You can forgive Magic fans if they don’t know much about Gustavo Ayon.
When the Orlando Magic executed a sign-and-trade with the New Orleans Hornets to acquire Ayon in exchange for Ryan Anderson, a lot of people within the Magic fanbase were asking themselves, “who?” That was to be expected.
While Anderson was raising his national profile around NBA circles with his “breakout” year last season, Ayon quietly had a solid rookie season with the Hornets. You just didn’t really hear about it because Anderson was a part of a seemingly never-ending soap opera with the Magic that garnered constant headlines and attention (courtesy of Dwight Howard, Stan Van Gundy, and company), while Ayon was a part of a bad New Orleans team that wasn’t in the news much apart from a fleeting Chris Paul reference.
So who is Ayon and how can he help Orlando?
One of Ayon’s strengths as a player is his ability to be an effective pick-and-roll big man. Even though it remains to be seen what the offensive philosophy will be when the Magic eventually hire their new head coach, considering the personnel on the roster, you have to figure Orlando won’t stray too far from Van Gundy’s pick-and-roll heavy offense in recent years, even if Dwight is eventually traded because of guys like Glen Davis, Andrew Nicholson, and Kyle O’Quinn. Assuming that’s the case, Ayon should be a good fit with the Magic.
Last season with the Hornets, Ayon averaged 1.17 points per possession as the roll man in pick-and-rolls in 53 possessions (19th in the NBA). Ayon did a majority of his damage at the rim, but he didn’t hesitate popping out for the occasional midrange jumpshot either.
On this possession, New Orleans executes a 1/5 pick-and-roll with Jarrett Jack and Ayon. Ayon sets the screen, then pops out free-throw line extended.
Kendrick Perkins is late to recover on Ayon and Jack recognizes that. As such, Jack passes the ball to Ayon, who proceeds to take and make the midrange jumper from the left elbow.
If there’s one thing to note about Ayon and his midrange shooting ability, it’s that he’s conscious of his range. Unlike Davis, for example, who’s infamous for not hesitating from attempting long two’s despite shooting a poor percentage, rarely will you see Ayon extend beyond 16 feet. And that’s a good thing, because the last thing a player should be doing is shooting a low percentage shot, yet many players insist on doing it anyway. Ayon does not.
Ayon’s greatest strength, though, as was previously mentioned, is his ability to finish at the rim in pick-and-rolls. On this particular play, Greivis Vasquez and Ayon execute a side pick-and-roll.
Vasquez dribble penetrates and as he’s doing that, Ayon rolls to the rim. Udonis Haslem is a split-second too late rotating to the ball and Ayon is able to make a contested layup in traffic.
These plays are pretty academic for NBA standards, but they show a glimpse of what Ayon is capable of offensively in pick-and-roll sets. He can finish at the rim with a layup or dunk. He can pop out for a midrange jumpshot every so often. And he does it all efficiently to boot.
Yes, Orlando will miss Anderson. He’s a very good player. But Ayon is a good player in his own right and that should be noted.