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ESPN’s Elhassan leans toward Doncic, doubts Ayton is generational talent

(AP Photos)

Nothing has come out of the Phoenix Suns’ camp about who they might favor three weeks out from the 2018 NBA Draft.

The widely-regarded expectation among fans and even league executives, according to Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman, is that Suns general manager Ryan McDonough won’t pass on Arizona center Deandre Ayton with the team’s No. 1 pick.

Phoenix has yet to work out any of the potential players who could be in the conversation for the top overall selection, and 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s John Gambadoro reports those won’t begin for another week as of Wednesday.

Is the Suns’ decision made up?

Maybe. Maybe not.

But calling Ayton the clear-cut top option, for Phoenix especially, isn’t unanimous.

ESPN’s Amin Elhassan told Doug & Wolf on Wednesday that he would favor Slovenian point-wing Luka Doncic over Ayton.

“There are strong arguments for either one. I look at the Suns … there’s a lot of holes. It’s not like, ‘Oh, there’s this hole they have to plug up,'” Elhassan said. “The one that I think is one of the hardest to fill in is passing. The Suns have been a terrible passing team for a number of years, and that’s something that I can’t say, ‘Well, this guy that I’ll draft, he’ll get better as a passer.’

“When you look at Doncic, and he’s got a supernatural level of passing feel and ability, for a guy that age, by the way — 18, 19 years old — he’s passing with the anticipation of a veteran who’s seen these plays hundreds of times. That’s special. For that reason, I lean toward Doncic. But again, you could sit here and make all the arguments for Ayton and I’d be like, ‘You’re absolutely correct.'”

The 19-year-old Doncic is averaging 14.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists in EuroLeague and Liga ACB play for his Spanish squad, Real Madrid.

The EuroLeague MVP, Final Four MVP and champion this year made his way up many draft evaluators’ boards last summer, when he helped Slovenia and new Suns head coach Igor Kokoskov’s team win EuroBasket 2017. Doncic was named to the event’s all-tournament team.

His resume stacks up well against Ayton, who for the Wildcats averaged 20.1 points, 11.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game as a freshman.

The 7-foot-1, 260-pound center shot 61 percent from the field and 34 percent from three-point range.

“I don’t think he’s a generational talent,” Elhassan said. “When I think generational talent, I think of what we think of (Sixers point guard) Ben Simmons and (Sixers center) Joel Embiid.

“I think he’s an excellent player, I think he’s deserving of being a No. 1 overall pick. But are we going to sit back and say, ‘One of the greatest to play his position or change the game, change the way the game is played at that position?’ I’m going to lean toward, ‘no.'”


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