Listen, we’re going to be doing these every week leading up to next month’s NBA Draft, so some people are going to have to change their mind. Grow up.
Ayton vs. Doncic is sure to be a spirited debate that will carry us through the summer, and if we’re lucky, through the infancy of their NBA careers.
The Phoenix faithful remain divided on who to select with the #1 overall pick, leading some (mostly me), to wonder if some of you guys actually enjoy having this argument more than, you know, actually winning basketball games. Hey, no team has more successfully normalized losing among its fan base recently, so don’t tell me it’s impossible.
Last week I was savagely attacked the comment section for coming off as pro-Doncic. I’m actually pro-Ayton, but the Doncic crowd is doing a better job arguing their point. Does that make sense?
So who picked Ayton? Who like Doncic? Who figured out a clever way to differently present the same point they made a week ago? Here’s your May 25th Mock Draft Roundup:
The Phoenix Suns did land the top overall pick, and there was almost no executive in Chicago who thought Arizona big man DeAndre Ayton wouldn’t be Phoenix’s pick. While there is real validity to the idea that new Suns head coach Igor Kokoškov has experience and a relationship with euro sensation Luka Dončić, the belief is the Suns will make their decision based on talent, not relationship.
He’s a physical freak who has the ability to develop into a power big man with a jump shot. His defense wasn’t great at Arizona, but he was playing out of position, and teams are betting he is capable of being a much bigger presence in the middle.
Ayton has become the consensus top pick around the league, fits neatly into the Suns’ situation, and appears set to remain in Arizona on draft night and in the foreseeable future. The top-rated prospect on our Big Board since the start of the season, Ayton has elite physical traits, a developing inside-out skill set and a superstar ceiling if all goes according to plan. 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 get better defensively but has all the tools to be a quality rim protector. There’s a sense he may need to be pushed harder than some to reach his full potential, but Ayton has the best chance of anyone in the draft to become a franchise player.
You simply don’t pass on a guy who is a mammoth physical specimen, a 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.
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.
The consensus No. 1 pick could be a franchise-changing player with unlimited skills on the offensive end — he can finish at the rim, face up, hit threes or midrange jumpers, is mobile and can play in transition, and just generally looks like a modern NBA five. The only knocks are consistent effort questions, which show mostly on the defensive end (he can block shots but is not consistent there). If he lives up to his potential, he will be a dominant force who will make many All-NBA teams and more. He can be the inside to Devin Booker’s outside in Phoenix.
Doncic can be Booker’s partner, and the fit between the two is intriguing, especially with new coach Igor Kokoskov designing a system for them. Booker’s understanding of space and his ability to create advantages in an instant means that this Suns team is actually better served installing a more modern playmaker than a typical Paul or John Stockton type. Two-man actions involving the two of them would be a downright puzzle for opposing defenses to stop.
James Jones put it best in Kokoskov’s introductory press conference when he said that everyone in last year’s EuroBasket competition knew the ball was going to end up in Doncic or Goran Dragic’s hands, and still, no one could stop it. Dragic’s versatility has led to a great NBA career, and Booker has some of the same unpredictability that can force defenses into impossible decisions.
The combination of Booker’s playmaking and Doncic’s positional advantages create a unique recipe that could ultimately be more difficult to handle than just adding the point guard this team so desperately needed throughout this season.
No moment is too big for Doncic. He proved this during Slovenia’s shocking gold-medal run in Eurobasket last summer. He proved it again at the Final Four of Euroleague this past weekend.
At just 19 years old, on the same court as players with NBA experience who are 10 years older than him, Doncic was the leading force for a championship team. He might not average 25 points per game in the NBA. He’ll never be the fastest runner or the greatest leaper. But when you take a step back and think about what Doncic has done at his age, against a level of competition that goes far beyond college basketball, his accomplishments are truly incredible.
Luka Doncic is a stud. Pass on him in the NBA Draft at your own peril.
New Suns coach Igor Kokoskov coached Doncic on the Slovenian national team that won EuroBasket 2017 last summer. In this scenario, Phoenix would land a combo guard who can share playmaking duties with rising star Devin Booker and potentially add a starting-caliber center in free agency.
The Suns ranked last in defensive efficiency this past season, and though they weren’t any better offensively, adding a weak rim protector like Ayton would be unsettling. Phoenix could also look to max out a defensive ace like restricted free agent Clint Capela this offseason.
As much as the Suns need a center, they need a playmaker equally as much. The 6’8” Doncic, who is arguably the top passer in the draft, has the potential to make his teammates better. Meanwhile, Ayton’s Wildcats underachieved and got bounced by Buffalo in Arizona’s first NCAA tournament game.
No coach knows how to use Doncic better than Kokoskov. The timing of his hire, plus Phoenix’s hole next to Devin Booker, makes Doncic our early favorite to go No. 1.
Booker, despite a talent-lacking roster, hasn’t been absolutely dominating possession of the ball like he could. His assist numbers are up and he’s quickly improving as a playmaker.
Now, imagine more of those Doncic-Booker offensive possibilities. Once again, it will have to come through unselfishness and ball movement.
Both of them look like players who can champion that purpose, serving as the cornerstones of what the team will build its basketball philosophy around in the pursuit of playoff basketball and more.
That’s the magnitude of drafting someone like Doncic, and that’s what makes him the best prospect in this class.