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Center of the Sun: Ayton or Doncic? Which should the Phoenix Suns select on draft day?

Which is the right choice?

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Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

NEWS FLASH: History as been made and the Suns now have their first ever #1 pick in the NBA draft! Shortly afterward, the Aytonians and Doncicians almost simultaneously declared war upon each other and battles have been raging across the internet and in sports bars far and wide. The fighting has at times been ferocious but neither side seems to have gained the upper hand at this time. It is miraculous that so far no casualties have been reported. Attempts by neutral parties to bring peace between the two factions have been largely ignored.

Well, it’s not quite that bad but I was somewhat surprised at how quickly the Ayton vs Doncic debate heated up among Suns fans. Quite frankly, I will be happy with whoever the Suns pick as I can see a case for drafting either one.

Whoever the Suns eventually choose, they are still going to have holes in their roster to fill through free agency and/or trades this summer if they are truly serious about putting a competitive team on the court in 2018-19. Who they choose will only determine which holes will become the priorities in the off-season. Finding someone to immediately fill one of those holes with the 16th pick (or either of the Suns’ 2nd rounders) in the draft is highly unlikely.

With DeAndre Ayton the Suns get immediate help in the frontcourt and at a position of need as well. Only time will tell how good he will become in the NBA but I’m certain that he will be good. The new Suns head coach Igor Kokoskov should be able to take the mixture of Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, T.J. Warren and Ayton and cook up something delicious for Suns fans to feast their eyes upon.

But Adding Luka Doncic to the batter is intriguing. While there is some doubt that he will be able to play as a point guard in the NBA, his talent is undeniable. Why couldn’t a backcourt with three “wings” (Doncic, Booker and Jackson) who are all capable of bringing the ball down court and are capable distributors work? Any one of them could initiate the offense with the others switching roles depending upon the situation. You can point to the “hydra” experiment and rightfully claim that was a failure but that was also done using three smallish point guards between 5’10” and 6’3”, not three players 6”6” to 6”8”. Certainly it’s more of a gamble than going the other route but it is an alluring concept.

In Yusuf Saleem’s recent article, Film Room: Lessons From Igor Kokoskov, he noted that one of Kokoskov’s most common offensive sets was the ‘Chin’.

The point guard starts the action by simply passing the ball to Doncic after bringing the ball up past half-court and then goes into motion. I could see this working out extremely well with a Booker/Doncic/Jackson trio no matter which one actually brings the ball up or who takes the initial pass. But of course, it should also work out very well for a Booker/Jackson/Ayton trio as well with someone else at point.

Either way the Suns go, there will be questions about defense as neither player has shown to be exceptional at that end. Neither is perfect. There would be no debate if either of them were but I’m equally certain that they are both going to turn into exceptional NBA players.

Which one should the Suns select? I’m tempted to flip a coin... and select whichever player loses the coin toss (because you all know how well coin tosses have worked out for the Suns in the past).

Who the Suns draft is just the first of many roster changing dominoes that are going to fall before training camp rolls around. And however all those dominoes fall, coach Kokoskov will have his work cut out for him in trying to put together an offense and defense that will start this team down the road back to respectability.

But for now, the Ayton/Doncic debate continues and I’ve asked the Fantable members for their opinions.


Fantable Questions of the Week

1. Ayton or Doncic?

2. In last week’s poll, almost 50% voted to try and use the #16 pick to trade for a vet that could help the Suns win now, about 35% voted to try to use it to trade up for another higher pick in the draft (top 10) and about 15% wanted to just draft the BPA. Which way would you vote now?

GuarGuar: 1. First off I want to say how happy I am that we finally overcame the draft lottery curse. I read a post somewhere that said we only had a 9.8% chance at #1 after the first 3 balls were drawn. I’m so glad we finally got lucky. Anyway, regarding Doncic vs. Ayton, I was 50/50 between the two for a while until the past few days. As of right now though, I lean Doncic by a relatively small margin. From an individual perspective, I really buy into his elite vision and playmaking skills. I think he would bring out the best of Booker/Jackson. I’m a believer in Luka’s shot also. He’s a better shooter than 31% from 3 (it actually would be like 35% if we discounted full court heaves). His form is solid for both set shooting and off the dribble. His handle has improved quite a bit since last year and he has solid separation moves (most notably a great setback). I think Luka can be a solid team defender who is in the right place at the right time. He’s got triple double machine upside in him for sure. Igor being our coach even strengthens my confidence Luka would have success in Phoenix.

