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5 X-factors in Dallas Mavericks second round playoff series vs. Phoenix Suns

Dallas Mavericks, Luka Doncic
Dallas Mavericks, Luka Doncic / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
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Dallas Mavericks, Deandre Ayton
Dallas Mavericks, Deandre Ayton / Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

X-factor in Dallas Mavericks second-round playoff series vs. Suns: 4. Deandre Ayton

The Suns held the first overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft where they passed on Mavs superstar Luka Doncic to select Deandre Ayton. The 6’11 big man just keeps getting better, and he wreaked havoc on the Pelicans in the first round. Ayton averaged 20.5 points per game on 70.0 percent shooting from the field with 9.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.2 blocks a night.

The 23-year-old is a nightmare matchup for the Mavericks because of his size and skill. Dallas will start Dwight Powell, but they would prefer to play small with Maxi Kleber or Spencer Dinwiddie taking the final spot next to Doncic, Jalen Brunson, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Reggie Bullock. If Dallas goes that route against Phoenix, who guards Ayton?

The Suns' center is not the same defender as Rudy Gobert, but he can protect the rim and gobble up rebounds, especially against smaller players. Ayton has more offensive skills too. He is a strong mid-range shooter that can dribble the ball along with being a rim roller and lob threat.

Chris Paul and Devin Booker are going to lead the Suns' attack, but Deandre Ayton is the biggest matchup problem for Dallas. How can the Mavericks slow him down and still play small? Ayton’s performance could determine the series.