Suns Select Deandre Ayton with First Overall Pick of 2018 NBA Draft

Selecting No. 1 overall for the first time in franchise history, the Phoenix Suns today selected University of Arizona center Deandre Ayton with the first pick in the first round of the 2018 NBA Draft in New York. 

“This is a historic day for the Phoenix Suns franchise,” said General Manager Ryan McDonough. “Deandre is a special player and we are thrilled to welcome him home to Phoenix. It is extremely rare for a player with his size, length and athleticism to be able to not only finish around the rim but also step away from the basket and make shots. At 7-1 and exceptionally strong, he is uniquely gifted with his hand-eye coordination and footwork. In addition, he has strong ties to this area and we can’t wait to see him in a Suns uniform.”

“It means a lot to me because you know the fans out there are amazing—they’re the best fans in the world,” said Ayton, shortly after being selected on ESPN’s broadcast of the Draft. “I’m really happy to be a part of the Phoenix Suns now and we can really start a winning legacy with Devin Booker and Josh Jackson and all those other guys. We’re a young team and we’re ready. I’m just happy to be a Phoenix Sun.”

Having played collegiately at Arizona and in high school at Phoenix’s Hillcrest Prep, Ayton is the first No. 1 overall pick in NBA history to be selected by a team in the same state where he played in both college and high school. He is the first Arizona Wildcat to be taken with the No. 1 pick of the NBA Draft and is also the first No. 1 pick to have played high school ball in Arizona. Ayton is the 13th player born outside the United States to be drafted first overall and the second from the Bahamas, joining Mychal Thompson by Portland in 1978.  

A rare combination of size and skill, the 7-1, 250-pound center possesses uncommon athleticism, footwork and shooting touch for a player with his length and strength. During his one season in Tucson, the 19-year-old was a Consensus First Team All-America selection and won the 2018 Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award. Ayton averaged 20.1 points on 61.2 percent shooting, 11.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks for Arizona, becoming the first to win Pac-12 Player of the Year, Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and Pac-12 Tournament Most Outstanding Player honors in the same season. 

He set a Wildcats record and Pac-12 freshman record with 24 double-doubles, and became just the sixth freshman nationally in the past 25 years to average at least 20 points and 10 rebounds (two of the others were Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony). Ayton set Arizona freshman season records in points (704), rebounds (405), blocks (66) and field goal percentage (.612) while also being named to the Pac-12 All-Defensive Team.

Ayton played the final two seasons of his high school career at Phoenix’s Hillcrest Prep. As a senior in 2016-17, he led the Bruins to a 33-6 record and The Grind Session National Championship, averaging 26 points, 15 rebounds and 3.5 blocks. Among his many honors, he was a McDonald’s All-American, Naismith Trophy High School All-American, USA TODAY ALL-USA First Team selection, and played in the Jordan Brand Classic and Nike Hoop Summit. 

Born and raised in Nassau, Bahamas, Ayton began seriously pursing basketball at age 12 after attending the Jeff Rodgers Basketball Camp, the Bahamas’ premier summer basketball program. Ayton flashed his immense potential and later that summer moved to San Diego to attend Balboa City School. He would later transfer to Hillcrest Prep and move to Phoenix to live with his family. 

The Suns, drafting for the 51st time this year, had never before picked higher than second overall, most recently selecting Armen Gilliam with the No. 2 pick of the 1987 NBA Draft. The Suns also used the second overall pick to select Neal Walk in 1969, given the No. 2 pick on March 19, 1969, after losing a coin flip with Milwaukee to determine which team received the No. 1 pick and, eventually, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

The list of players selected first overall features some of the most legendary names in NBA history, including Abdul-Jabbar, LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon. All-time, 11 first overall picks have become NBA MVP award winners and 17 are Hall of Famers, not counting several more who are certain to be inducted once eligible. In the Lottery Era (since 1985), nearly half of the players to be selected No. 1 have gone on to win NBA Rookie of the Year and 22 have become All-Stars at some point in their careers with a combined 136 All-Star appearances. 

In Arizona professional sports history, the Phoenix Mercury have drafted first overall on three occasions and those three No. 1 picks have directly contributed to the team’s three WNBA Championships: Diana Taurasi, the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer, was taken first overall in 2004 and has won three titles with the Mercury; the first pick in 2007 was used to acquire Tangela Smith who helped the Mercury win titles in 2007 and 2009; and Brittney Griner was taken first overall in 2013, helping the Mercury to the title in 2014. The Arizona Diamondbacks have twice selected first overall in MLB’s draft, taking Justin Upton in 2005 and Dansby Swanson in 2015. Neither the Arizona Cardinals nor Arizona Coyotes have selected first overall in the NFL Draft nor NHL Draft since the franchises moved to the state.  

The Suns were awarded the No. 1 overall pick for the first time in franchise history after winning the 2018 NBA Draft Lottery on May 15 in Chicago. The Suns had a 25.0 percent probability of winning the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, highest of any team participating in the Lottery.

The Suns’ draft night continues as the team owns three more selections in the 2018 NBA Draft. In addition to the No. 1 overall pick, the Suns possess the No. 16 (via Miami), No. 31 and No. 59 (via Toronto) selections.

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