ESPN’s Pelton: Deandre Ayton the favorite to win NBA Rookie of the Year

Jul 26, 2018, 6:35 PM

Phoenix Suns' Deandre Ayton dunks against the Dallas Mavericks during the second half of an NBA sum...

Phoenix Suns' Deandre Ayton dunks against the Dallas Mavericks during the second half of an NBA summer league basketball game Friday, July 6, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

(AP Photo/John Locher)

The debate over Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton and Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic rages on after the two were respectively drafted first and third overall.

This time, it’s not about who should go No. 1 but about which one is more likely to win this season’s rookie of the year award.

ESPN’s Kevin Pelton believes Ayton is the favorite heading into 2018-19, even though he thinks Mavericks guard Luka Doncic will be the most valuable rookie.

If the Phoenix Suns figure out how to use Ayton’s shooting ability, with more talent around him than in Las Vegas, he’s got a chance to lead all rookies in both scoring and rebounding. That should all but assure him Rookie of the Year.

Pelton and colleague Mike Schmitz both have high expectations for Doncic, who Schmitz picked to win rookie of the year. Doncic, with his pro experience having won MVP awards in Spain this past year, will have the advantage of playing for a team that’s closer to contention than the Suns.

Pelton’s logic in picking Ayton as the rookie of the year stems from the recent award winners being picked based on their per-game stats more than their overall impact.

All that said, Schmitz believes Suns head coach Igor Kokoskov will be able to work well with Ayton during the developmental periods of the offseason and during the season.

We should consider how important a developmentally-focused coach like Igor Kokoskov will be for Ayton as a rookie. Although he’s a rookie himself, Kokoskov will find ways to get Ayton in empty-side-pick-and-rolls for lobs and quick-hitting dunks off deep seals in the post.

The Suns enter the 2018-19 season with a few roster changes and a continued embrace of the youth movement.

Because of that, Ayton will be relied upon a lot during his rookie season, and the Suns hope their No. 1 pick turns in a rookie of the year quality season.

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ESPN’s Pelton: Deandre Ayton the favorite to win NBA Rookie of the Year