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ESPN’s Givony on Suns’ choice: ‘It’s going to be Deandre Ayton’

Arizona forward Deandre Ayton (13) in the second half during an NCAA college basketball game against Colorado, Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018, in Tucson, Ariz. Arizona defeated Colorado 80-71. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

More than two weeks before Thursday’s NBA Draft, Deandre Ayton’s press conference in Phoenix seemingly closed the door on any other outcome.

The Suns were expected to pick Ayton, the 7-foot center out of Arizona, with the No. 1 pick, and nothing has changed since then.

Draft experts and NBA scouts still have varying opinions on who should be the top overall pick, and it gets even more diverse in opinions at second, third and so on. But it’s hard to find anyone who believes that the Suns could send the league into a frenzy by making a surprise pick atop the draft.

Just ask ESPN’s NBA Draft expert Jonathan Givony, who in his most recent mock draft pegged Phoenix to nab Ayton.

“It’s going to be Deandre Ayton. I would take (Luka) Doncic personally, but I’m definitely in the minority there,” Givony told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

“That’s the safe pick. The Suns definitely need a guy at the center position. There’s all the ties there with Arizona; he went to high school there, he went to college there. I would definitely not be criticizing that pick when they go to the podium and Deandre Ayton is announced as the number one pick in the draft. I totally understand that move.”

The 2018 draft class might not be deep, depending on the definition.

But at the very top, there are a handful of options when looking at star potential.

Ayton could realistically average 20 points and 10 rebounds per game, just as he did in his freshman year at Arizona, thanks to his 7-foot-1, 260-pound frame, athleticism and outside shooting touch.

Duke’s Marvin Bagley is more raw but with work could become an outside shooter and one of the best athletes in the league at power forward. Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr. fits the modern NBA with his outside stroke, length and switch-ability on defense.

Then there’s Slovenian-born point-wing Luka Doncic, who was considered a potential No. 1 pick. He has continued to thrive for Real Madrid having won a title and a EuroLeague MVP. Currently, he’s making a deep run in the Spanish ACB postseason.

Doncic’s stock has taken a hit in recent weeks — or at least, reports have made it clear NBA evaluators don’t have shared opinions about where he should land on a big board.

Givony stands firm that he would take Doncic if he were in charge of the Suns but understands why his opinion isn’t widely-held.

“I just see it the way the draft played out with the lottery, you’ve got three teams at the top that appear to be enamored with other guys,” Givony said. “I don’t know if that’s as much as (Doncic) falling as much as this draft class is just loaded at the top. It’s star central. Marvin Bagley, the second-most productive player in college basketball after Deandre Ayton. Jaren Jackson, who is a perfect fit in today’s NBA with his ability to switch on pick-and-rolls and space the floor both vertically and from the three-point line. And so you’re picking from really good options. It’s not as much as a knock on Doncic as it is this draft is freakin’ loaded.

“I’m a Doncic guy. You look at the way the NBA game is played now, gimme a 6-8, 230-pound point guard who can play pick-and-roll, who can make every pass, who can make shots off the dribble, who wants the ball in his hands the last two minutes of the game — time after time makes clutch play after clutch play,” Givony added. “It’s not a knock on Deandre Ayton. He’s a phenomenal talent. He’s going to be a 20 and 10 guy in the NBA.”

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