It’s official: Deandre Ayton is joining the Phoenix Suns.
The former Arizona Wildcats big man was selected No. 1 overall by the Suns on Thursday, meaning he will begin his NBA career just up the road from where he starred in college.
The Suns had a league-worst 21-61 record last season, but now have an intriguing young core that includes Ayton, Devin Booker and Josh Jackson.
As we follow Ayton to the next chapter of his career, we asked our friends from Bright Side of the Sun for some insight on what’s next for the former Wildcat.
Here is our Q&A with beat writer Evan Sidery.
Q. Obviously time will tell, but do you think the Suns are making the right pick?
Evan Sidery: I’m probably the wrong guy on staff to ask about this one, but I believe it’s very possible. I have Luka Doncic atop my board due to how he fits in within their current roster construction.
However, I could see why they go with Deandre Ayton. He’s a monstrous big who could easily average 20 and 10 throughout his peak. With his lack of polish defensively, there are some concerns of how this team will function when adding in another sub defender with Devin Booker. The Suns will need to hit the next few offseasons out of the park adding quality defensive pieces while also rapidly accelerating Ayton’s development.
Q. How are Suns fans feeling about this pick? Would they have preferred someone else?
ES: Suns fans are feeling absolutely ecstatic about this pick. Many have been eyeing Ayton from the beginning, especially with his local connection down in Tucson.
Q. How does Ayton fit on the Suns’ roster?
ES: Ayton’s fit with this roster works if you add in the necessary help defensively to make it fully functional. He will immediately step into a starting role being mentored by Tyson Chandler. It sets up well for Ayton to be nurtured well into their new culture established by first-year head coach Igor Kokoskov, but I think his adjustment will be slower than many anticipate, unless he’s like Anthony Davis and is dominant from the onset.
Q. What do you expect Ayton’s role to be next season?
ES: Ayton’s role will be as the starting center averaging over 30 minutes per game. He will likely be their second option offensively, too. Like I mentioned above, he’s set up well to learn the tricks of the trade defensively from former DPOY Tyson Chandler.
Q. What is your biggest concern about Ayton as an NBA prospect?
ES: My biggest concern, as mentioned, is his defensive capabilities. There is the chance he doesn’t pick up the nuances of NBA defenses and turns into a sub defender, like DeMarcus Cousins. Boogie is a consistent 20-10 player, but his less than stellar two-way outlook points Ayton closer in that direction compared to the NBA’s elite bigs. I could easily be proven wrong, but it’s a major concern in my book. Cousins is someone who is a good second banana, but not someone who helps you achieve championship aspirations. If Ayton figures it out, though, he will be a stud.
Q. What do you think his stat line will be next season?
ES: Here’s my official stat line prediction: 17.7 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.3 blocks
Q. How much does Ayton’s previous connection to Phoenix matter?
ES: I think it matters, especially with majority owner Robert Sarver being an Arizona alum. Who knows if it is a major factor, but I think it matters just a smidge from a local marketing standpoint.