Deandre Ayton’s mentality shines under spotlight after Suns workout
PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns normally notify the media of who is attending their NBA Draft workout an hour before that day’s availability.
That was not the case on Tuesday night when the Suns announced the lone workout participant for Wednesday as Deandre Ayton, the former Arizona center and favorite to be picked No. 1 overall.
Yes, this was to get as many media members and cameras in the building since the last time Steve Nash donned the purple and orange, but the added bonus was seeing how Ayton would handle all that media attention.
The Suns got their answer, and it couldn’t have gone much better in how Ayton operated through questions, proving he has the right mentality for the spotlight on a No. 1 pick.
From his weaknesses as a prospect to the college basketball FBI scandal that hit Arizona, Ayton was quick, decisive and smooth with his answers.
He drew a couple of laughs here and there along the way. When he was asked if he would rather be picked No. 3 to the Suns or go No. 1, Ayton said he would want to go No. 1 and have the Suns trade for him.
Ayton was playing off repeated questions about the expectations surrounding him.
“I’m the best competitor in this draft,” Ayton said. “I won’t say I’m the best player, I won’t say that, but I would say on the competitive level I am the best competitor. I don’t think there’s anyone like me.”
Extending on that point, Ayton would pass up opportunities when asked about his own specific game and what he does best.
“I just want to win,” he said. “I have a competitive level that I just want to win. I will do anything to win.”
Ayton grabbed headlines when he said he hasn’t worked out for any other team and knows he’s the No. 1 pick, but that taps back into his mentality.
“That’s just me,” he said. “I think I deserve that. I worked hard.”
The 19-year-old isn’t focused on modeling his game after current bigs. He’s looking back at the true greats for aspects he wants to model his game after, like Kevin Garnett’s intensity and Hakeem Olajuwon’s footwork in the post.
Ayton doesn’t want to fulfill anyone’s expectations. Rather, he only cares about being the best version of himself — and winning.
If you’ve got the hint by now, there’s no extended thought process from him on what he’s going to do on the court or what position he will play.
“I’m a player. I do whatever the coach asks and that’s about it,” he said.
Ayton, coming from the Bahamas, knows how much weight he holds on his back beyond himself.
“I already have a whole country on my back that I’m representing and I just want to fulfill that achievement,” he said.
In short, what Ayton did in the workout and how he performed didn’t matter, though Suns general manager Ryan McDonough said the workout went phenomenally. Ayton displayed the type of bravado professional teams want to see out of a potential top player and “alpha” for their franchise.
That, above how fast he is, how good his midrange jumper is, or how worrying his defense around the rim can be, mattered the most on Wednesday.