Empire of the Suns Mailbag, Part I: The Deandre Ayton extravaganza

Mar 1, 2018, 9:57 AM | Updated: Mar 6, 2018, 2:28 pm

Arizona's DeAndre Ayton celebrates during the second half against Oregon in an NCAA college basketb...

Arizona's DeAndre Ayton celebrates during the second half against Oregon in an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018, in Eugene, Ore. Oregon won 98-93 in overtime. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)

(AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)

LISTEN: Empire of the Suns

We asked you on Twitter for questions about the Phoenix Suns to feature in an upcoming mailbag, and Arizona freshman and potential No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton was brought up a fair bit.

With that in mind, we are splitting this mailbag into multiple parts. Here is Part 1 with all the questions regarding Ayton.


Kellan Olson: He is pretty close to those guys as a prospect, and that’s a pretty big compliment.

Physically, he is the most impressive of all of them.

His speed and mobility go under the radar a bit because of how much of a tank his stature is, he has a great vertical for his size and he’s obviously incredibly strong. While Joel Embiid is an absolute beast now, he was a bit lanky at Kansas.

Skill-wise, I think it’s tough company, as it should be.

Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Davis were a different caliber of a stretch big in that they showed value in shooting off the move. Ayton is notorious for his face-up jumper, but we haven’t seen much of him shooting off the dribble and creating the space for his jumper, like Towns and Davis can. There’s also some hesitancy regarding how his form translates into a consistent NBA three-point shot.

Embiid showed endless potential and feel as a post scorer, as did Enes Kanter to a much lesser extent. Right now, at least, Ayton is more about bullying his opponents in the post, as he should be.

I do believe, though, that Ayton is one of the best passers of the bunch, and has a natural way of going about setting up his teammates and getting out of double-teams.

Defensively, his off-ball instincts are a mess, but he shows the physical upside as a shot-blocker and rebounder like the guys you mentioned did, besides Kanter.

Kevin Zimmerman: His strength and aggressiveness on the boards is far and away superior to all of those prospects listed, and there’s a reason ESPN analysts have compared his physique to one David Robinson.

Length-wise, he’s showed more (relative) promise for a big man switching on the perimeter than he’s shown defending the paint, in my opinion. He’s got a lot to prove despite averaging 2.0 blocks per game.

Skill-wise, it’s really hard to judge where Ayton is at.

Embattled head coach Sean Miller is notorious for forcing offensive principles down his team’s throat without scheming ways to get his best players the ball. And when his big men have stepped out to take a few jumpers, he’s been a bit upset even when those shots are made.

One can imagine, then, that Ayton’s shooting potential has a governor on it for the time being. Add in the fact that Arizona’s guards have not been willing to make easy pick-and-pop passes to the big man — and the fact that the Wildcats very rarely run pick-and-rolls — and rarely do we get to see Ayton’s full skills show out (this was neat though).

I’m reserving judgement to see if Ayton is given more responsibility — and the ball — as the season goes on.

Just remember: He scored 28 points against Oregon on Saturday despite his teammates turning the ball over five times on terrible lob passes into the post and failing to even try countless other times.

Olson: I think this draft class is way too talented for the “Ayton or nah” type of thinking. Jaren Jackson Jr. could be a very special defensive player and stretch big, Marvin Bagley’s skillset is just getting tapped into and Mohamed Bamba could be the league’s next great rim protector.

With trading back, the Suns would get more minor assets, which is the last thing they need right now. They need to get that building block next to Booker and it could be any of those guys.

Also, not supporting the thinking that guards are all outside the top-6. Luka Doncic won’t last that long and I doubt Trae Young does, either.

Zimmerman: Hard no. I will tattoo Luka Doncic’s face on myself if Phoenix trades a No. 2 pick for anything but an established NBA All-Star, no matter who is off the board first overall. No matter preference or need, there are enough options in the second tier of the draft for general manager Ryan McDonough not to swing for a star.

Olson: We are going to re-shape this question to what it is essentially asking: Should potential offseason free agent and trade targets affect who the Suns draft?

My answer on this is that Devin Booker is the only guy that should factor into the Suns’ decisions on draft night. If they believe Deandre Ayton or Michael Porter Jr. or Luka Doncic is the best prospect available when they should pick, they should take them.

As for the center market, the Suns’ current situation sort of ties them to a specific player that is young and good enough to commit significant long-term money. That, to me, makes Clint Capela the only realistic name. That is, of course, unless they want to make a run at DeMarcus Cousins.

Zimmerman: I’m always for taking the best prospect that fits with the current roster. And from the strictly chronological standpoint that the draft is before free agency, there’s no way the Suns don’t take Deandre Ayton if they think he’s the best player.

Now, since we’ve avoided talking about this, I want to point out that there’s a reason Doncic is considered the No. 1 pick. He’s a weird fit for the Suns if we’re talking defensive lineups with Devin Booker, Josh Jackson and T.J. Warren, but I’m still with Kellan: Only consider his fit with Booker — just fine — and figure out the rest later.

Empire of the Suns

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Empire of the Suns Mailbag, Part I: The Deandre Ayton extravaganza