Those frequent pre-draft comparisons often lead to lasting personal rivalries, each player still trying to one-up the other throughout their careers.
But that might not be the case with Ayton (whom the Suns drafted No. 1) and Doncic (who went No. 3, to the Mavericks via the Hawks) – at least from Doncic’s perspective.
Doncic, via Chris Forsberg of ESPN:
I would say [Phoenix center Deandre] Ayton. He was the No. 1 pick. He’s tall, he’s strong, he can do so many things.
Maybe Doncic thought he couldn’t choose himself. After all, Forsberg also wrote:
Ask any member of the 2018 NBA draft class who’s going to win Rookie of the Year, and the response is almost universal: “Can I pick myself?”
But Marvin Bagley III (whom the Kings picked No. 2) was quoted talking through the possibility of picking himself before settling on teammate Harry Giles. Doncic isn’t quoted saying anything similar about himself.
Either way, it’s a little surprising to see Doncic pick Ayton. So much for Doncic trying to convince people he’s better than Ayton.
Ayton is my pick, too. He’s physically ready for the NBA and should post scoring and rebounding numbers that impress voters. His biggest deficiency – defensive awareness – tends to get overlooked with this award.
I also wouldn’t rule out Doncic, who’s so skilled and polished already. But I’m concerned about NBA athleticism shocking his system.