Sports Illustrated’s Sharp: Deandre Ayton’s confidence is ‘very real’

Jun 15, 2018, 6:01 AM | Updated: 9:04 am
(AP Photo/Matt York)...
(AP Photo/Matt York)
(AP Photo/Matt York)

The NBA Draft is just days away, as the Phoenix Suns prepare to make history by picking No. 1 overall for the first time ever.

Some fans and NBA pundits believe former Arizona Wildcat Deandre Ayton is the clear favorite to go first overall, while others continue to make a case for Slovenian star Luka Doncic.

Despite the rumors, predictions and stories surrounding the NBA Draft, Sports Illustrated writer Andrew Sharp knows one thing is for sure: Ayton’s confidence isn’t all for show.

“All the confidence is very real, he is not just saying the right things,” Sharp told 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Bickley & Marotta on Thursday. “He puts a lot of time in practices. He feels like he has worked very hard and is the best player in the draft.”

Sharp recently spent time with Ayton outside of a gym, hoping to capture the 7-foot-1, 250-pounder’s personality off the court.

While at a popular venue in Scottsdale, TopGolf, Sharp says Ayton’s personality truly came out.

“He does sort of have a little Joel Embiid in him, he is very funny and sarcastic in a cutting way sometimes,” Sharp said. “I went out there not knowing much about Deandre. He does have a big personality and I think that is going to play very well in the NBA.”

Ayton’s personality and confidence showed last week after he concluded a solo workout with the Phoenix Suns, saying he is the best competitor in the draft and that he “knows” he will be No. 1 overall.

But despite the glowing confidence at just 19 years old, Sharp said Ayton’s road to this moment had its fair share of bumps along the way.

Born in the Bahamas, Ayton was brought to the United States when he was 12 years old to play in a competitive amateur basketball league in San Diego, California. It’s there that Sharp said Ayton had to mature at a faster pace than a lot of his peers.

“He played in San Diego with some coaches who he isn’t close to anymore,” Sharp said. “He lived with some families where there were trust issues along the way. It was kind of a strange situation that speaks to how strange elite amateur basketball can get in this country.

“I wouldn’t say he is bitter, but it was a complicated journey and going forward, life is going to get a little simpler for him.”

Part of the potential simplicity comes with the chance to stay in Phoenix, where he attended Hillcrest Prep after his family moved to the Valley.

Ayton has been widely criticized for his perceived lack of defensive ability during his time under Sean Miller in Tucson. Playing in the four-spot alongside fellow big man Dusan Ristic, Ayton was forced to cover players along the wing, essentially taking him out of his comfort zone near the rim.

But despite another seven-footer’s presence on the offensive end, Ayton still averaged 20.1 points, 11.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game en route to being named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year.

He will remain at the center position at the next level, something Sharp believes will help improve on both ends of the court in the right situation.

“Particularly from an NBA standpoint, he’s got a lot of room to grow,” Sharp said. “Some of the defensive concerns are a little bit overblown and there’s a good chance he is going to be more comfortable at the next level. Being with a stable coaching staff will really help him as a basketball player.”

Whether or not he is picked No. 1 overall remains to be seen, but one thing remains certain: All eyes will be on Ayton when the Suns’ pick comes in.

Phoenix Suns

Follow @AZSports...
Haboob Blog

Mikal Bridges sees Phoenix sports fandom, even thanks to ‘little Red Sea’

"I'm a Rams fan so I see everybody killing me about the Cardinals. They're diehard for their little Red Sea," Suns wing Mikal Bridges said.
13 hours ago
Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns talks with Mikal Bridges #25 and Deandre Ayton #22 during the f...
Kellan Olson

Young Suns roster set to see big returns from NBA Finals experience

The Phoenix Suns spoke on what they learned from their NBA Finals run that will help them this season.
2 days ago
Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams, second from left, hugs Chris Paul, left, and Jae Crowder, s...
Kellan Olson

Suns face another quick turnaround as NBA resets back to default calendar

The Phoenix Suns making the NBA Finals last year was a huge accomplishment. It also has them facing the shortest turnaround for this season.
2 days ago
Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns, Torrey Craig #12, and Mikal Bridges #25 celebrate defeating ...
Kevin Zimmerman

Suns’ Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges still up for extensions as camp begins

Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. earned the fourth max rookie extension for players in the 2018 NBA Draft class.
2 days ago
Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton (22) drives to the basket against Phoenix Suns guard Camero...
Kevin Zimmerman

Suns found different ways to move on from NBA Finals loss

Monty Williams and Suns players all took different approaches to accepting, reflecting and moving on from the NBA Finals loss.
2 days ago
Chasson Randle #25 of the Orlando Magic dribbles in the first half against the Brooklyn Nets at Amw...
Wills Rice

Phoenix Suns sign former Magic guard Chasson Randle

Less than a week after being invited to training camp, the Phoenix Suns signed 28-year-old guard Chasson Randle to the official roster.
3 days ago
Sports Illustrated’s Sharp: Deandre Ayton’s confidence is ‘very real’