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Arizona’s Sean Miller not buying defensive concerns for Deandre Ayton

Arizona head coach Sean Miller does not think there’s much suspense about who the Phoenix Suns will take with the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

“I look at the NBA as trying to figure out who they’re going to pick from Nos. 2-60,” he said at a press conference Thursday. “I think the No. 1 pick is in.”

Miller, of course, is speaking about his former center, Deandre Ayton.

“There’s nobody like Deandre — nobody,” he said. “His intelligence, his competitive spirit, his natural athleticism — 7-foot-1, 260 pounds, 40-plus vertical jump. Unreal hands, soft touch, can play today’s NBA game.”

Miller went beyond the narrative of Ayton constantly facing double teams at Arizona and believes not facing zone defenses in the NBA will help Ayton’s game open up. Even as the Wildcats struggled to get him the ball as teams crashed down on his postups, Ayton averaged 20.1 points, 11.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game as a freshman.

“They’re going to play with a court that’s more spread out with more zone (to play within) and he’s going to be a monster,” Miller said.

Watching the NBA, Miller looks at Houston Rockets center Clint Capela as a prime example of the role Ayton could thrive in.

Capela became one of the most improved players in the NBA in 2017-18 by blocking shots, switching on smaller opponents on defense and rolling to the basket off pick-and-rolls on offense.

“I watch Capela … I think about Deandre playing in that role on that team and I don’t know how you could ever stop them,” Miller said.

The heaviest criticism of Ayton’s game comes on the defensive end, and from a general standpoint, the head coach is befuddled by those analyses.

Ayton played alongside the plodding 7-footer Dusan Ristic in Arizona’s frontcourt and as a power forward in the college game often defended perimeter players, who drew Ayton out of the paint in attempts to limit his shot-blocking while hoping to make up for the mismatch on the other side of the court.

“I think anybody that criticizes his defense doesn’t know the game,” Miller said, speaking to the versatility Ayton had on the perimeter.

“The Phoenix Suns’ coach will love how he plays defense because you’re gonna be able to move him around and allow him to guard a variety of types of players.”

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