2018 NBA SFO Mock Draft – Pick #1

Sixers Front Office is bringing you draft coverage leading up to the NBA draft on June 21st, 2018. The Philadelphia 76ers are slated to select 10th (Lakers) and 26th in this month’s draft. The NBA draft often sees movement, trades and drama, so to prepare you for various potential outcomes, Sixers Front Office (SFO) will be giving you draft profiles for the all of the likely top picks ranging from 1 through 10.

So lets get it started! The Phoenix Suns are on the clock…….

2018 Pick Number 1 – DeAndre Ayton

Height – 7’1″
Weight – 260lbs
Age – 19yrs 9months
Wingspan – 7’5″
Position – Center
Strengths – Diverse Offensive skillset
Weaknesses – Potential concerns with Defensive Awareness
NBA comp – Patrick Ewing

Why it makes sense for the Phoenix Suns

The Phoenix Suns are full of young exciting players built around Devin Booker at the shooting guard position and Josh Jackson as a Small forward. Ayton is a legitimately huge and chiseled human being, even by NBA standards and immediately brings balance to the lineup for Phoenix.

DeAndre Ayton is one of the best big man prospects to come out of the draft since Joel Embiid in 2014. Ayton projects to have similar offensive upside to Embiid, but his defensive awareness has been called into question. Embiid is a true two way superstar who anchors and quarterbacks the back line of one of the NBA’s best defenses. Ayton is more difficult to project defensively, primarily because of the defensive issues that Arizona had this past season.

On Offense

Ayton has a diverse skillset offensively, he can use his size effectively inside and step out and knock down jumpers with projectable efficiency. As far as raw counting stats, Ayton scored 20.1 points per game on 61% shooting overall. To add to those raw stats, the 7’1″ big man shot 34% from three point range and 73% from the free throw line. These last two percentages indicate that Ayton will be able to work within the flow of many different offensive schemes in the NBA. It is hard to imagine a player with his physique, skillset and shooting touch not being a plus player offensively in the NBA.

But another encouraging indicator for the Phoenix Suns would be his offensive rebounding potential. Ayton had a 13.5% offensive rebounding rate which is comparable of Andre Drummond. This is important to a Suns offensive attack that will have plenty of “Iverson assist” opportunities with the unmitigated green light of Devin Booker and the inefficiency of Josh Jackson. Having Ayton to clean up misses would be huge to improve the Suns offensive production as a team.

On Defense

So lets deal with the elephant in the room. Arizona did not have a good defense in 2017-2018. Ayton is viewed as a no brainer Center in the NBA but what the casual observer may not understand is that he played Power Forward for the Arizona Wildcats. This is important to remember because critics of DeAndre Ayton will point to his relatively poor block%. Ayton had just a 6.1% block rating in college compared to 8.1% for Drummond and 11.7% for Joel Embiid in their lone college seasons. Compared to another highly rated Center this past season, Mohamed Bamba, Ayton has just half the block rating. Bamba had a 13.1%

This is a red flag for some and many observers will point to the fact that Ayton seemed to be a hair slow on recognizing defensive rotations and getting to help in rim protection. Comparisons to Jahlil Okafor are not uncommon among draftniks and that should give legitimate pause. The difference really comes down to the overall Arizona defensive scheme and Ayton’s role in that scheme. When you watch UA play they were very much oriented towards denying perimeter penetration and shooting. Their players would deny the 3-point line and very much play man defense on the perimeter. Ayton, as a power forward was not the first option as a defensive rim protector and as a result was often not the first to meet a penetrator at the rim. I personally see no real parallels physically or mentally to Okafor and I expect Ayton to develop into a viable and eventually above average rim protector. Bamba is probably more ready to contribute right way in this regard but I do not view Ayton as a liability on defense by any stretch.

Summary

DeAndre Ayton was not my favorite college player to watch this past season, but the more I watched him the more it became clear to me that he is far and away the most physically prepared big man to enter the NBA in years. I just don’t see how he doesnt become at least as good as an Andre Drummond level player and he has real potential to be on the level of a Joel Embiid if he improves his defensive rotations. When I look back for a player who I think he reminds me of, I come up with Patrick Ewing as having the size, and touch combo to dominate at the next level for many years to come.

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