“We have who we want right now,” said coach Igor told local media the day after the Suns drafted Deandre Ayton with the top pick. “Deandre is the anchor of this organization and I’m so happy and excited to have him.”
Of course he is SUPPOSED to say that.
But I gave him a chance to say it was a tough call, and that it was okay for him to at least consider Luka Doncic at #1 overall. Folks in the media often speculated that Kokoskov would want the Suns to take Doncic over Ayton because of their successful experience together.
“My old coach used to say the truth is what is in the newspapers,” Kokoskov said with a chuckle. “That was coming only from you guys. There was no real speculation, there was not a lot of discussion. There was not a lot of doubts who we were going to take.”
Kokoskov didn’t have to go that far if he really wanted Doncic but was outvoted.
“It wasn’t an easy decision but it was a unanimous decision,” he said.
He did go on to say how much he appreciated Doncic.
“Luka Doncic was a big part of my coaching career and growth, he said. “He did an unbelievable job for Slovenian National Team. He will be a hell of a player in this league. So, good memories of Luka. I wish him nothing but the best. But Deandre is my son right now.”
He talked about how special Ayton is, as a player and a prospect.
“He is unique,” Kokoskov said of Ayton. “For decades we can’t remember when we got a guy with a mix of all those skills, physical abilities, size, length. So there’s a reason why he’s here and we are all so excited.”
We got the impression from GM Ryan McDonough that Ayton was the default pick all along, and that the last six weeks of research and workouts were only to try to “top” the Ayton selection with someone else.
Doncic was eventually obtained by the Dallas Mavericks in a draft-night trade with the Atlanta Hawks. Dallas received Doncic in exchange for the #5 overall pick (Trae Young) and a future, lightly-protected first round pick. The pick is top-five protected the next two years, top-three protected in 2021 and ‘22 and unprotected the following year.
Recently, Kokoskov spoke to SportKlub about the Mavericks’ pursuit of Doncic.
“Dallas Mavericks were lobbying and pushing for Luka to come, by any means necessary – I met with Donald Nelson and people from Mavs management a month and a half ago, and they were already aggressively looking for the opportunity to get him. I suppose they have a clear vision and know what they are doing with him.”
It appears the Suns did not want to part with the #1 overall pick in exchange for Dallas’ pick, which would have taken the Suns out of range for Doncic, Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Marvin Bagley III, and left the Suns the choice of Trae Young, Mohamed Bamba, or a lower-ceiling prospect in exchange for a future first rounder.
Igor went on to say...
“Dirk Nowitzki is on the exit door, but Luka will play one season with such a legend. The Mavericks are excited to receive Luka – I think the timing is right, and he will also benefit from the game style and an experienced coach like Rick Carlisle who bases the game on the offensive talent and the players who make the advantage in offense. He’ll know how to use him.”
Carlisle has 16 years experience as a head coach in the NBA with Detroit, Indiana and Dallas after 11 years as an assistant.
Seems like the Suns, Mavericks and Hawks all got the guy they wanted.
Now the next few years will decide who was right.