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ESPN’s Van Gundy: Big men still belong in NBA, Ayton has useful traits

(AP photo/screenshot)

With the Suns holding the first selection in this month’s NBA Draft, most experts believe Arizona center Deandre Ayton will be the selection.

Ayton had a tremendous freshman season at Arizona, and standing at 7-foot-1, 250 pounds, he looks like the next great NBA big man.

But, one concern is how the NBA has evolved into a wing players’ league with an emphasis on shooting and switching on defense.

The question remains: Is this a cyclical time-period brought on by the Warriors dynasty? Or, is the future of the NBA no longer big man friendly?

ESPN’s NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy believes that the big man won’t be going away anytime soon, and that there can be a resurgence for more traditional power forwards and centers.

“(Just) because players don’t work at their game inside with their back to the basket, doesn’t mean it’s not effective,” Van Gundy said on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Doug & Wolf. “Because of the rules, because the NBA doesn’t want back to the basket players they allow more contact against post players than they do against perimeter players.”

Van Gundy believes that Ayton will be the Suns’ pick. He credited Arizona’s head coach Sean Miller for coaching Ayton hard and believes that it’s important for the Suns to get a franchise player with the No. 1 pick.

“The way you get good in this league is you have to pick the right guys. These picks don’t come around, or you don’t want them to come around too often where you have the No. 1 pick,” Van Gundy said. “But when you do get it, it has to be the right guy.”

The biggest pre-draft knock and during Ayton’s time in college was his defense. Van Gundy thinks that Ayton can become a good defender in the NBA based on the skills he already possesses.

“I think the bigger thing is can you defend away from the basket. If you play against a center that is dominant, like a Mo Bamba who is blocking shots around the rim and making life difficult. Everybody’s counter now is to play somebody who can stretch you out,” Van Gundy said. “I think with Ayton, I know he can move his feet well enough where he can do both. He can protect the rim and move away from the basket and guard pick-and-rolls, because that’s imperative in today’s NBA.”

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