From a team perspective, drafting Doncic allows us to really have something special in the modern day game. The trio of Doncic/Booker/Jackson would be so dynamic offensively. All three can initiate the offense at any given time. It really flows into the new style of positionless basketball. We would have something very similar to Boston, but with a more offensive focus. Doncic might not technically be a “point guard”, but he would be our primary initiator. Jackson can guard point guards/best wing on any given night. Book/JJ/Luka can switch everything 1-3 defensively, similar to what Boston does which is a main part of their defensive success. We probably would have to go out and get a defensive minded “backup PG” (like Marcus Smart/Patrick Beverley) who we can use for small ball lineups at times.

I will say though I am also high on Ayton. I just have a few more minor “concerns” with him than I do Luka. Ayton’s defense really scares me, specifically rim protection. It was pretty nonexistent during his tenure at Arizona, but that doesn’t mean he won’t improve or won’t be a shot blocker in the NBA. I won’t use the classic “Buffalo exposed him” take as a one game sample is pretty meaningless. Arizona’s defensive scheme did put Deandre in some awkward situations, but his defensive awareness was still extremely poor. I also have concerns about Ayton’s shot mechanics for NBA 3 point range. Yes, Ayton’s midrange/free throw shooting is absolutely fantastic. But if he truly is going to maximize offensive potential, he must develop a 3 point shot. His current form the ball comes out pretty flat and he doesn’t bend his shooting elbow much. He shoots the ball pretty straight armed which makes his 20+ foot jumpers look forced at times. It’s a minor thing, but just something to watch. Ayton’s handle isn’t ideal right now either and he struggled with the dribble drive overall this season. The little things like these are what put Luka slightly ahead for me.

Again, I’m really high on Ayton… I’m just nitpicking. I think Ayton’s “true ceiling” is indubitably higher than Doncic’s. The question is whether you think he gets to that ceiling with quite a few things to work on. As of right now it’s close, but I’m on #TeamDoncic.

2. I’ve been on and still am on the trade #16 pick for a player who can help us win now train. We really need to limit the amount of teenagers we add to the roster this season. If we draft Ayton, we could use #16 for a guy like Kemba Walker. If we draft Doncic, we could use it as part of a package for Kevin Love (assuming Lebron leaves Cleveland) or Deandre Jordan in a sign and trade (short term deal). These are just a few examples but I’m certain there would be numerous opportunities to use #16 in exchange for a solid player to accelerate The Timeline. I’m of the belief we should just use our #1 pick and one second rounder to actually draft this year. Adding 3-4 teenagers seems pretty ridiculous to me at this point in our rebuild.

Sun-Arc: 1. Lord this is a fun discussion about these two. I spent a good deal of time thinking about this. Ultimately I will say that I would be absolutely fine with either of these guys. Neither will bust and both have high ceilings. Here’s what I considered about them….

The team needs DEFENSE. And neither of them are projected as defensive aces. But I think both are also underrated in terms of their potential impact on defense. Ayton is huge and seems to have high BBIQ. Doncic has lateral quickness, size, and really high BBIQ. Pretty even in some ways.

The team needs SHOOTING. And neither of them crazy-knock-down-shooters. Both have shown aptitude in this area. Ayton hit a good % of threes, but in a tiny amount of attempts. Doncic’s % isn’t as great, but from what I’ve studied he should be fine/good as a perimeter shooter. And his FT% is over 80%, while Ayton’s is a good 73% for a big man. So they are pretty even here too.

