06/21 20:51 CDT Suns get their coveted center Ayton to anchor young squad
Suns get their coveted center Ayton to anchor young squad
By BOB BAUM
AP Sports Writer
PHOENIX (AP) --- For most of their half-century in existence, the Phoenix Suns
have coveted a big-time center.
In 1969, they lost the coin flip with Milwaukee for Lew Alcindor, now known as
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and chose Neal Walk at No. 2. The closest they came was
Alvan Adams, an All-Star on some very good teams. Shaquille O'Neal made a cameo
appearance late in his career.
But a big, young franchise center to build around eluded them --- until now.
With the first overall pick in the draft for the first time in franchise
history, the Suns believe they have their man in 7-foot-1, 250-pound Deandre
Ayton, whose size, athleticism and multiple skills made him the obvious No 1
overall pick Thursday night.
There was a big cheer from the crowd gathered at Talking Stick Resort Arena for
a party to celebrate the highest pick in franchise history. They've chosen
second overall twice.
"Having my name called to be the first pick for the Phoenix Suns was
mind-blowing," Ayton said. "Having all the confidence and leading up to that
point when I saw (NBA Commissioner) Adam Silver came out, I was just waiting
for my name, and when he called it, my mind went blank. ... and I saw the
reaction on my mom's face. It was just priceless."
The Suns also got the 10th overall pick, moving up six spots in a trade with
Philadelphia to get guard/forward Mikal Bridges of Villanova. Phoenix sent the
No. 16 pick, guard Zhaire Smith of Texas Tech, to the 76ers along with Miami's
unprotected first-round pick in 2021.
Ayton will join Devin Booker and Josh Jackson as the core of young talent that
the Suns hope will pull them out of their long decline. Phoenix has missed the
playoffs the last eight seasons and their 21-61 record last season was the
worst in the NBA and second-worst in franchise history.
"The team in general is a very young and hungry team," Ayton said. "We just
have to stick together, get a great chemistry and start a winning legacy in
In Brooklyn for the announcement, Ayton wore a sports jacket with an array of
colors on the inside lining.
"There's a few flags in there," Ayton said. "My dad is from Nigeria, my mom is
Jamaican and Bahamian, so I'm helping all those countries in one. I'm not just
a Bahamian. I'm Nigerian and Jamaican. So I just want to let the world know
Ayton was born in the Bahamas but left at age 12, a basketball prodigy who
stayed in several Southern California homes and played with various basketball
programs, including a season as a teammate of Marvin Bagley III at Hillcrest
Prep in Phoenix.
Ayton, a month shy of his 20th birthday, was the Pac-12 player of the year at
Arizona last season, averaging 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. But the
Wildcats made an early exit in the NCAA Tournament, losing to Buffalo. Ayton
also had to tune out the noise from a federal investigation that ensnared an
Arizona assistant coach.
But he emerged above the rest in the pre-draft process.
Ayton worked out for only one team, the Suns, and turned on the charm with the
Don't worry, Ayton assured everyone that day, "I know I'm going No. 1."
Of course, he was right.
The 6-foot-7 Bridges is a bonus, a third-team All-American and a member of the
2018 all-Final Four team. When the 76ers drafted him, it looked like a
feel-good hometown story since he's from Philadelphia and his mother Tyneeha
Rivers was vice president for human resources for the 76ers.
Bridges even appeared at a news conference to talk about staying in
Someone finally pulled him aside and let him know he'd been traded. And Bridges
was bound for the desert.
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball