LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 9: Arizona forward Deandre Ayton (13) looks on during the semifinal game of the mens Pac-12 Tournament between the UCLA Bruins and the Arizona Wildcats on March 9, 2018, at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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For almost a decade, the Phoenix Suns have been awful. They haven’t made the playoffs since the 2010-11 NBA season. After losing far more games than they’ve won, the Suns have been in the draft lottery every year since then. They’ve had success when it comes to drafting perimeter scorers. Devin Booker is a star in the NBA who the Suns can build around. Booker has raised his scoring average each year, and last year averaged 25 points per game.

Last year’s first-round pick, Josh Jackson, had a tremendous rookie season. Jackson finished the season very well, averaging 21 points per game in his final 12 regular season games.

However, when it comes to drafting and developing big men, Phoenix has not been as successful. In previous drafts, the Suns used top-10 picks on big men Alex Len, Marquese Chriss, and Dragan Bender. None of the three can be considered an outright bust, but they certainly haven’t lived up to the expectations of such high draft selections.

Now, in a draft where five of the top 10 players drafted could be big men, the Suns must choose wisely. Phoenix must draft a superstar who can play alongside Booker and help turn around the franchise. Luka Dončić could be great in the NBA, but a guard isn’t the Suns’ top priority now. Helping the NBA’s worst defense is a bigger need. The temptation to select Dončić is there because Phoenix’s new coach, Igor Kokoskov, coached Dončić in Slovenia to a gold medal in last year’s European championship. However, with the first overall pick, the Phoenix Suns must select Deandre Ayton.

Ayton’s presence on both ends of the court

Ayton is a 7’1″ center who moves very quickly considering his large frame. Ayton is the best overall big man out of the bunch projected to be picked in this year’s lottery. He has a versatile offensive game; Ayton can knock down jumpers from the mid-range and behind the arc. His physical presence allows him to easily finish at the rim aggressively. Ayton shot 61 percent from the field and 34 percent from behind the arc in his only year at Arizona.

If they draft Ayton, the Suns can easily slot him in as their starting center. He’d be the primary rim protector for the team, something Phoenix lacked last season. Averaging two blocks per game in college, Ayton has shown he has the potential of a great shot blocker. Finishing a defensive possession with a rebound is crucial to playing good defense. Ayton snagged 11 rebounds per game at Arizona, eight of those coming on the defensive end.

The dynamic duo of Booker and Ayton

Imagine a pick-and-roll between Booker and Ayton. In that scenario, it’s pick your poison. Teams could switch and put the smaller guard on Ayton, allowing him to score in a mismatch. A switch could also allow Booker to abuse big men on the perimeter. If they don’t switch, they’d risk letting the reigning three-point contest winner, Booker, shoot open threes all game.

Selecting a big man this early in the draft can alter a franchise’s direction. Just look at what Joel Embiid and Anthony Davis did to their teams. They brought their teams from the lottery to winning series in the playoffs this season. Placing Ayton with Booker could give the Phoenix Suns a Shaquille O’NealKobe Bryant or Shaq-Penny Hardaway type of duo, which would be primed for future success.

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