The team needs an IDENTITY. This is interesting, because they really differ here. Ayton is a potential ‘load in the middle’ that the team hasn’t had since Amare. And Ayton could be an even bigger problem there with his skills and IQ - and that sounds pretty damn good. Doncic, on the other hand is a slightly larger version of Booker in many ways. A 3 level scorer with super high BBIQ, passing, and all around game. Two Devin Bookers on the team also sounds pretty damn good. But let’s dive into this subject a little more…

IDENTITY; Ayton:

I don’t really buy the Shaq-Kobe 2.0 idea. Ayton will never be Shaq. I’m not sure he’ll ever be dominant. But he will likely be really good. Better around the basket than KAT, probably. Maybe even better than Embiid. At least when you compare their respective numbers in college, Ayton has the most impressive offensive numbers per 40. But I don’t know that he’ll ever be a real threat on the perimeter. Let’s say he really should play, as he did in Tucson, in the paint. Here’s the thing… as our roster currently has only two players (Booker and Daniels- both SG’s) who shoot over an average NBA 3pt%, all opposing teams would do to defend us is pack the paint. Statistically we’d lose most games. If we choose Ayton I think Ryan would HAVE to load up the team with shooters at every position.

I also think Ayton working in the middle could limit cutting lanes for guys like TJ and JJ. It could, however, work as an advantage if Ayton is dominant as he is good at passing out of double coverage and could find them cutting - maybe. The better idea, though, would be to dominate in the middle and as coverage comes, he passes out to knock-down shooters such as Booker and… Knight? Yeah, see. We need shooters.

In the pace-and-space era, is a big man in the middle really the key to success? I’m not so sure. Ayton is fleet of foot, athletic as hell, and has shown an ability to (sometimes) outrun opponents down the court. Still, we’ve seen what it means to have to wait for a center to set up in the paint to operate (the Big Cactus). We see it now with Philly. Sometimes it doesn’t work. Good teams are quick enough to defend in transition now and not let big men get easy baskets. So will we end up in half-court more often and slow down our pace? And is that a good or bad thing? I tend to think it is not so good in today’s era. IF there are enough shooters I think it could work well. Just not sure how well.

Still - Ayton is a rarity in this world with his combo of size, skills, super-sound fundamentals in the paint/at the rim, patience, athletic, healthy, and possibly ready to play.

IDENTITY; Doncic:

This is easier, in some ways, to project. And it has to do with the trend towards ‘positionless basketball’ and the idea of wing ‘domination’ over the NBA. GSW, BOS, CLE, and to a far smaller extent, HOU all have versatile wings that do a-lot/most of the damage for their teams. LBJ, Durant, Jaylen Brown, etc.

GSW really has this in the extreme. Their best line ups- the ones that destroy anyone else’s roster, are the ones that have versatile, athletic, passing, wings that can shoot and defend. The “Hampton Five” lineup has four wings and Curry, with no PF’s or centers. Sometimes they don’t even have Curry out there and its just five wings.

Doncic fits this mold very well for everything, though he’s not really athletic or a great defender. But I think he’s more than passable on these areas because of his competitiveness. You put him on the court with Booker and Jackson (that can shoot a bit better) and those three could wreak some serious havoc. With the right compatriots.

That fits right in with today’s NBA. These three guys have size, speed, passing ability, decent-to-great athleticism, and hopefully shooting. You put a Kemba Walker and a fully high-functioning/developed Marquese Chriss with them and it could be really fun to watch.

There would be a log-jam with the wings. I would still want to at least start a prototypical PG along with Booker, JJ, and Doncic. So then… who’s covering Blake Griffin, right? Its tough to make this work on some levels - though I think Igor is the right coach to make it happen.

I also think Doncic will actually be able to contribute more readily right away than Ayton because he’s played professionally for years, and done it quite well.

So who do I choose? Ugh, glad it doesn’t have to be me. Because it is really tough. And it depends on how much we really think we can change up the roster. I think Ayton demands more roster-change than Luka does - at least somewhat. Though we need a lot of change and more defense, shooting, and identity either way.

My gut says to go with Luka because he just has that ‘generational talent feel’ because of his endless and readily apparent joy for the game, motor, BBIQ, and unpredictability.

My brain says you don’t ever pass on a physical specimen like Ayton who has the ability to become Hakeem Olajuwan on offense and at least passable on defense. You just don’t.

If I have to choose today, I go with my brain. I choose Ayton. And I hope I don’t regret it later.

2. I voted to trade #16 for a vet at a position we need. We need vet help at this point more than we need another rookie. Some of it depends on who is available. I might take Shai GA and have him play behind Knight. But he likely won’t be there. If we could trade #16 + Knight+ Bender/Chriss + possibly other picks for Kemba + Williams, I would probably do that or something similar. Maybe Chandler or Dudley instead of Knight - but you get the picture.

