On a conference call right after the lottery, Phoenix Suns GM Ryan McDonough described watching the picks come out the same way every Suns fan in the world did.
He said he couldn’t breathe once Sacramento jumped into the top 3, and then Atlanta after that. It wasn’t until he saw the Mavericks and then Grizzlies come up at 5 and 4, respectively, that he felt any sense of relief.
For the first time in franchise history.
Later, he was told by Jim Pittman*, who was the Suns rep in the room where the ping pong balls were pulled an hour earlier, that the Suns numbers had actually come not just FIRST, but three times in a row before finally another team’s numbers (the Kings) popped out.
*Jim Pittman is the GM of the Phoenix Mercury, and has previously won the #1 overall twice for the Merc: Diana Taurasi and Britney Griner.
The basketball gods finally smiled on the Suns franchise.
Only 50 years after first pulling the rug out, when the Suns lost on a coin flip and took Neal Walk instead of Lew Aldcindor (later, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, later Hall of Famer and one of leading scorers in NBA history).
Now the Suns finally get to choose FIRST.
McDonough says that they won’t name a choice right now (of course!) and in fact said the Suns would consider more than five guys for the #1 overall pick. Mainly, because he wants them all to know they are in the running so they will all come to Phoenix for a workout.
Conventional, logical wisdom says it will be either Luka Doncic or DeAndre Ayton the Suns take at #1 overall.
You absolutely cannot pass on both Doncic and Ayton to take anyone else in this draft. And you should be fired IMMEDIATELY if you tell yourself it’s okay to trade down and take Marvin Bagley III or Jaren Jackson Jr. or someone else.
It’s Doncic or Ayton.
Phoenix stands pat at #1. Big decision coming from them. Hearing Ayton is not a done deal there by any means. They've liked Doncic all year. Ayton is our favorite to go #1 right now, but there will be a process that needs to play out there.— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) May 16, 2018
DeAndre Ayton is the positional fit for the Phoenix Suns. Luka Doncic has great history with new head coach Igor Kokoskov. Gonna be a fascinating month or so leading up to the NBA Draft.— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) May 16, 2018
FWIW, I would take Deandre Ayton if I was Phoenix, and at this stage I think he’s the favorite. But we’ll see.— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) May 16, 2018
And I am predicting right now that it will be DeAndre Ayton.
Let me tell you why.
If the 7’1” 260 pound Ayton, a center from the University of Arizona, who is completely healthy and a sure-fire 20/10 player in the league fails to become the best player in this draft, it’s not McDonough’s fault.
He HAS to take Ayton. Ayton has every single tangible and intangible to become a franchise player.
But if McDonough gets cute and takes Doncic or Bagley or someone else #1 and that player DOES NOT become a franchise player, multi-time All-Star, then McDonough’s career is over. Done. Kaput. He would be a laughingstock all over the world.
McDonough cannot afford to roll those dice.
Sure, it’s possible that Doncic, Bagley, Bamba or even someone taken late-lottery becomes the very best player in this class.
But that doesn’t mean McDonough failed by taking Ayton.
You simply don’t pass on a guy who is a mammoth physical specimen, an clear talker (underrated necessity), WANTS to be a Phoenix Suns player, and almost certainly will be a 20/10 player by the end of his rookie season.
De'Aaron Fox: "Deandre (Ayton) is probably going to Phoenix. That's a given."— Jason Jones (@mr_jasonjones) May 16, 2018
“Honestly, I could see myself in Phoenix,” the 19-year-old Ayton said last month. “I could see a little Shaq and Kobe 2.0 (with Devin Booker).”
Think about that.
At least two of Doncic, Bagley, Bamba, Jackson and Trae Young will finish their rookie season averaging less than 10 points. Maybe three or four of them, for various reasons (age, immaturity, competition on the team).
But there’s no way Ayton — assuming health like I do with ALL players — will suffer from lack of productivity. That dude will score. He will rebound. And he will often be the very best player on the court.
Devin Booker, DeAndre Ayton and Josh Jackson.
Now THAT is a trio worth tanking for. Surround them with a very good veteran or two with those assets ($18 million in cap space, #16 overall, future draft picks, T.J. Warren, etc.) and you’ve got a team who can be perennially good for the next 10 years.