Did you hear? Next month our Phoenix Suns will be picking first overall in the NBA Draft for the first time in franchise history.
This news was widely celebrated among the Suns faithful. Which is fine. I think we should chill out a little bit though, and make the goal to put many, many years in between today and the next we “win” the number one overall pick.
Just days removed from Phoenix “accomplishing” this historic “feat,” a fierce debate is raging. What to do with that #1 pick. Everyone seems to fall into one of two camps. The pick will be Deandre Ayton out of the University or Arizona, or Euroleague superstar Luka Doncic. I actually want to hear from the guy that likes option number three. You’re brave and you deserve a platform. I’ve not yet found anybody.
Here’s your latest mock draft roundup, now with actual teams attached!
This is going to be a fascinating decision for Phoenix, as the two favorites to be the No. 1 pick on draft night both have ties to the franchise. Deandre Ayton played just down the road at Arizona while new Suns head coach Igor Kokoskov coached Doncic and the Slovenian national team to a EuroBasket title last summer.
Although Kokoskov won’t be in charge of the pick, his presence in the room should give Phoenix’s front office unique insight into the top European prospect in recent history. Doncic would give the Suns another perimeter playmaker, a primary ball-handler and much-needed shooting.
Still, the decision between Doncic and Ayton figures to be a close call.
Evan Sidery, Bright Side of the Sun
Not only is Doncic the perfect lock and key fit into the Suns’ versatile vision they are building from the outside-in, but he’s someone who helps maximize talent around him. Whether it is Josh Jackson or Marquese Chriss in transition, he will immediately make them frightening in those scenarios when they are incentivized to get out ahead for the basketball.
When you glance at the NBA landscape, teams currently left in the playoffs, you will see a consistent trend stand out between teams like Golden State, Houston, Boston, and Cleveland. All four have full-on capabilities of becoming ultra versatile, switching 1-5 in a pinch when need be.
That’s where the future of the league is heading and there’s no way in stopping that trend. Perimeter playmaking, which Doncic has in spades, is needed for competitive teams.
Transcendent passer: Throws Manu-style overhead whips, accurate cross-court dimes, and no-looks that’ll make highlight reels.
Puts perfect velocity and touch on passes, plus has the height to pass over the defense.
Surgically navigates pick-and-rolls, snaking to the middle, keeping defenders on his back, and picking defenses apart as a passer.
Advanced ball handler for his age with an excellent feel for using crossovers, hesitations, and different speeds.
Draws a ton of fouls; knows how to use his thick, strong frame to create and absorb contact.
Feathery touch on floaters and layups. His outstanding free throw percentage suggests he can develop into a knockdown shooter.
I believe Doncic is the best player in this class and the potential for him and Devin Booker as a ball-handler duo trumps any concern I have about roster space. Plus, you know, having Igor Kokoskov designing that offense will help.
This will likely either be Doncic or Deandre Ayton, and people are leaning in Ayton’s direction because he played college ball nearby. But with the way the NBA is going, wing players are a premium asset, and Doncic — who is very familiar with new Suns Coach Igor Kokoskov from their time together with the Slovenian national team — would be an ideal partner for Phoenix’s rising star Devin Booker.
Jeremy Woo, Sports Illustrated
The Suns entered with top odds and left with the top pick, putting them in the catbird’s seat and giving them a chance to draft a franchise center. Ayton, who’s already based locally in Phoenix, remains the frontrunner to go first. Ayton has elite physical traits, a developing inside-out skill set, and a superstar ceiling if all goes according to plan, and he’ll immediately be one of the most athletic centers in the league. Phoenix is developing a youthful roster and conveniently has a hole at center, where Ayton would be able to step in immediately. He needs to improve defensively, but has all the tools to be a quality rim protector. The Suns’ hiring of head coach Igor Kokoskov, who coached Luka Doncic and the Slovenian national team to gold at last year’s Eurobasket, will make this an intriguing choice, but Ayton’s long-term potential should seal the deal.
There’s little doubt, now that the lottery order is set, that the Suns will take Ayton first overall and hope the Arizona star becomes a Phoenix legend. The 7-foot-1 forward averaged 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds in 33.5 minutes per game this season while helping the Wildcats win the Pac-12 regular-season title and Pac-12 Tournament title. His physical gifts make him unique and provide an opportunity for superstardom. He’s not a sure thing, in my opinion. But Ayton definitely looks the part.
Ayton was beginning to answer some of the questions scouts have had about him since high school with a string of dominant performances down the stretch, before finishing the college season on a poor note in an early NCAA tournament exit. Physically, he’s one of the most gifted prospects we’ve seen in the draft in the past few years, and he has an impressive skill level, to boot.
Dave King, Bright Side of the Sun
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.
Scott Bordow, Arizona Republic
The hiring of Igor Kokoskov as coach – as well as Phoenix’s need for a point guard – means Slovenia’s Luka Doncic will be part of the conversation. But General Manager Ryan McDonough has said center is a “slightly higher” priority and NBA scouts have compared Ayton with Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns. The Suns can always find guards/wing players in free agency. But a physically dominant center who fits today’s NBA game? How can the Suns pass that up?