Young Pups Volume 3: Gustavo “El Titán” Ayon

Published: February 11, 2012

A closer examination on the play of fan favorite Gustavo Ayon, and what we can expect moving forward.

In Mid-2011 Hornets General Manager Dell Demps took a scouting trip throughout Europe to look at players for his roster. At the time it seemed non-eventful and even somewhat pointless as the main focus remained at home and what to do with a Superstar.

This trip probably proved to be one of the smarter decisions of Demps’ tenure under the Hornets as he was able to personally scout the best talent in Europe, not just for now but for the future. One of those players that Demps found was a Mexican Power-Forward with a skill-set that had him ranked as one of the best big-men in Europe, Gustavo Ayon.

Starting the Journey

After graduating from Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla (a mouthful ‘aint it?) Ayon decided that rather than going to San Jose State he’d try his luck in the Mexican League. There he dominated and was named MVP and won a couple of championships (so he’s a proven winner…).

Ayon made his mark in the top Spanish league for a number of seasons quickly being recognised as one of the best big-men in Europe. NBA scouts were all over this, but no one really openly talked about him. Aside from the Hornets, the Spurs, Rockets and Suns were all going after him in the offseason. But it was Dealer Dell who won out.

On the Hornets, In the NBA

No one knew exactly what to make of Ayon, especially Hornets fans. I myself initially thought this was a “long-term process” which made sense. However, Gustavo is 26 and has a wealth of basketball experience. Sure, the NBA is a different league but Ayon should be starting to play the best basketball of his career.

To that, it’s apparent that “Goose” is indeed playing terrific basketball and is fitting well into the NBA game. The only problem that one tends to find is a lack of communication, which makes sense given the language barrier between he and his teammates.

Ayon has progressed in playing time and performance. His first double-digit minute game he registered 7 points in 13 minutes and 4 rebounds, a block and a steal. Since then he showed more of the same. He worked the pick and roll to perfection and had excellent positioning on offense.

Not just that, but his defense was a welcome surprise. His footwork has been excellent and his shot-blocking ability severely underrated.

Ayon’s presence in the NBA also opens up doors for the Hornets organisation. Being one of only two Mexican players in the NBA, Ayon can be an idol to his home country. The Hornets marketing department needs to capitalize on this opportunity and exploit it to open their brand up to more markets.

Being an international fan I can tell you that the Hornets brand is appealing. People do like it, despite what some New Orleanians feel.

Showing an Efficiency-gasm

If we have a look at the statistics Ayon has one of the highest PER ratings of any rookie. After his fast start (first few games had him at a 25 PER) he has fallen down to a 21 PER, which is still ridiculously good.

Mason and I have both talked briefly about what happens when a player increases their volume, whether their efficiency drops. While there is no real empirical evidence to indicate that being the case, I still feel like it does occur.

With Ayon his adjustment to the NBA has been slow and gradual, but like Okafor, he takes smart shots and rebounds the ball extremely well.

Ayon's efficiency statistics

In order to better understand where Ayon stacks up let’s take a look at some of the other backup bigmen from our division. Here we see that Ayon not only matches up well, but is one of the better players. His rebounding, blocking and efficiency are all at the top and we can make the case he’s the better overall player.

Working With Vasquez

Something that’s been mentioned before and should be more thoroughly discussed is when Ayon is playing at his best. Greivis Vasquez, a Venezuelan native, speaks Spanish, so it really has helped Ayon transition into the NBA. You notice on the floor that they have a high degree of chemistry, particularly in the pick-and-roll.

Of the top-10 five-man units that Ayon is involved in, Vasquez features in six of them. The top-three all feature Vasquez as well.

The great thing about Vasquez is that his game fits really nicely with Ayon’s. The pick-and-roll and ability to finish at the hoop makes it a great sight to watch when it’s working well. While “Goose” doesn’t have the sweetest of jumpshots he can still hit one from time to time.

What Lies Beyond?

I know it’s been easy to enjoy watching Gustavo so far. But, the NBA is a tough league that only rewards the consistent ones. Showing flashes of brilliance is great, but unless that’s translated into long-term performance then it’s easy to ignore such a player.

With Ayon we’ve seen a lot of promise, but I can’t help but question whether he’s already hit his ceiling. It’s a damn good ceiling at that, but will we see him score a little better? Shoot further out with more success? Or will we see him become a starter who puts up double-doubles?

My belief is that Ayon is a terrific basketball player, who is smart and understands the game really well. With that, I don’t believe he is the answer long-term to be a starter, rather he will excel as an off the bench type of player.

For New Orleans it’s probably safe to say that we’ve found the backup bigman we’ve so desperately craved for years. For Ayon it’s the start to what will hopefully be a long and successful career.


  1. Lucas Ottoni

    February 11, 2012 at 10:04 am

    I love Goose, but he is a backup player. Appears much better from the bench.

  2. Tim

    February 11, 2012 at 11:34 am

    He and Jason Smith make a solid back-up 4-5 combo.

