1. Deandre Ayton
If you thought the Bol inclusion was a stretch, then this one is downright crazy, because Deandre Ayton won’t be appearing at the FIBA Basketball World Cup at all. He will be suiting up for the Bahamas for the first time in seven years this month though (alongside Eric Gordon), as the country take part in a FIBA Olympic Pre-Qualifying tournament.
These games are more important to Suns’ fans that the World Cup itself, because it will give them a chance to see where Ayton is at right now. Since we last saw him, the Suns have hired a new head coach in Frank Vogel, who has said all the right things about working with the player, and also watched as his name appeared in all manner of trade rumors.
The opportunity to feast on Cuba and Panama, as well as face stiffer competition in the form of Argentina, is a great one for Ayton. Although he was the first overall pick back in 2018, he is going to be at best the fourth option with the Suns offensively next season. He will also be asked to turn in the best defensive season of his career to date as well.
If he can help the Bahamas secure the only spot available in this six team tournament to advance to the qualification tournament proper next year, and to do it as their most dominant player no less, it would be a huge boost for him. This Bahamas squad also has Buddy Hield and Kai Jones, as well as new teammate Gordon.
So the talent is there to help the country to reach their first Olympics ever, and in doing so help Ayton rediscover some of that fire that he had in the Suns’ run to the NBA Finals back in 2021. So while this is not the FIBA Basketball World Cup, it is still international competition where the stakes are high. What better time for Ayton to show the world what he is capable of.