Phoenix Suns’ Deandre Ayton dunks against the Dallas Mavericks during the second half of an NBA summer league basketball game on July 6 in Las Vegas.
By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
DEANDRE Ayton was recognised by his peers and by his new Suns teammates as one of the difference makers in the 2018-19 NBA rookie class.
Ayton, the former Arizona Wildcats centre selected No.1 overall by the Phoenix Suns, was considered one of two frontrunners for the Kia Rookie of the Year award in an NBA survey that polled the league's incoming rookie class.
Ayton got 18 per cent of the vote to equal the 18 per cent garnered by Cleveland Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton. Ayton also finished third in response to the question "Which rookie will have the best career?" with seven per cent.
Suns franchise guard, Devin Booker, who recently signed a five-year $158 million contract, highlighted Ayton as one of the reasons for the team's turnaround this season.
"We're in the best shape we've been in since I've been a part of the franchise. With the trades we've made, and with Deandre," he said in an interview with Bill Reiter of CBS Sports. "He had an unbelievable summer league, playing the right way, not forcing it, was still dominating on both sides of the floor. He'll be the down force threat we need to open up space for everybody else."
Ayton's first impression on the NBA landscape produced his first league-wide award when he was named to the 2018 All-NBA Summer League Second Team.
Ayton led the team with 14.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and one blocked shot per game while shooting 59.5 per cent from the field as he was one of just seven players in the Las Vegas Summer League to average a double-double.
When the Suns selected Ayton with the first overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, it represented an historic moment for Ayton, the franchise and The Bahamas.
With Ayton's selection, The Bahamas joined the United States, Canada, Nigeria and Australia as the only countries with multiple No.1 overall NBA Draft picks. It also represented the first No.1 pick made by the Suns in franchise history and the first No.1 pick from the University of Arizona.
He was the ninth consecutive college freshman to be selected with the first overall pick.
During his lone season at Arizona, Ayton led the NCAA with 24 double-doubles, a PAC-12 freshman record. He averaged 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds per game while shooting 61.6 per cent from the field, and was "Karl Malone Power Forward" of the year consensus First Team All-American.
The Suns will open the NBA preseason against Buddy Hield and the Sacramento Kings at Talking Stick Resort and Arena on October 1.
Phoenix will tip off ESPN's regular season coverage with a matchup against the Dallas Mavericks at 10:30pm on October 17.
The game will feature Ayton against the No.3 overall pick in the draft, Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, in their regular season debuts. The NBA regular season tips off on October 16.