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|Deandre Ayton spent Wednesday with the Phoenix Suns with the feeling that this was the start of a beautiful relationship.
The 7-foot-1 Justin Bethel Jersey , 250-pound center went through what he said would be his only pre-draft workout and expressed supreme confidence that the Suns will use the No. 1 overall pick to select him.
”I know I’m going No. 1,” he told reporters.
Not that the Suns have assured him of that, he’s just that confident that the team won’t pass on his combination of size, strength, athleticism and shooting touch.
”Nobody told me,” he said. ”That’s just me. I think I deserve that. I’ve worked hard.”
It would be a comfortable fit for Ayton, who was born in the Bahamas and moved to the Phoenix area during high school. He said most of his family now lives here. Ayton played his one year of college basketball a couple of hours down Interstate 10 at the University of Arizona.
”Everybody knows us now,” he said. ”This is our second home so we just feel welcome, and it would be a blessing if I become the No. 1 pick and stay here and make this home.”
Ayton said teaming with young Suns star Devin Booker would be ”Shaq and Kobe 2-point-0.”
”We could really make something happen in Phoenix,” he said. ”We could really have a spark and start a winning legacy.”
There hasn’t been much winning in Phoenix lately. The Suns have missed the playoffs eight years in a row and had the NBA’s worst record last season at 21-61, second-worst in franchise history.
But there is a young core of talent and most of those players, including Booker and Josh Jackson, watched what Ayton described as ”a pretty intense” individual workout.
For nearly an hour, Suns coach Igor Kokoskov and his staff put Ayton through a series of game situations, as much as possible given the fact no other players were on the floor.
”It was everything that we expected form Deandre,” general manager Ryan McDonough said. ”Obviously we’ve watched him closely at Arizona and we’ve scouted him heavily in person in games, at practice and on film. He showed us what we expected to see.”
McDonough said ”it’s pretty rare” to find such a player.
”I think this is my 16th draft in the NBA,” McDonough said Vonn Bell Jersey , ”and you can probably count on one hand the number of guys with his size, athleticism, footwork, balance, touch. It’s a unique package.”
He was particularly impressed with Ayton’s outside shooting touch.
”We knew he was big and strong and athletic and moved well at that size, had good length, had great hands,” McDonough said, ”but to see him make shot after shot in a workout in different scenarios.”
And he’s just 19 years old.
The Suns plan other workouts with candidates for the No. 1 pick later this week. The group won’t include Luka Doncic, who is still playing in Europe.
Phoenix is not tipping its hand, but Ayton will be hard to pass up.
”The strength of our team right now are young perimeter players, led by Devin Booker, Josh Jackson and T.J. Warren,” McDonough said. ”We’ve been looking for a center to kind of anchor our team offensively and defensively. We think Deandre has that kind of potential. … He’s certainly a unique player and a unique talent that I think would fit in great with the rest of our roster.”
Ayton averaged 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds in his one season at Arizona. He brushed aside questions about his defense.
”I don’t think that’s a weakness,” he said. ”I haven’t had the opportunity to really guard any bigs in college. I was always on the perimeter with the guards.”
Still, he pointed out, he averaged 2.3 blocked shots per game.
On offense, Ayton said Matt Schaub Jersey , ”I can score inside and out.”
”There will be a lot of mismatches because if I guard them they have to guard me at the end of the day,” he said. ”I can score, I can pick and pop, I can pick and roll, I can put the ball on the ground, rebound, push the ball. It’s an open floor now. Nobody is really double-teaming or triple-teaming.”
He said there is no current player on which he patterns his game. But he mentioned two pretty good ones from the past.
”Kevin Garnett, his intensity on both ends of the floor, how he changes the game, rebounding. From offense to defense, him starting the pick and roll, stuff like that,” Ayton said, ”how he’s so vocal with his teammates. And Hakeem Olajuwon, with his footwork down low, I try to really pick up a lot of stuff with those guys.”
Ayton called himself the most competitive player in the draft. He said there’s none of the laid-back attitude that’s a trademark of his homeland.
”I left at age 12, so I got a little Americanized with the competitive level,” he said.
Ayton planned to get together with Booker and other Suns players to watch Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday night.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson were introduced in Los Angeles on Monday as the newest Clippers guards. The duo Tavon Young Jersey , selected in the NBA draft last week, won’t be under the bright spotlight just yet.
That’s reserved for center DeAndre Jordan.
This is the final week before the NBA’s free agency period begins Sunday, and the biggest question mark for the Clippers is whether center Jordan will opt in or out of his contract.
”I talk to him,” coach Doc Rivers said. ”We pretty much stay away from the subject for the most part. But I talk to him. We stay in touch.”
Lawrence Frank, executive vice president of basketball operations, wasn’t sure what Jordan would decide about his $24.1 million player option.
”No new updates. We continue to have dialogue with his agent, Jeff Schwartz,” Frank said. ”We’ll see how everything plays out.”
Guard Milos Teodosic has exercised his $6.3 million option with the Clippers. Frank visited him in Belgrade, Serbia, last month.
”We’ll see how everything plays out, but he’s in a really good space,” Frank said.
Last week, guard Austin Rivers exercised his $12.6 million option.
The Clippers have an abundance of guards, but it’s not expected that all will be with the team when the season starts.
Observers may have viewed the Clippers’ use of both first-round picks on guards as confirmation that Jordan will opt in, but the team did not see it that way.
”That’s a lot of speculation,” Rivers said.
Nothing is official, and Jordan will need to decide by week’s end.
”The No. 1 thing is we draft the best available players,” Frank said. ”We don’t draft for need. That’s first. It’s important to start with that. Then Russell Okung Jersey , very early in the process, we identified Shai and Jerome as top targets. When you go through the entire process and get an opportunity to sit with them, have meals with them, get them to work out, watch film and their games, it was clear we went into the draft week knowing these are our top two guys and how will we get them.”
If the Clippers don’t make any big moves in free agency, the question remains whether this can be a playoff team again. Last year, the injury-riddled Clippers missed the postseason. They finished with a winning record of 42-40, but their streak of consecutive postseason appearances ended at six.
”You’re constantly, always looking at ways to improve the roster,” Frank said. ”I think we’re going to be very competitive. I think we’ll bring a very exciting brand of basketball. Obviously, this past year we had an unlucky hand with injuries. But every team has injuries, we just had probably a bigger share. Hopefully, guys like Pat (Beverley) and Galo (Danilo Gallinari) can play the amount of games they’re normally used to playing. We’ve improved ourselves not just with the acquisitions but also with the health.
”We’ll see with free agency, there will be different ways we can improve the roster.”
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