Perhaps the worst-kept secret in the 2018 NBA Draft has been that Arizona big man Deandre Ayton was expected to go No. 1 overall to the Phoenix Suns. Betting markets reflected something of a no-brainer and even Ayton acknowledged the likelihood, saying that he and Devin Booker could become “Shaq and Kobe 2.0” in Phoenix. On Thursday evening, there was no great surprise, as the Suns fulfilled their projected destiny in selecting Ayton with the first pick.
In the eyes of many, the high-profile Puma endorser is a sure-fire No. 1 pick in that he combines a tremendous athletic and physical profile with high-end collegiate production at a blue blood program. A decade ago, Ayton likely would have been a consensus No. 1 pick, even by analysts, but there is some level of skepticism in the translation of his game to the modern NBA, particularly on the defensive side of the floor.
Other players, including Real Madrid’s Luka Doncic, Duke’s Marvin Bagley and Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr., have received love as the top overall prospect from respected analysts. In the end, though, the Suns seemingly centered on Ayton from the outset after winning the draft lottery and the combination of general manager Ryan McDonough and owner Robert Sarver came together to make it official.
Ayton is joined by Josh Jackson and the aforementioned Booker to form a strong core for the future in Phoenix but, even if the No. 1 pick seemed like a formality, there is still plenty of room for debate in the future should Ayton even remotely struggle to live up to the billing.