DeAndre Ayton has been traded away and in return the Suns received… Depth for a potential championship run? Quite an unceremonious ending for the franchise's first number one overall pick. It also closes the chapter on what was a yearly debate here on Brightside: The Tanking Timeline
DeAndre Ayton was a lightning rod in the Sunsverse. Why? Because whether you attacked him or defended him you had a valid argument. He is talented, skilled, and a genuinely good person. He is also inconsistent, unassertive, and lacks self awareness. He often believes he is playing better than he actually is.
But here is what is not controversial… Tanking does not work. And the Ayton saga is just the latest in a long string of examples why. In fact since 2000 there have only been two #1 overall picks that brought a championship to the franchise that drafted them: LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.
Consider the fact that even IF a franchise tanked in the right year and IF there was a true franchise talent and IF the team drafted the right player and IF that player did not suffer career derailing injuries…. Even when the stars all aligned the #1 overall pick simply doesn’t bring the franchise a championship. Even King James had to leave Cleveland, the Cavs had to land TWO more #1 picks, trade a package including one, and that brought a single championship to the city.
DeAndre Ayton was no King James. But he undoubtedly was not a bust either. If we were to rank all of the #1 picks of the 2000s in order Ayton would likely land somewhere in the middle of the pack.
The irony is that the reason the Suns made the Finals in 2021 was because of Devin Booker not DeAndre Ayton. The NBA is a stars league and in the era of player empowerment elite talent is collected not by tanking and drafting the best players but by recruiting other star players to come to the franchise.
Devin Booker is the reason Chris Paul chose to force a trade to the Suns. Those two are the reason the Suns made that improbable Finals run. Ayton contributed for sure, but he was far from driving the bus. Devin Booker is the reason Kevin Durant now wears purple and orange. Devin Booker is also the reason Bradley Beal waived his no trade clause to come to the Valley.
The Suns have had their franchise guy since 2015. The fact they intentionally tanked in 2015 and 2016 and 2017 proves they just didn’t know it yet. DeAndre Ayton is just another drop in the evidence bucket that tanking does not work. "The Timeline" failed. "Trust The Process" seems destined to the same fate.
The debate is officially over.