Will DeAndre Ayton’s next game be with the Phoenix Suns?

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 10: Deandre Ayton
LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 10: Deandre Ayton /

DeAndre Ayton and the Arizona Wildcats went down in flames on Thursday night ending Ayton’s one-and-done college career. Will his next organized basketball game be with the Phoenix Suns?

Long considered the presumed 2018 number one overall pick, DeAndre Ayton brings with him a skill-set that many have compared to David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon, and other NBA great centers. Arguably a “can’t miss” prospect, Ayton has shown a dominating offensive game in college that coupled with his already filled-out physique seems to place him square within the boundaries of a can’t miss, and someone that the Phoenix Suns should target regardless of their draft position.

Ayton finished his freshman season, in which he won the PAC-12 Player of the Year award, with 20.1 point and 11.6 rebound a game averages. He did this with a 61.2% FG% including 34.3% from 3, and a very acceptable 73.3% FT% for a center.

The star prospect scored in double-digits in 33 of 35 games including a career-high of 32, grabbed double-digit boards in 24 games including a career-high of 20, and averaged 1.9 blocks including a career-high 6.

For a Phoenix Suns team who currently has nobody close to being a dominant inside force (so much so that the slender Dragan Bender has been playing games at center fairly regularly), adding a player of Ayton’s apparently dynamic ability would be the perfect compliment to shooting stars Devin Booker and Josh Jackson.

Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns /

Phoenix Suns

But can the Suns actually land him? Will DeAndre Ayton’s next organized game (presumably in the NBA’s Summer League) be in a Phoenix Suns uniform?

As of Friday, March 16, the Suns remain “tied” with Memphis for the best odds at winning the lottery, having played two more games than the Grizzlies, with both one more win and loss in the standings.

A true tie in the standings after 82 games means a random computer selection of who actually wins the best odds. The Suns would obviously prefer to win that position outright by having the worst record overall, although there is no guarantee that having the best odds even means drafting first. Suns fans are well aware that there is no guarantee that the best odds mean anything, having held the second spot in last year’s draft, then being bumped down to fourth, the only team in the draft to slide back two positions.

Should Phoenix win the lottery and for the first time in their 50-year history hold the first pick, there is little doubt in my mind – or most others – that they will leap at the opportunity to select a player who – if he pans out – will be the first truly dominant center.

Should they stay at or slip to second, there is always the chance that the team selecting first covets a player like position-less guard Luka Doncic or power forward Marvin Bagley more. Should that happen, once again, I cannot forsee Phoenix passing on the opportunity to select Ayton.

Depending too on where Phoenix lands, speaking specifically about the chance that they select outside the top spot, the Suns do have assets to at least make a legitimate attempt at trading into the number one spot.

Should the Suns finish second or third, there is a chance that the team selecting first could be persuaded to move back in a package only including the Suns’ own pick, plus one of the two Miami or Milwaukee mid-first round picks.

Certainly the further Phoenix slips the more difficult it would be to move up to select DeAndre as the best selling point to the team with the top pick would be that Phoenix’s pick would guarantee them at least Doncic or Bagley. Should Phoenix fall to fourth or farther, then it would either be guaranteed to take a trade package that includes established players such as Chriss/Bender and/or Warren, or the opportunity might be gone entirely.

Hopefully the chances of slipping out of the top-3 remain slim (obviously if they have the best odds to select number one overall then the worst they could pick would be third), and the ability to move up would be at its greatest peak. Fortunately the Suns remain at the very top of the league in terms of difficulty of schedule the rest of the way, again as of March 16, owning the third hardest strength of schedule with an opponent’s 57.0% winning percentage and only 12 games remaining in their own schedule.

If the Grizzlies are Phoenix’s most difficult challenger in the race for the best odds of selecting number one overall, then they are doing a marvelous job of holding the Suns off. Losers of 19 (19!!!) straight, they too have a relatively difficult schedule ahead of them over their final 14 games, the 11th most difficult in the league, their opponents holding a combined 51.3% winning percentage.

Next: Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender: a starters comparison

DeAndre Ayton’s college basketball career is all but over minus the formalities of making the transition towards his ultimate professional destination. Phoenix will have opportunities to select him meaning that his next organized basketball game could very well be in a Phoenix Suns uniform.

Adding a player of his potential and caliber is something I cannot imagine Ryan McDonough passing up on. The opportunity to take a dominant center from Arizona with his first pick – in my estimation the best player the Phoenix Suns could add – is, I hope, precisely what McDonough is able to do.