In the annual SB Nation Mock Draft, I selected Arizona’a Deandre Ayton #1 overall on behalf of the Phoenix Suns and Bright Side.
The 7’1”, 260 pound Ayton, with crazy athleticism and super high production (20 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks per game playing power forward), is one of the biggest, most athletic players to come into the league at any time in its history.
Ayton’s personality and sheer size will make him an instant local celebrity and, along with Devin Booker and Josh Jackson, can help get the Suns back on the national stage.
Ayton or Doncic?
I tweeted on this debate yesterday.
I am not liking the anger among Suns fans over who they take #1 overall. Takes are mean-spirited and vicious at the "other" guy they have to tear down relentlessly. Sad, really.— Dave King (@DaveKingNBA) June 18, 2018
In this take, I’m not even talking about people putting each other down, which has happened. Ayton fans are being described by Doncic fans as old-timey and uneducated in the ways of modern basketball. Doncic fans are being described as out of touch, nerdy, focused only on stats and projectability. Both fanbases are right and both are wrong.
But it’s the attacks on the players themselves that’s gotten too far into the silly.
Ayton does not naturally know when to leave his man, give up rebounding position and provide weak side rim protection. Yet fans of other side have begun calling “mentally challenged” and envision dark days where the Suns give up 1,000 layups a game while Ayton stands and watches.
Ayton has a playful personality, sometimes injects humor at inappropriate times, and affects weird accents to make people laugh. Doncic fans, however, envision a player who will crack jokes and celebrate his 20/10 stat line amid 8-game losing streaks while he posts historically bad (120 points per 100 possessions) defensive ratings.
Ayton says he signed with Puma for the ability to do something unique, but also that now he’s a grown up it’s all about making bank. Doncic fans cringe, envision a player who will be a mercenary that only cares about himself. Because why would a good team player take big money from a shoe company when its offered? Skeptics conveniently ignored his otherwise mature quotes on the shoe deal, connection to Puma from his childhood and desire to create something new.
Fans of Deandre Ayton haven’t been any better in their derisiveness on Doncic.
Doncic is not an elite athlete with pogo springs in his shoes. Ayton fans would have you believe that makes him no better than, say, Mirza Teletovic in that regard.
Doncic is admittedly riding upstream on Euro transports who dominate American basketball, with guys like Dirk Nowitzki and Manu Ginobili the exception rather than the rule. Ayton fans, though, ridiculously compare him to the likes of former #2 pick Darko Milicic and other Euro players who have arrived in the NBA, failed miserably, and ended up back from whence they came.
Doncic has put up his numbers in Euro league, clearly a big step below the NBA in terms of athleticism and size. Yet Ayton fans describe Euro league as not much better than pickup games at your local Y. Even Charles Barkley said that any league of grown men who allow an 18-year old to dominate them as “shitty competition”.
Doncic’s game is cerebral and instinctive, developing on a slower plane than, say, De’Aaron Fox or Russell Westbrook. Yet “smart” basketball is translated by Ayton fans as “slow” basketball that will get swallowed up by NBA athletes.
Which side is right?
My bet is: NEITHER!
Frankly, it’s my opinion that BOTH players will be very good in the NBA. Possibly All-Stars. Maybe even generational talents.
We’ve debated the two players’ merits, good and bad, on here for the past few months.
Can we just, at some point very very soon, bring ourselves to a mutual understanding that both players might be equally successful, and just let the hate and derision go once a name is called out by Adam Silver? I hope so.
After taking Ayton in the SB Nation Mock Draft, then I went to work with the 16th pick and other Suns assets to acquire a veteran point guard or a long-term talent at the point guard position.
Stay tuned to see how the rest of the draft shook out.