There are no perfect prospects in the 2018 draft class but, with less than three weeks to go until draft night, Arizona big man Deandre Ayton seems to be the safest bet to land in the top two. If anything, that has been the case for a while, with Ayton checking every old-school box for a wildly productive college big man and pairing that with an incredible physical frame and athleticism that would be appealing to the modern NBA.
Offensively, there are very few questions about Ayton, who averaged 20.1 points per game at Arizona on 61 percent shooting and even flashed the semblance of what could be an intriguing jump shot at the next level. He is a freak-ish athlete with a chiseled physique that plays against virtually any kind of defender, and that should allow him to have very little trouble adjusting to the NBA game with efficiency and potential dominance.
On the other end of the floor, there is also reason to believe Ayton could be an impressive force. After all, he is a tremendous athlete with the foot speed to be able to defend in space and the length to deter others at the rim. However, Ayton was anything but a finished product defensively at the college level and his ability to translate his defensive game to the NBA is, by far, his biggest question.
Some of Ayton’s defensive issues at Arizona can be traced back to head coach Sean Miller’s decision to deploy him regularly alongside another traditional center. That is a decision that most NBA types find inexplicable and, as a result, Ayton was often put in unfavorable positions. With that said, there has been some level of buzz that Ayton views himself as more of an all-court player than as a true center, which could prove to be a challenge when he arrives in the NBA.
If you believe in his ability to “turn it on” defensively, it is very easy to see Ayton as the no-doubt No. 1 pick in this class. Because, of course, he has the physical tools, it is easy to talk one’s self into his projection on that end. Still, Ayton’s mindset and basketball IQ will be equally important defensively and, as we’ve seen during the 2018 NBA Playoffs, it is sometimes quite difficult to deploy a center that isn’t capable of staying on the floor defensively against small ball lineups.
Other prospects have questions, ranging from Luka Doncic’s lack of elite-level athleticism to Marvin Bagley’s (similar) defensive uncertainty, but Deandre Ayton still may have the fewest. Evaluating him is tricky but, with that in mind, here is our latest 2018 NBA mock draft with a familiar face in the No. 1 spot.