When you start talking with National Basketball Association (NBA) scouts about the potential of University of Arizona center DeAndre Ayton, you’ll usually see their eyes light up.
Some of them will tell you that, standing seven-feet tall and over 240lbs, with big, broad shoulders and a fame that could still be filled out, he reminds you of an evolutionary Patrick Ewing.
Others will tell you that his ability to finish around the rim with with either hand, and his ability to leverage his footwork and a natural sense of geometry in the pain reminds you of Karl-Anthony Towns.
And there are others who will tell you that with his ability as a ball handler, and the vision he shows as a passer from the inside, who can kick the ball out to cutters and shooters, he reminds you of Demarcus Cousins.
In other words: Ayton seems like the basketball gods took all the components you’d want in a center who could thrive in today’s NBA, mixed them all in a pot, poured that mixture into a mold, and out came DeAndre Ayton.
So wouldn’t it make sense that the kid who spent his one year of college at Tucson, Arizona, which is just over 100 miles away from the home of the Phoenix Suns (the team with the #1 overall pick), and the kid who spent his last couple of years of high school in Phoenix as well, becomes the top overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft?
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On paper, the fit couldn’t be better. Ayton would instantly slide in at the center spot, taking over for the veteran Tyson Chandler, and moving the veteran to the bench; reserve center Alex Len, a former lottery pick by the Suns, will likely be elsewhere next year.
That means Phoenix would trot out a lineup that included Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, TJ Warren, and Ayton; that’s a group that’s absolutely dripping with youth, energy, and athleticism.
They’d instantly be one of the most intriguing teams in the NBA, especially if they could ever find an answer at the point guard position, or if they get anything out of former lottery picks Marquese Chriss and/or Dragan Bender.
The question is whether Phoenix is willing to live with some of the “warts” Ayton presents as a prospect as well. For as gifted as he is physically, he’s far from a finished product on defense, showing a lack of instincts that really takes away from the luster of a guy with his height and athleticism.
There’s also the question of whether his motor runs “hot or cold,” and if that’s something that can be coached into or out of him. Further, there are plenty of people who believe Phoenix would be better served by taking swingman Luka Doncic, the 19-year old prodigy from Europe who just so happened to play under new Suns head coach Igor Kokoskov.
But conventional thinking in NBA circles is that you simply can’t pass up a player with that type of size and talent.
Given that, the question is whether Phoenix is comfortable taking all that Ayton has, both the good and the bad, and maximizing the potential he brings.