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.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.