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More options for #1 pick coming through Phoenix, including Bamba, Bagley, Jackson

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The Suns will work out other big men in Phoenix through the weekend.

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Texas Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

By now you’ve heard the quote-bomb from Deandre Ayton (which has a T in it, local TV and radio people!) yesterday after his pre-draft workout with the Phoenix Suns.

“This is my one and only workout,” Ayton declared to the media. “No one else. I know I’m going number one.”

Wait, what?

To Ayton, the decision has already been made. His mom lives in Phoenix already, along with other family members. He’s been working out in Phoenix since the college season ended, and doesn’t plan on making any trips before the flight to Brooklyn for the draft in two weeks.

What about the Slovenian sensation, the Euro Ben Simmons, the next Dirk Nowtizki, Mr. Luka Doncic? Or big men Mohamed Bamba, Jaren Jackson Jr. or Marvin Bagley III?

Don’t worry Suns fans, the Suns have not already told Ayton he’s their choice.

“Nobody told me,” Ayton admitted. “That’s just me.”

And the Suns are proving as much by bringing in more prospects for their top pick.

“We’ll have other candidates for #1 coming in the rest of this week,” Suns GM Ryan McDonough told the media. “Today was the first, and we’ll have a few more between now and Sunday.

Between now and Sunday.

Well, that won’t include Doncic, who is currently playing overseas in the Spanish league playoffs with Real Madrid. The consensus 1 or 1a prospect has already said he won’t come over to the U.S. for a traditional workout on Amreican soil. Teams, including the Suns, are going to him instead.

So who is coming to town Thursday through Sunday?

None of the other names have leaked yet, but you can bet that Mohamed Bamba, Jaren Jackson and Marvin Bagley, at the least, will be visiting the Valley before the weekend is out.

“The strength of our team right now is our young perimeter players,” McDonough said. “Led by Devin Booker and Josh Jackson and T.J. Warren.”

Now he wants to add a highly productive big man to that core.

“We’ve been looking for a center to anchor our team, offensively and defensively,” McDonough continued. “We think Deandre has that kind of potential. We also think some of the guys you’ll see over the next few days have that kind of potential as well.

Four of the top five prospects in this NBA draft project to be centers in the NBA, with Doncic the only exception.

  • Deandre Ayton, 7’1”, 260 pounds, 7’5” wingspan
  • Mohamed Bamba, 7’0”, 225 pounds, 7’10” wingspan
  • Jaren Jackson Jr., 6’11”, 236 pounds, 7’5” wingspan
  • Marvin Bagley III, 6’11”, 235 pounds, 7’0” wingspan

Bamba and Jackson have defensive-first calling cards with untapped potential offensively.

Ayton and Bagley have shown great ability to score and rebound, but have untapped potential defensively.

When I write “untapped potential” that means there’s no indication yet that they can do those things effectively in the NBA.

Bamba and Jackson could end up with offensive games like Clint Capela, Rudy Gobert or Ben Wallace, which would require them to become All-NBA defenders to remain on the court for more than 25 or so minutes a night in today’s NBA. The NBA is littered with defense-first big men who can’t stay in a big-time rotation because their defense isn’t good enough to offset their lack of scoring ability.

On the flip side, Ayton and Bagley could end up with defensive games like Nikola Jokic or NIkola Vujecic or any number of NBA big men who get abused so badly on defense that their coach has to constantly cover for them, or even take them off the court against certain teams.

Shaquille O’Neal (no, I am NOT comparing Ayton to Shaq as an NBA talent) is a good case study. Shaq was still an MVP-level player with the Heat in 2005-06, one of the most dominant players in the game, but the SSOL Suns and their fans reveled in the knowledge they could run him off the court and literally force him out of the game after Kurt Thomas was replaced by Tim Thomas.

Every top prospect has flaws. The question is predicting which flaws are most easily outweighed by the player’s other talents, and which can be hidden by the players around him.

Consensus has the Suns choosing between Ayton and Doncic on draft night. Not one outlet or NBA evaluator predicts the Suns would take someone else.

But that doesn’t disqualify the other guys from coming to Phoenix to state their case. It’s entirely possible that one of Jackson, Bagley or Bamba could one day be considered better than both of Ayton and Doncic.

All of them would love to be the first name off the board on Draft night, so you can expect every one of these big guys will accept an invitation for a one-on-zero workout with the Suns.

This makes a lot of sense, even IF you’ve already decided who you think you’ll take number 1.

“We scripted it out yesterday,” McDonough explained of the workout. “Tried to simulate everything you’d have to do in an NBA game.”

Ayton and McDonough mentioned a myriad of sets and motions they put Ayton through for close to an hour.

I can see the Suns putting Jackson, Bamba and Bagley through the same exact workout to see where each prospect differs.

Will they do the three-minute run?

“No,” Ayton said. A truly, the Suns have never had a solo workout end with the single player doing a three-minute gasser.

Of course, a one-on-none workout shows you NOTHING about a player’s ability to defend in the NBA. So guys like Bamba and Jackson are unlikely to shine brighter than Ayton and Bagley in such a setting. But it’s still instructive to see how it all plays out.

Watch for more players to state their case for #1 overall, and let’s see how they handle Ayton already having said that HE is going number one.

Will Jackson, Bagley and Bamba concede? Or will they puff out their chests too?

Stay tuned.