and will be put in ball screen after screen, allowing him to put his skills as a roller and shooter to good use. He also won’t have to deal with zone defenses anymore.

That is the opposite of what he did at Arizona, where he often had to create from the high- or low-block.

And this isn’t the first time NBA evaluators have questioned Arizona’s offense.

One NBA scout told The Athletic that it’s hard to evaluate Rawle Alkins because he “played in an odd offense at Arizona this year, and the pieces didn’t seem to always fit.”

While that is not a good look for Miller and it could turn future NBA prospects away from the UA, it’s not like Arizona’s “archaic” offense has struggled, either.

Here’s how it has fared nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency the last five seasons, according to KenPom:

  • 2017-18 — 15th
  • 2016-17 — 15th
  • 2015-16- — 20th
  • 2014-15 — 7th
  • 2013-14 — 20th

So, sure, maybe the Wildcats could do a better job maximizing their talent, but top-20 offenses are nothing to scoff at.

Ironically, Arizona’s biggest issues lately have been on defense. It has finished 29th or worse on that end of the floor in each of the past three seasons.

In 2017-18, Arizona ranked 83rd on defense, which was its second-worst mark ever under Miller.

Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire