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Joel Embiid disagrees with Deandre Ayton comparisons: ‘I play defense’

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NBA: Playoffs-Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Finding an adequate NBA comparison for Deandre Ayton is difficult.

There just aren’t many 7-foot-1, 260-pound big men out there with the athleticism and skill that he has. Arizona Wildcats head coach Sean Miller has called Ayton a once-in-a-generation talent.

Maybe the only NBA player with a similar profile is Sixers center Joel Embiid. The 24-year-old is an inch shorter and 10 pounds lighter than Ayton, but has similar length, athleticism, footwork, and shooting ability.

But Embiid isn’t a fan of that comparison to say the least. For one reason.

“I play DEFENSE!” Embiid tweeted after Ayton was selected No. 1 overall by the Phoenix Suns.


Ayton’s defensive ability has been a point of contention all throughout the draft process. His shot-blocking numbers at Arizona were underwhelming for someone of his stature, tallying 2.1 in 33.5 minutes, and sometimes he struggled to defend off the dribble.

In fairness, Ayton played the 4 in college and spent a lot of time defending smaller players on the perimeter, which wasn’t an ideal setup.

Still, some wonder if he simply lacks the instincts needed to be a formidable rim-protector in the NBA.

There were no such concerns for Embiid coming out of college. He swatted 2.6 shots per game in his lone season at Kansas, and he did that in just 23.1 minutes.

Now, he is one of the top shot-blockers in the NBA and anchors a Sixers defense that ranked fourth in the league in efficiency in 2017-18.

Some think Ayton has the upside to be a similar defender because of his length and athleticism, but Embiid isn’t having it.

Ayton shrugged off his comments.

“When you’re in the league, you don’t want anybody to compare you to somebody that’s coming up,” he told Yahoo! “I would do the same thing. It’s whatever. ... I don’t have anything to say about that. I’m a competitor. I play both ends of the floor as hard as I can.”