New Orleans Hornets: Gustavo Ayon Is Playing Beastly Ball in the Post

Tom Firme@TFirmeAnalyst IIFebruary 24, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 17:  Jeremy Lin #17 of the New York Knicks drives against Gustavo Ayon #15 of the New Orleans Hornets  at Madison Square Garden on February 17, 2012 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Gustavo Ayon has shown an impressive ability to play in the post in recent weeks for the New Orleans Hornets. The Hornets have given Ayon more minutes in the last few weeks, and Ayon has responded well. He's given clutch play and served as a solid replacement for injured big men.

Ayon had been an insignificant player for the Hornets until February. The Mexican rookie averaged 4.4 points and 2.7 rebounds in 11.4 minutes per game through the end of January. He only played more than 15 minutes in three of the 12 games he played through January 27. Before February 6, Ayon had played 20 minutes or more only twice.

Through the end of January, Ayon had shot only 3.1 field goals per game.

For much of the season, Ayon's advanced stats appeared skewed. He shot 65 percent from the field in January. Through February 8, Ayon's personal efficiency rating (21.0), blocks percentage (5.5 percent), win shares per 48 minutes (.145) and offensive rating (17.5) were outrageous as he played 13 minutes per game.

Often, players who put up numbers in garbage time have inflated numbers.

Ayon has shown that his numbers, at least as far as playing for a last-place team in the Hornets can seem, are real. In February, Ayon has averaged 7.5 points and 7.7 rebounds in 25.3 minutes per game. With a reasonable scoring average and a solid 54 percent field-goal mark, Ayon is showing that his 114 offensive rating is real.

That's while playing 20 or more minutes in eight of the last nine games and starting nine of 12 February games.

He's been big on the boards recently. In the last 11 games, Ayon is averaging 8.1 rebounds per game. He has pulled down 11 or more rebounds in three of the last five games.

Granted, Ayon has benefited from injuries to the Hornets rotation. Emeka Okafor has been out for two weeks with a sore knee. Carl Landry looks to miss almost all of February with a knee sprain. Jason Smith has been out since February 4 with a concussion.

To see what happens with Ayon after Okafor and Smith return to the court after the All-Star break will be interesting. Ayon will lose minutes with Okafor returning to the starting lineup. However, he may deserve more playing time than Smith, who doesn't get as many rebounds (3.9 per game) or shoot as well (47.3 percent) as Ayon.

Helping Ayon's cause will be the imminent trade of Chris Kaman. Whenever Kaman is traded, Ayon will see his role on the team expand.

Little is certain for the Hornets at this point. Ayon doesn't look like he's sure to be a future star for the Hornets. At the very least, he'll be a nice contributor in the post for a couple of years.