Phoenix Suns Aron Baynes was having a terrific start to the season when a left calf strain sidelined him for nine of the team's last 10 games.
He was averaging 14.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game shooting 56.3% from the field and 43.9% from 3-point range, stepping into a much-needed void left behind from starting centre Deandre Ayton's 25-game suspension to start the season.
The Suns got rolling early thanks in part to Baynes' play, going 7-5 while playing high-quality teams tough. When Baynes went down with the calf injury Phoenix went 3-7, falling to 10-15 on the season.
The Aussie centre returned to action in Tuesday's game against the Timberwolves, scoring 12 points to go with four rebounds, one assist and one block off the bench in just over 15 minutes of playing time.
🇦🇺 @aronbaynes and the @Suns cruise to a 125-109 win over the @TImberwolves #RisePHX- NBA Australia (@NBA_AU) December 10, 2019
📊: 12 PTS | 4 REB | 2 3PM pic.twitter.com/UCemizdMhJ
Head coach Monty Williams had said that Baynes would return on an "unspecified minutes restriction", so that explains the limited playing time. But even in a few short stints on the court, his star guard teammate Devin Booker felt the big man's impact in the Suns' bounce-back win.
"It's unbelievable. One, the screen he sets. The way he spaces the floor, his energy, hearing his voice on the court instead of from the bench is a lot better also," Booker told the media after the game.
"We need him."
High-praise coming Baynes' way from a player who looks poised to make his first All-Star appearance if he can keep things up. Booker had a team-high 26 points to go with seven assists while shooting efficiently from all over the court.
Efficiency seems to be Booker's trend this year, as he's quietly shooting 50-40-90 through the first quarter of the season. The young scorer is also averaging 25.5 points per game - a team-high that is good for 10th-best in the NBA.
With Booker's breakout season upon us, it's imperative the Suns maintain a winning record to stay in the playoff hunt. Baynes was a huge contribution to Phoenix's good start to the season and his return gives this team a boost when it's needed most.
Just two games away from also getting Ayton - the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NBA Draft - back in the lineup, the Suns are close to being back at full strength for the first time since opening night.
They return to action on Thursday when they host the Memphis Grizzlies.
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