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Suns’ McDonough: Ayton is one of the top five prospects GM has ever scouted

Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough admits he let the giddiness slip out of him when speaking to the media on June 6 having just worked out Deandre Ayton.

His tone made it clear Phoenix had every intention of drafting the Arizona center first overall in the 2018 NBA Draft, and the team made it official Thursday.

Joining the Doug & Wolf show on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station Friday morning, McDonough remained giddy and explained just where Ayton stood throughout the evaluation process.

Ayton stood atop the Suns’ big board before the lottery.

“He was the clear front-runner all along,” McDonough said. “Obviously, growing up here in Phoenix, playing at Hillcrest (Prep) a little bit and playing at the UofA, we watched him very closely. He’s such a unique player, such unique talent, he’s a guy we fixated on for a long time. He was the leader in the clubhouse all the way through the process.

“I think it was my 16th draft last night between the Celtics and now in Phoenix. I think he’s probably in the top-five talents I’ve seen in that time, over a 16-year period,” McDonough added. “Historically for me, a few guys stand out: LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant to name a few. I’m not saying he’s going to be as good as those guys — I’m not saying that — but you know, when you’re scouting guys or watching games, certain guys just pop.”

McDonough said that the Suns considered five players for the top pick, four of whom worked out for the team. Jaren Jackson Jr., Marvin Bagley III, Mo Bamba and Ayton were the four who did, and that brings us to discussing the fifth player in that tier who didn’t.

No reunion for Doncic and Kokoskov

First-year Suns coach Igor Kokoskov coaches Slovenian phenom Luka Doncic’s national team, and that led to speculation Phoenix could  consider the 19-year-old point-forward for the No. 1 pick in the draft process.

Doncic attended the draft but didn’t work out for any team having just completed a title run with his Spanish ACB league team, Real Madrid.

He was, presumably, in the running to go No. 1.

Instead, Doncic was selected third overall by the Hawks and traded to the Dallas Mavericks, who in a package shipped fifth overall pick Trae Young to Atlanta.

“Igor loves Luka Doncic and so do we,” McDonough said Friday. “He’s going to be a great player.

“Deandre, it was clear in terms of the talent — and we think he’s going to be the best player and we think he’s the best fit for our roster, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other guys in this draft who we think are going to be great, and Luka Doncic is at or near the top of that list. It’s not like it was a no-brainer just because there aren’t any other good players. That is the case I think some years.”

Booker, Jackson get a running mate

Ayton once called a potential union with Booker a “Shaq and Kobe 2.0” type of situation.

Booker apparently felt the same way, as did second-year forward Josh Jackson.

“Deandre Ayton is who Devin wanted. It’s also who Josh Jackson wanted,” McDonough said. “It’s just such a unique situation. And that’s for me why it was such a cool night. Obviously the history behind it, having the number one pick for the first time in franchise history. Those guys have spent time together off the court, I think even in advance of us winning the lottery, and then they spent a lot more time (together) after we won the lottery.

“Just with Deandre being here in Phoenix, that was a unique situation and a unique opportunity.”

Doug & Wolf

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