  3. m-W

    February 11, 2012 at 11:35 am

    Great article, I love Ayon, and I think this article shows what he can bring. I hope he makes the most of his starting minutes and learns how best to work with everyone, not just Vasquez.

    One minor nitpick, though: I am really emphatic that, despite several net and twitter personalities typing “Goose” in reference to Ayon, which has spread to other people (including this article and the first comment), is unnecessary. It is not an avian nickname. It’s just his shorted name, “Gus.” In English, we see “Gus,” and we think . But say “Gustavo.” You’re saying . So short for that, “Gus” is pronounced . But that is all pronunciation. We should just type “Gus,” when referring to his shortened name, not “Goose.”

    Sorry to rant, but seems like an Americanism to need to spell something out to key us how to say it, rather than just learn a foreign pronunciation. I’m not faulting the author of this article, who I know is foreign himself, because I’m sure he’s just picking up what he’s seen from “people in the know.” I mean, if someone knows for a fact that he juggles geese or something, maybe I’m wrong. But I’d bet I’m not.

    • James Grayson

      February 12, 2012 at 4:37 pm

      That’s ok, I was more playing along with the nickname that has been bestowed to him either through poor American pronunciation or general humour.

      His actual nickname is El Titan which has been used for a long time. Personally I prefer it, but because of the brilliance of CST and their wonderful commentators it’s become more recognizable to call him “Goose.”

      Make of it what you will, all that matters is how he plays.

    • Jason Calmes

      February 12, 2012 at 5:18 pm

      I’m think the pronunciation in English isn’t equal to the pronunciation in the Mexican dialect either.

      I can’t stand so many things about many of these sorts of things, it’s not even funny. The -aholic enclitic. Workaholic. What is workahol? If we are immitating alcoholic, shouldn’t it be workic? And -gate . . . Watergate was nothing about water or a gate, so why should there be a sharpiegate or anything else in the world when there was some sort of controversy, as if that was the issue with Watergate.


      This is why Orwell discussed the destruction of words, which is a shame, because so many wonderful things come from the same construction that yield these monstrosities.

  4. Solesfan

    February 11, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    Excellent article the only thing I don’t agree with is,when the writer says that Gustavo is not a long-term starter,I hope the writer is wrong.

    • James Grayson

      February 12, 2012 at 4:39 pm

      I also hope I’m wrong, but like I said, Gustavo is right at the peak of his career and he’s only got a few years before his place in the NBA becomes set.

      Very rarely do we see players burst out of their roles in the NBA after a few seasons. The only way Gustavo is a starter on this team in the future is if he’s the fifth best player and he has a superstar-like player at the PF position.

  5. Bee dat

    February 11, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    extremely fun player to watch, great energy, unfortunately has shown a tendency to go invisible for long periods, hopefully thats part of the adjustment period with new league language barrier and NO TRAINING CAMP.

    hopeful that we’ve yet to see best of gustavo, and big props to dell for bringing him here

  6. StefanC

    February 11, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    Ryan Schwan has always wanted Nick Collison on this team. We may not have him, but we do have the Mexican equivalent.

  7. vicki sanchez

    February 12, 2012 at 5:50 am

    love Ayon will definitely watch the Hornets play now I am from Cleveland love my Cavs but definitely going to love Hornets too. Hope he becomes a big part of the Hornets and plays great

    • James Grayson

      February 12, 2012 at 4:41 pm

      I hope so too Vicki. I see that Ayon could be a massive asset for this organisation from a marketing perspective. The United States is a diverse cultural landscape and there are lots of people with Mexican heritage. It would be a shame if the Hornets didn’t seek to connect Ayon with the Hispanic community on a deeper more intimate level.

      Massive potential there for revenue as well as expanding the Hornets brand. It only improves with Ayon’s improved play though.

  8. big sslimm

    February 12, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    ayon… ayon ayon ayon!

    best cheer ever

    guy has great feet.

  9. Mikey

    February 15, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    Ayon has NBA level talent, and NBA level basketball IQ. I would like to see his usage rate, and his turnover rate. If I’m not mistaken, he takes pretty good care of the basketball, and can pass pretty well. Granted, I’m not calling the guy Arvydas Sabonis or anything; I’m just saying that he doesn’t do dumb stuff with the basketball, and I like that. He may not have that high a ceiling, and he may never be a superstar-level PF in this league, but I’ll take a guy like Ayon over Hilton Armstrong 100 times out of 100.

  10. Ray

    February 15, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    I believe Ayon could and should be a starter but isn’t getting the playing time to grow into one for some reason. Monty seems to bench him just when he’s getting hot and starting to make plays. When he is in the game it has a whole different tempo and feel about it.Also he could be having a bigger impact if the other guys on the floor would pay attention and get him the ball when he’s cutting to the basket. There’s been too many times have they’ve had to force a shot or thrown up bricks because they aren’t looking for him.

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