Who's Number One?
The 2018 NBA draft is right around the corner. Tomorrow night we will finally get a glimpse into the future of some of the league's bottom dwellers as college (and European) stars find their NBA homes.
For the first time in team history the Phoenix Suns will have the 1st overall pick and it's all but clear who they have pinned as their man. Near the end of the season the Suns hired the league's first ever European head coach in Igor Kokoskov. This was no accident, Mr. Kokoskov coached one of the top prospects in the draft: Real Madrid's young guard Luka Doncic. Their time together on the Serbian national teams serves as an excellent reference point when scouting the Euro league MVP, and it's likely that their pairing would make for a quick and seamless transition into the NBA. However, Suns owner Robert Sarver is an alumni and noted donor to the University of Arizona where the projected number 1 pick, DeAndre Ayton, played his singular college season. Sarver is said to be enamored by the offensively gifted big man and it wouldn't be a surprise if the Suns called his name on Thursday night.
Between these two angles it's hard to know who Phoenix will select with their historic pick, but in my opinion it's obvious who the pick should be. While DeAndre Ayton is a scoring machine and displays a physicality unlike anyone else in the draft, it's Doncic's competitive fire and leadership that separates him from the rest. Scouts around the league have questioned Ayton's work ethic and grit, especially on the defensive end. The fact is, DeAndre only played 35 games, if his lack of drive showed in 35 games it may be something to worry about or at least compare. Specifically, lets match this sample size to that of Doncic.
The Serbian star has played 61 games this year, alongside full grown men, in the second best league in the world. Oh yeah, he also lead his team to the European League championship where he was the MVP of the tournament. And I almost forgot! Just a few days before the draft his squad also claimed the Spanish League title. Was he the MVP again? You're damn right he was. Doncic has displayed exceptional shooting and otherworldly court vision that has some crazy draft analysts mentioning his name in the same breath as Larry Bird. I can't condone that kind of behaviour but when someone far more invested in the drafting process than me makes a claim like that, I can't help but dream. Plus he has a f**kin tiger tattoo so there's also that.
We won't know where the Suns ultimately fall until tomorrow evening but if I'm right, the coach/guard duo of the future might be at their fingertips. Will the fear of another European bust scare them away? We'll find out tomorrow. For now let's get this straight, this ain't no Darko, it's Doncic time.