Now that the dust has settled from Tuesday’s draft lottery, the Phoenix Suns were put on the clock. For the first time in franchise history, the Suns have the No. 1 pick.
The Phoenix Suns are in a conundrum of sorts. Their two biggest needs are at the center and point guard positions. The top two prospects in this year’s draft class just so happen to be a point guard and a center. Another coincidence is the Suns are familiar with each prospect.
Head coach Igor Kokoskov has coached 19-year-old guard Luka Doncic in the past. Doncic has become the best prospect from the EuroLeague. This season Doncic has averaged 14.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists for Real Madrid. He also shot 46 percent from the field while shooting 31 percent from three-point territory.
DeAndre Ayton played his both high school and college in Arizona. During his lone season at Arizona, he averaged 20.1 points, 11.6 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and 1.6 assists, and winning Pac-12 Player of the Year.
Yes, the Suns would benefit from a guy like Doncic, but there is something that has haunted the franchise for years. They have not had the benefit of a dominant force at the center position. Taking Ayton with the No. 1 overall pick would change that for years to come
Strengths and weaknesses
Standing at 7-foot-1 and weighing in at 240 pounds and processing a 7-foot-5 wingspan, Ayton has tremendous size for the position. He has the strength of a center but has the footwork that resembles the footwork of a guard. Ayton uses his frame and nimble feet to establish position in the post with the ability to beat opponents with spins, drop steps, hooks, and fadeaways.
Defensively, Ayton can trap pick-and-rolls hard, switch and contain. He had contained guys on closeouts while being an intimidating force in the paint.
One of Ayton’s strengths is also his biggest weakness. He will have to work on his defense if he wants to excel at the next level. His blocks rate is a concern, and while typically centers don’t really get steal opportunities, it would be great for Ayton to create opportunities for his teammates. Ayton did play out of position at Arizona, so adjusting to the true center role may take some time.
How Ayton would fit with the Suns
Potential Suns 2018-19 starting lineup:
PG - Brandon Knight
SG - Devin Booker
SF - Josh Jackson
PF - Marquese Chriss
C- DeAndre Ayton
Something that could have Suns fans drooling is the possible Shaq/Kobe combination here in the valley. The face of the franchise is Devin Booker and he would benefit the most from having a big dominant force like Ayton in the post. Pick-and-rolls and alley-oops would create flashbacks to the seven-seconds-or-less Suns teams from the past. Getting another scorer will take the pressure of Booker, giving opposing teams something else to think about.
Josh Jackson could also benefit from the Suns selecting Ayton. Ayton could get Jackson scoring opportunities via screens. Jackson was starting to thrive towards the end of the season, his development will be crucial for the Suns going forward.
Lastly, new head coach Igor Kokoskov will be able to mold Ayton for more offensive efficiency. Kokoskov has developed every player that he has coached, taking on Ayton won’t be any different. Kokoskov would teach Ayton when the right time to take his jump shot outside of the paint would be an attempt to build his game in the post.
Obtaining the first overall pick was just the start. The course of Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) will truly be lifted on June 21 when Ayton is announced as the Suns first and latest draft pick.