SDKyle: 1. Ayton. I like Doncic, really. I think he’ll be a good NBA player for a long time, perhaps even an all-star. Ayton has 20/10 written all over him. He will be one of the most physically dominant players in the league, with his excellent mobility and probable prime playing weight of 275-280lbs. He’s a good free throw shooter and capable jumpshooter, and his excellent hands will be a welcome relief for Suns fans who have had to suffer through years of Alex Len mishandling passes that should have resulted in dunks.

His critics raise valid questions about his potential as a rim protector, but I’d actually be alright if all he ever becomes is an OK defender. With the right coaching (which we hopefully have now) there’s no reason at all that Ayton has to be a defensive liability.

At the end of the day, Ayton is just such an obvious choice with physical tools that only come around every few years. He and Booker could form one of the most dynamic inside-out offensive duos seen since perhaps Kobe and Shaq. Let’s not pass that up.

2. I’d still dangle it in a trade. Without going through all the trade options again, as I feel we’ve done that very thoroughly, another quality veteran player under 30 could make the Suns a both more competitive next season and a more viable free agency destination next off-season when the free agents begin to see what is coming together in the valley.

SouthernSun: 1. Ayton. So, let me start this off by saying that if the Suns had gotten the #2 pick, I would have been perfectly happy with either Ayton or Doncic. Doncic looks like he’s going to be a very good player. However, he’s not extremely athletic, and the NBA is nothing if not freakishly athletic, and it’s not a given that he can play point guard on an NBA team. I’m not sure about him.

I’m sure about Ayton. He has all the physical tools. He will step in and immediately be the best big man on the team by a wide margin. He’s extremely gifted offensively, and will probably develop a reliable three point shot (perhaps not get great at it, but be able to keep the defense honest). He is long and athletic enough to become a good defender. I believe Igor can make that happen. As others have said, you can’t teach 7 feet and 260 pounds. That’s a man body there. And the NBA is a man’s game. He’s pretty much ready to go immediately, has one of the highest floors of anybody in this draft, and might end up having the highest ceiling too.

2. I believe we should absolutely be looking to trade the #16 pick for a player who actually already knows how to play basketball. I don’t even need a starter back necessarily. Let’s say the Suns draft Ayton. If they sign Favors and Bradley in free agency, I’d be fine trading the #16 for someone like Danny Green to come off the bench and backup both the SG and SF spots and play a lot of minutes.

If the Suns draft Ayton, and sign Favors, they could also go the route of trading the #16 pick, the #31 pick, and perhaps future assets (depending on the returning player) for someone like Kemba Walker, D’Angelo Russell, CJ McCollum, or Damien Lillard.

If the Suns could pull off a summer like:

  • Suns send 16th pick + Suns 2019 1st + TJ Warren + Bender + Dudley to Portland for Lillard and Aminu
  • Draft Ayton
  • Sign Derrick Favors
  • Sign Doug McDermott

Now you’re looking at:

  • Lillard/Harrison/Ulis
  • Booker/Knight
  • Jackson/McDermott
  • Favors/Aminu/Chriss
  • Ayton/Chandler/Chriss

That’s plenty of defense, along with a slew of three point bombers like Booker, Lillard, McDermott, and Knight.

I’d be a pretty pleased Suns fan.

Alex Sylvester: 1. #TeamAyton

I’m getting a bit annoyed with this developing narrative that “this is a wings league” and that the Suns are obligated to pick Doncic based on this notion. Last time I checked, aren’t our three current best players wings?

My biggest reason for not wanting Luka Doncic over DeAndre Ayton is that I want Devin Booker and Josh Jackson to reach their true ceiling. Both players excel with the ball in their hands, and Doncic does as well. Furthermore, with the emphasis on outside shooting, wouldn’t you want to be able to guard the perimeter? Our guards would get torched if Doncic or Booker we’re responsible to guard starting PGs. I have yet to see a team have their three best players be wings and win anything worth note. Two dominant wings and a dominant big? Sign me up.

