LAS VEGAS -- No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton's series of matchups against the other big men drafted in this year's lottery continued Monday, as Ayton's Phoenix Suns took on No. 6 overall pick Mohamed Bamba and the Orlando Magic. Although Ayton got the best of their head-to-head matchups, Bamba showed the kind of shot-blocking ability that made him a top prospect.
Squaring off against Bamba, who weighed in at 226 pounds at the NBA Draft Combine, Ayton -- listed at a chiseled 250 -- enjoyed an enormous strength advantage. On the one play on which Ayton got a chance to post up Bamba one-on-one, he powered through the Orlando center and went up to dunk before being fouled by Bamba.
Ayton's strength also showed up on the glass, where he came up with more offensive rebounds (five) than Bamba had defensive rebounds (just two in 22 minutes). That included a pair of Ayton tips, one of them dunking home a miss by teammate Josh Jackson. Ayton added eight more defensive rebounds for his second double-double (17 points, 13 boards) in as many games.
It's unclear whether Ayton's frequent post-ups will be effective during the regular season, when he'll likely face better post defenders than Bamba -- who relies on his wingspan to try to compensate for his slight frame -- and 6-foot-9 backup Antonio Campbell. As is, Ayton has struggled with turnovers in the post when he has tried to force the action against double teams, which only figures to get worse against more organized help defenses. Ayton had four turnovers without an assist against the Magic.
The Suns can hope to keep Ayton involved with better pick-and-roll play than they have from their summer point guards. Ayton showed his pick-and-pop potential on a play on which he nailed a picture-perfect, 19-foot jumper over Bamba's outstretched arms, and he rose high to finish an alley-oop from Phoenix second-round pick Elie Okobo.
After scoring 11 points in each of his first two summer appearances, Bamba wasn't particularly involved in the offense against Ayton and the Suns. He took just four shots in 22 minutes, all of them within 9 feet, meaning we didn't see any of the solid form Bamba showed on a corner 3 Sunday night.
Bamba's greater value comes at the defensive end, naturally, and we saw plenty of that against Phoenix. Bamba blocked Ayton's hook shot on the Suns' first possession, one of five blocks in the game. Even when he was unable to get his hands on a shot, Bamba's 7-foot-10 wingspan made shooting difficult for Phoenix. He forced Okobo to air-ball a jumper on the baseline and just got fingertips to a layup by Shaquille Harrison, which Ayton tipped home.
Ayton nearly came up with the day's most impressive block, racing from midcourt after a turnover in an effort to chase down Magic second-round pick Melvin Frazier Jr. as Frazier shot a layup. Ayton got to the shot but contacted Frazier in the process, drawing a shooting foul.
There's plenty of development ahead for both Ayton and Bamba. Ayton will have to cut down on turnovers to become a more efficient go-to option on offense and improve the angles he takes defensively, while Bamba must get in the weight room and find ways to create more offense. Nonetheless, Monday's matchup offered a glimpse of what's to come for both centers. -- Kevin Pelton
Next matchup to watch: July 10
While Marvin Bagley III vs. Jaren Jackson Jr. would have been one of the most anticipated headliner matchups of the league, Bagley (groin, hip) will not play on Tuesday. Thus, a very interesting replacement matchup features a lottery rookie in Carter facing off against a second-year vet who is playing well in Collins.
Sometimes, young veterans who have a year of NBA experience under their belts are just too good for the summer league. Collins has been playing like that in Vegas, dominating the New York Knicks on Saturday with 30 points and eight rebounds, then following that with a strong, 18-point, nine-rebound performance against the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday. He has been having his way physically, getting shots that he wants and controlling the middle.
But Carter, the seventh pick in this draft class, should represent Collins' toughest matchup thus far in Vegas.
Carter flies under the radar in this class, but I had one colleague on Saturday predict that he would be this year's Rookie of the Year. He had some difficulties with the size of Ante Zizic on Saturday but still posted a strong stat line that included five blocks. He was quieter in his second game, and he has a great test Tuesday against Collins. This matchup will give a good indication of whether he is ready for NBA competition. -- Andre Snellings