For the first time in franchise history, the Phoenix Suns landed the number one overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft Lottery. While most of the league is aging relentlessly, the Suns are a fountain of youth, seemingly getting younger by the day. Here is our Phoenix Suns 2018 team preview and draft grades.
Selecting Arizona Wildcats’ forward Deandre Ayton, just 19 years old until the end of July, with the first overall pick only adds to their youth movement.
Their next three picks were used on Villanova’s Mikal Bridges, 21, France’s Elie Okobo, 20, and the eldest of the four draft picks, George King, at 24 years of age. The projected roster for the team is about 24 years old, youngest in the NBA.
The team recently locked up their franchise player in guard Devin Booker, signing him to a five year, $158 million max extension. This keeps Booker in Phoenix long enough to get these young draft picks moving in the direction of being part of a contending team. Booker is sort of out of the national spotlight, playing the majority of his games later at night for most NBA fans. Make no mistake about it though, he is the real deal. He has a lot of maturing to do with his on-court game, but he is still just 21 years old, already having played three NBA seasons.
The NBA’s Western Conference is absolutely loaded. It got even better already with LeBron James choosing to play for the Los Angeles Lakers. This is not a team assembled to win right now. I would say they are about four years or so away, depending on the development of their young players, and their ability to consistently draft well in upcoming drafts. They acquired NBA veteran guard Trevor Ariza in free agency. This will help with the three-point shooting, as well as mentoring in the locker room.
That said, they are about as athletic as a team can get, and will be a very fun team to watch play. New head coach Igor Kokoskov, the first European-born NBA head coach, is used to handling young talent. He was with the Suns from 2008-2013 as an assistant coach, so he is a familiar face around town. A native of Serbia, he coached the Slovenian National team to a gold medal at FIBA Eurobasket 2017.
Deandre Ayton, Round 1, Pick 1
Ayton was the hands down best player in this draft class. That doesn’t mean he will turn out to have the best NBA career, but he was the safest selection to have to possibly achieve greatness. Some call him Shaq with a shot. His game in college is reminiscent of a mix of Joel Embiid and Clint Capela. When you land the number one overall pick, take the best player available. It’s not the time to get cute, and the Suns made the right selection here.
Mikal Bridges, Round 1, Pick 10 (via 76ers)
This is where Phoenix really hits a home run. Bridges is a two-time NCAA Champion with Villanova, playing for arguably the best collegiate coach in Jay Wright. He knows what it takes to win, how to play defense, and how to contribute to a winning team. He is also 6’7”, scored almost 18 points a game last season at Nova, and shot 44% from beyond the arc. Bridges is going to be fun to watch develop and may end up being the steal of the draft.
Elie Okobo, Round 2, Pick 1
Here is an NBA-ready true point guard from France. He is an excellent decision-maker in the open court and has elite vision. He will be running the point for a team that will be in transition quite a bit and should make life easier for Booker, Ayton, and Bridges. Okobo knows the European game, which is pick and roll centered, exactly what new coach Kokoskov wants.
George King, Round 2, Pick 59
King is a talented 6’6” guard out of Colorado. He may develop into a quality NBA player, but for now, he is likely going to end up on the Suns’ G-League team until he is ready for the NBA.