By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
Following his pre-draft workout with the Phoenix Suns, Deandre Ayton is confident that he has shown the franchise enough to solidify his position as the top overall pick in this month's NBA Draft.
The Suns hosted Ayton's first media availability of the draft process following his workout yesterday at the Al McCoy Media Center in Phoenix, Arizona.
"I'm the best competitor in this draft. I'm not saying I'm the best player, I'm saying I'm the best competitor. This is my one and only workout. I know I'm going number one." Nobody told me (I'll go first)," Ayton said. "That's just me. I think I deserve that. I've worked hard…I want to be the best two-way player coming into the league."
The Suns hold the No.1 pick in the draft, June 21 at the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Ayton finished his school years at Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix and went on to attend the University of Arizona for a single season. The opportunity to begin his professional career in the state led many pundits to believe the Suns will take advantage and select Ayton.
"I just want to hear my name called number one. I have a whole country on my back that I'm representing and I just want to fulfil that achievement," he said. "Most of my family is already here in Phoenix and we made this home since I came here for high school. This is like a second home so we just feel welcomed and I would be blessed if I became the number one pick and could stay here."
Ayton called his only pre-draft workout, after skipping last month's combine, a learning experience.
"The workout was pretty intense, I learned a lot. The big key out of it was versatility. Basically, a lot of switches, you know in the league there's a lot of small ball play and we did a lot of switches guarding small guards in one-on-one situations so I learned a lot from that."
Suns general manager Ryan McDonough said the connection to the state serves as a benefit in the evaluation process.
"We had a phenomenal workout [with Deandre]…It's everything we expected. It's a big day for the franchise in terms of having the number one pick and working out Deandre Ayton for the number one pick," he said.
"We take that obviously as a compliment, he has a lot of strong ties to this area. He's been working out here, he's been training here. The fact that he wants to be here, that's great."
Ayton is considered a consensus top overall pick by every reputable scouting service in the projection business.
The Phoenix Suns landed the number one pick and went into the lottery with the best percentage of doing so at 25 per cent.
Ayton mentioned his excitement at pairing with Suns star guard Devin Booker and said he patterns his game after several NBA legends.
"We can be Shaq and Kobe 2.0, we can really make something happen in Phoenix, have a spark and start a winning legacy here," Ayton said.
"[I pattern my game after] Kevin Garnett, his intensity on both ends of the floor how he changed the game…how he's so vocal with his teammates. Hakeem Olajuwon, his footwork down low, I learned a lot of stuff from those guys."
The second overall pick went to the Sacramento Kings, who had just a 5.3 per cent chance of landing the top overall pick.
The Suns hired Igor Kokoskov as its head coach in the offseason, leading the speculation that the team could select 19-year old Slovenian wing Luka Doncic with the top overall pick.
Kokoskov coached Doncic to a Eurobasket title with the Slovenian national team last summer. If the Suns draft Doncic, it would allow the possibility of the Kings to select Ayton at No.2 and pair him alongside Hield for the foreseeable future.
During his lone season at Arizona, 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 and Associated Press First Team All-American.
He was also the First Team All-American from the NABC, USBWA and Sporting News, Pac-12 Conference Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year and Most Outstanding Player of the conference tournament in the same season.