DeAndre would be a massive body to set screens, play dynamic P&Rs with both wings, and also provide a bit of floor spacing as well. Ayton is a FREAK athlete, and a huge plus that is often understated with him is his great hands. The offense, along with guidance from Igor Kokoskov would be a force with a year or two.

Ayton’s shortcomings defensively are fixable based of his physical traits. His quickness for his size will allow him to be able to switch on most players, and his length should allow tough contests. Pair him alongside an agile 4 that can space the floor, and we’re in business.

2. I would prefer to package together assets (including 16) to find either a starting vet PF or PG. I’d prefer PF, personally. But there are a lot of reasonable options with #16!

Many thanks again to our Fantable - GuarGuar, Sun-Arc, SDKyle, SouthernSun and Alex Sylvester - for all their input!


Season Highlights

Minnesota Timberwolves vs Phoenix Suns - Full Game Highlights Nov 11, 2017

Devin Booker and TJ Warren Score 35 Points EACH in Win vs. T-Wolves | November 11, 2017


Quotes of the Week

“Obviously, all the guys in the grouping we look at have a high level of talent. Where we dig deeper is the mentality, the work ethic, the basketball IQ. I think some of that we can see on film. Some of that we see from our in-person scouting. A lot of it will be part of the interview process and workout process.” - Ryan McDonough on his draft selection process.

”I’m stoked man. Why shouldn’t I be?” James Jones on getting the #1 pick


Interesting Suns Stuff


News & Notes

Consensus Mock Draft: Will Suns go with Deandre Ayton or Luka Doncic at No. 1? Drew Packham/NBA.com

Phoenix Suns and Igor Kokoskov will use ‘San Antonio model’ to fill out coaching staff. Scott Bordow/AZCentral Sports

NBA Combine notebook: DiVincenzo, Huerter impress in 5-on-5 play. Kellan Olson/Arizona Sports

Why Deandre Ayton is the favorite to go No. 1 in the NBA Draft. Kevin Zimmerman/Arizona Sports

You won’t recognize Elfrid Payton now that he cut signature hairstyle. Hoops Hype

Phoenix Suns interviewing 20 draft prospects at NBA combine. Scott Bordow/AZCentral Sports

Peer Into Luka Doncic’s NBA Future at the EuroLeague Final Four. The Ringer

Suns to avoid putting Luka Doncic draft decision on Igor Kokoskov ‘like the plague’. Clutch Points

Five Key Offseason Questions: Phoenix Suns. Hoops Rumors

After 50 Years, The Phoenix Suns Finally Hold the First Overall Pick. Suns.com


This Week in Suns History

On May 25, 1993, Charles Barkley won the Maurice Podoloff Trophy as the 1993 NBA Most Valuable Player. Barkley helped lead the Phoenix Suns to a franchise and NBA-best 62-20 record during the 1992-93 season and averaged 25.6 points, 12.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists in 76 games.


Suns History in Video


Suns Trivia

Did you know that Dan Majerle played center in college? It’s true. The Suns drafted Thunder Dan in 1988 and he played most of his career minutes as a shooting guard, but at Central Michigan, Majerle battled under the boards as a 6’ 6” center. And at that position he averaged 10.8 rebounds per game in his senior year (as well as hitting 45% of his three point attempts).

Many Suns fans booed his selection when it was announced.


Previewing the Weeks & Months Ahead

May ??? - Pre-draft workouts begin (soon)

June 11 - NBA Draft Early Entry Entrant Withdrawal Deadline (5 pm ET)

June 21 - 2018 NBA Draft (7 pm ET)

July 1 - NBA free agency officially begins (12:01 am ET)

July 6-17 - 2018 NBA Summer League (Las Vegas)


Last Week’s Poll Results

The poll was, “What would you rather do with the #16 draft pick?”

16.0% - Draft the best player available.

36.5% - Package it with other assets to try and trade up for another top 10 pick.

47.5% - Try to package it in a trade for a vet who could help the Suns win now.

There were a total of 380 votes cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

Who should the Suns take with the #1 pick in the NBA draft?

This poll is closed

  • 64%
    DeAndre Ayton
    (548 votes)
  • 32%
    Luka Doncic
    (278 votes)
  • 2%
    Someone else
    (18 votes)
844 votes total Vote Now