NBA Finals 2021

NBA Finals 2021: Deandre Ayton joins select group of No. 1 picks to make NBA Finals appearance in postseason debut

Deandre Ayton has become one of the stories of the 2021 postseason, with the 22-year-old emerging as a big game player in his debut playoff run.

Averaging 16.2 points and 11.8 rebounds in 16 games, Ayton has seen an increase in both catagories from the regular season while also hitting an incredible 70.6 percent of his 10.6 shot attempts per game. Among players that have attempted at least 100 shots during the playoffs, Ayton ranks No. 1 for field goal percentage.

Along with teammates Devin Booker and Mikal Bridges, the Suns have ridden the significnat success of their rising stars to the franchise's first NBA Finals since 1993.

The 2018 No.1 overall pick provided one of the highlights of the playoffs, finishing this wild lob with under a second remaining in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.

The 2021 Finals produce an interesting wrinkle, with Jae Crowder the lone player to have reached the stage, with all other rostered players making their Finals debut.

As a former overall pick, the achievement is rare, as he becomes just the third No. 1 overall pick in the last 30 years to reach the Finals in his first playoff appearance, joining Kyrie Irving and Kenyon Martin.

Let's take a look back at how those two fared, while also remembering two legends of the game that made their postseason mark early in their career.

Kyrie Irving 2015

Drafted with the No. 1 pick in the 2011 Draft, Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers suffered through multiple losing season until the return of LeBron James.

With James back on deck, the Cavaliers defeated Brooklyn and Chicago in six games before sweeping the Atlanta Hawks on their way to the NBA Finals.

It wasn't the dream ending for Cleveland or Irving, with the Golden State Warriors winning in six, with Irving appearing in Game 1 before missing the rest of the series with a knee injury.

Of course, Irving would get his revenge 12 months later, hitting one of the biggest shots in NBA history as the Cavaliers defeated the Warriors in seven to claim a historic Championship.

Kenyon Martin 2002

Kenyon Martin avoided the usual suffering a No. 1 pick goes through on a poor team, reaching the NBA Finals in just his second season.

Defeating the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, Martin led the Nets in scoring with 16 points in the series clinching Game 6.

Ultimately the Nets would be swept by Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant in the NBA Finals, with the franchise yet to return to the NBA's biggest stage.

Martin averaged 16.8 points and 5.9 rebounds across 20 appearances in his debut run.

Shaquille O'Neal 1995 and Tim Duncan 1999

Two modern day greats fell just short of this rare achievement, with both Shaquille O'Neal and Tim Duncan reaching the Finals in their second season after postseason runs in their rookie year.

O'Neal and the highlight reel Orlando Magic took advantage of Michael Jordan's absence for much of the season to finish with the No. 1 seed. The Magic would eliminate Jordan and the Bulls in the second round, eventually advancing to the NBA Finals and falling to the Houston Rockets in a sweep.

Duncan and the Spurs were utterly dominant during their championship run, rattling off a 15-2 record including a 4-1 series win over the New York Knicks in the finals.

Averaging 20.7 points and 9.0 rebounds in the postseason, Duncan claimed his first of four rings as the San Antonio dynasty began.

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