By: Sam Meyerkopf / @euro_adventures
At 26 years old Gustavo Ayon is little bit too old to be categorized as a “prospect”. The difference for Ayon is that he’s only been playing professional basketball outside of his homeland of Mexico for the past two seasons, giving him very little exposure against top level competition.
Ayon is old enough that if significant interest arose from an NBA team, they wouldn’t have to worry about drafting him and could just sign him up as a free agent, a la Timofey Mozgov. Last year in Spanish League play he averaged 10.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, shot 66.7% from the field, and rejected 1.4 shots a game for a Fuenlabrada team that made the ACB playoffs. And when scouts wandered over to the Madrid suburb to check out NBA draft pick Bismack Biyombo, Gustavo got a free audition.
He makes his hay below the rim and his skill set is tailored more for the offensive end of the court. Gustavo’s got some of the best footwork in Spain and when he gets the rock, he’s got a plan. Gustavo has already sized you up defensively before he catches the entry pass and knows exactly the move he’s about to pull on you.
His game is better suited for the deep post, but he was able to take Latavious Williams from the 3-point line to the center of the key off the bounce fairly easily on one posession. Williams had the task of battling Ayon all day and it was a battle between two very different foes. Ayon’s strengths are his extremely soft touch, deceptive quickness for his body, and agile foot movement. Williams relies solely on his athleticism around the rim and leaping ability. Ayon plays basketball well. Williams is an athlete who plays basketball.
Ayon’s squad Fuenlabrada took down William’s Badalona team in a 73-62 win. Ayon finished with 18 points and 7 rebounds, with no points scored in the 4th quarter after Fuenlabrada took a commanding 15 point lead and he was given a long breather on the bench.
What a major European club or NBA team will want from Ayon is his offense. At around 6’9” and probably between 240-250 pounds he is more suited for a power forward role, just as long as he still has space to maneuver in the paint. He does a very good job of going to his left and usually likes to finish off the glass. If a defender isn’t ready for an Ayon move right after he catches the ball, you might as well start writing in two points next to his name in the box score. All he needs is a half step to get enough room between you and the basket to toss in with his feathery touch. If you’re able to stick with him on his drives or pivot spins, he’ll tend to bounce off you at the last second and hit you with a leaning baby hook. Once Ayon got his stuff swatted back, but the next touch he got was for a score, as he had already adapted to the defense.
Ayon’s game isn’t flashy in really any way. Ayon caught two alley-oops during the game, but neither were flushed down hard or looked challenging. He just waited for his defender to get caught sleeping, took a couple super “did he really move that fast” steps to the basket and caught the ball as easily as an NFL tight end. Ayon may not always seem overly active on the court, but instead he saves his energy for quick necessary spurts. Attitude-wise Ayon was fiery at times and one of the first guys off the bench to dap up his teammates. He has a good motor and passion for the game, didn’t seem to be any attitude problems here.
On the defensive end Ayon does a decent job of boxing out and with his soft hands, he’s usually able to cradle in any rebound he gets his fingertips on. his biggest problem is when guys out jump him for boards, even when he’ll have better position. His blocked shots aren’t Wow worthy, but he tends to get at least one every game. On a few post rotations he was a little slow, but that might be overly nitpicking. His offensive game was the heartbeat of the Fuenlabrada attack and made up for any slight problems with his sturdy but not stellar defense.
His game is effortless and his touch around the basket translates to any rim in the world. Staying in Europe (which I would guess is the most likely scenario), he could develop into a starter on any Euroleague team, or at least be your best offensive big coming off the bench. On an NBA team he’ll find it tough to get minutes when larger, more athletic men are continually pounding him on defense. When playing next to a defensive minded center, Ayon shouldn’t have a problem putting up soft baby hooks and spinning around defenders. He has a slightly trimmer version of Estaban Batista’s body with an offensive game around the hoop similar to Tiago Splitter’s.
Through two games in the Spanish League so far he’s averaging 19 points and 8 boards a game. It’s not the flashiest 19-8 you’ll find, but it might be the most efficient.