Arizona center Deandre Ayton is widely expected to be selected first by the Phoenix Suns at the NBA Draft, though at least a couple other players are still hoping that their name could be the first one called on Thursday night.
Ayton, who grew up in the Bahamas before moving to the United States at age 12, averaged 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds per game in his only season with the Arizona Wildcats.
Rare Blend of Size and Athleticism
It�s easy to see why NBA teams are so high on Ayton. While he may have come into his collegiate career as more of a raw talent than a finished product, his game rounded out nicely while at Arizona. At 7-foot-1 with a muscular build, he�s a matchup problem for virtually any defender, a problem made worse for opponents by the fact that he also possesses a solid jump shot.
�I�ve not seen anyone as well-rounded at that size,� Pepperdine coach and former Arizona assistant Lorenzo Romar told AZCentral.com. �Maybe the closest is Kevin Garnett. There were a couple of times he was pressed and he brought the ball up in transition and made jaw-dropping plays and I thought of Garnett.�
If there are knocks on Ayton, they come on the defensive end, where some question his court awareness. More generally, there are those that doubt the value of a true center in the modern NBA, though most concede that there have been a few exceptions to that rule � and that Ayton is good enough to overcome the league�s tendencies toward smaller lineups.
Add it all up, and you have a player than many believe can be a generational superstar, making him the likely No. 1 pick in the draft. Ladbrokes has Ayton at 1/12 odds of being selected first, suggesting it�s all but a sure thing that he�ll be playing for the Suns next season.
Luka Doncic Alternative?
But if Phoenix did want to go in another direction, there are options. Perhaps the most intriguing is Luka Doncic (8/1), the 19-year-old Slovenian guard who has been lighting up the EuroLeague with Real Madrid.
In his most recent season in Europe, Doncic scored 16 points per game to lead Real Madrid to a EuroLeague championship, becoming the youngest player ever to win the EuroLeague MVP and Final Four MVP awards. The 6-foot-8 prospect is seen as an elite playmaker who has polished his skills at perhaps the highest level of play available outside of the NBA.
If Phoenix has any concerns about drafting a center, Doncic is the kind of versatile talent that seems a perfect fit for today�s NBA.
�Playing from the one to the four, that�s the strength that I have over everyone,� Doncic told Yahoo Sports. �I want to play for my teammates and make them better. I really prefer to have the ball in my hands, and play for everybody else.�
The other player given an outside chance of landing as the top pick is Marvin Bagley III (14/1). Bagley, a 6-foot-11 power forward who averaged 21 points and 11.1 rebounds per game in his one year at Duke, has been outspoken about his belief that he should be the No. 1 pick on Thursday.
�It�s disrespectful and I use it as drive every single day,� Bagley told the Associated Press about the speculation that Ayton would go first. �At the end of the day, this is all talk right now. Eventually we�ll have to go on the court and we�ll have to play. That�s where all the talking ends.