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UA’s Sean Miller: Deandre Ayton is a ‘once in a lifetime type of player’

Arizona coach Sean Miller, left, celebrates with forward Deandre Ayton after the team's NCAA college basketball game against California, Saturday, March 3, 2018, in Tucson, Ariz. Arizona defeated California 66-54. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

It’s a question that has been etched into the minds of Phoenix Suns fans since the team was awarded the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft: Deandre Ayton or Luka Doncic?

Every NBA expert has their own opinion on the controversy that is surrounding the draft, with a majority listing the former University of Arizona star as the unsung favorite to bring his talent to the Valley at the next level.

But aside from his 7-foot-1, 250-pound frame, just how talented is he?

According to his former head coach Sean Miller, his skillset is “unmatched.”

“He’s the most talented and best player that we’ve had in the nine years that I’ve been the head coach at Arizona,” Miller said on the The Outlet podcast on Wednesday. “We’ve had so many good players that when I make that statement I make it because there’s a separation between Deandre and everybody else.”

Miller has become accustomed to producing NBA talent since he took over the Arizona basketball program in 2009.

Derrick Williams (No. 2 overall in 2011), Aaron Gordon (No. 4 in 2014), Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (No. 8 in 2015), and Lauri Markkanen (No. 7 in 2017) were all drafted within the first eight picks of their respective drafts.

But Ayton could finally be the first player to come out of the school drafted No. 1 overall.

“I just don’t know if you have very many players, especially considering he’s only 19 years old, that check all the boxes at the level he does,” Miller added. “Especially the first one which is just his physical superiority.”

Ayton dominated in his only season in Tucson, averaging 20.1 points, 11.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.9 blocks in 33.5 minutes per game.

But playing man-to-man defense at the power forward position alongside fellow 7-footer Dusan Ristic at center, Ayton was forced to cover true college forwards along the perimeter, which raised questions among scouts about his defensive ability at the rim.

While Ayton may have shown a lack of ability to keep up in fast-paced defensive situations, his footwork made up for it. A trait that Miller said improved greatly during his time at Arizona.

“His ability to switch and do some things that not many people his size can do, you can see it with your own two eyes,” Miller said. “He also progressed quite a bit in the year he was here and I think that will only help him in his transition from college to the NBA.”

Whether Ayton will have his name called first on draft night remains to be seen, but if one thing is certain, Suns general manager Ryan McDonough has arguably one of the toughest tasks ahead.

“I can’t say one negative thing about Deandre,” Miller said. “Whether you ask me about his personality, his work ethic, his natural ability, he is an amazing kid.”

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