The last year and a half, since the 2018 draft, this constant back and forth between Deandre Ayton fans and Luka Doncic fans has gotten a little ridiculous on all sides, and it’s spoiling what has been a better than expected start to the season.
As a member of the pro-Ayton camp during that draft, I want to provide my perspective of what has happened since, and why those that wanted the Phoenix Suns to draft Ayton (and continue to support him) have been so defensive, so those who were pro-Doncic see where we are coming from.
1. We would have been perfectly happy with Doncic, and would have gotten on that bandwagon if that was what the Suns were signaling as their pick. But they telegraphed that Ayton was the guy, so we bought in.
2. And he produced. He had a great rookie season. In any other year he would have been ROY. But Luca and Trae captured the attention of the national media (for good reason), so those of us who were in on Ayton from jump got defensive because we thought he deserved more attention.
3. At the same time, the pro-Doncic parts of Suns Twitter and local sports media were very critical of Ayton, while repeatedly praising Luka/lamenting that the Suns didn’t draft the guy they wanted. All the while glossing over his flaws (which were present). The pro-Ayton fans understood he had a learning curve, and were willing to accept that. The pro-Doncic fans said these same things, but they always seemed couched with critiques and fears the Suns made a mistake and Ayton was too flawed to succeed.
4. Flash forward to this year. Ayton gets suspended and Luka goes supernova. And for the past month plus, the pro-Doncic crowd has decided the case is closed. But because Ayton can’t play, the conversation is entirely one sided. We don’t know how Ayton has grown this summer. He may have made a leap as well. So many of us have attempted to defend him and the Suns decision in his absence. And without game tape from this season to use as evidence, those defenses can become petty out of frustration.
5. Do I want to like Luka? Yeah. I liked him before the draft, and I like to enjoy well-played basketball. But I want to enjoy the Suns more, and I can’t divorce the two. I have to ride with the team that’s in front of me that wears the Purple and Orange. I can’t be looking back on what if’s. I don’t want to not be able to fully enjoy when the Suns become successful again because, they didn’t take my guy who was “better”. I want to be all in, on everybody. And because of this an irrational dislike for Luka has developed. And it’s not even him I dislike, it’s everything else that has come with it. He is just the avatar where I can focus my energies. And I would think the same could be said for a lot of other Suns fans in the same position.
You can find Justin on twitter at @DervishofWhirl and on the semi-regular Fanning the Flames podcast shared here through Bright Side (see the latest episode right above the comments on each Bright Side post).