Ayton was the consensus number one pick coming into the draft.
He was by far the most dominant player in college basketball that season and there were no other big men that could stop him.
— Bandman Highlights (@Bmanhighlights) February 25, 2018
Coming into the draft, the Suns were dead in the middle of a near decade-long rebuild.
The only major piece they had to build around was their shooting guard, Devin Booker.
Booker is a very ball-dominant player who needs the ball in his hands to be a productive player.
As a result of this, in every season besides his rookie year, Booker has averaged 18 shots or more per game.
As the Suns were building around Booker as their franchise player, they would have to select a player who could be a great off-ball player to join him.
Ayton fit the bill exactly.
It gave the Suns a big man who can pull down rebounds from Booker’s misses along with giving the Suns extra possessions with offensive rebounds.
Ayton also gave the Suns an elite interior defender who can protect the basket and limit easy baskets.
Lastly, Ayton is a reliable scorer when he needs to be and is able to step up in big moments.
This was proven in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
In his Finals debut, Ayton finished the game with 22 points, 19 rebounds, and did this all while shooting 80 percent from the field.
Deandre Ayton (22 PTS, 19 REB, 80% FG) is the 2nd player in NBA history to record 20+ PTS and 15+ REB on 80+ % shooting in their Finals debut 😤
He joins Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (31 PTS, 17 REB, 81.3% FG) in 1971. pic.twitter.com/P9ElwHZQEn
— NBA UK (@NBAUK) July 7, 2021
There are two players who could have feasibly been selected before Ayton who ended up having a better career than him up to this point.
Trae Young is one of the best offensive players in the league.
He is not only one of the best young scorers in the NBA, but he is also an elite playmaker who creates shots for teammates.
However, he would be an awful fit on the Suns and a much worse addition to the team than Ayton.
Young is a player who must have a roster catered to him to succeed.
This features players who do not need the ball in their hands and elite defenders.
Phoenix’s young pieces at the time would not have facilitated Young to grow into the player he is today.
He would have been playing second fiddle to Booker.
This likely would have led to the two fighting over the ball and who took shots.
Along with this, Young is an awful defender.
While a backcourt of he and Booker would be amazing offensively, they would be near the worst in the league defensively.
Luka Doncic has a solid argument as to why he could have been a better fit than Ayton.
However, he would have ran into many of the same problems Young would have.
While Doncic is capable of playing better defense than Young and is a better defender, he is still very ball-dominant.
Since entering the league, Doncic averages a usage rate of 34.3 percent and this number will continue to rise.
This simply would not be possible if he was forced to share the ball with Booker.
In Dallas, Luka is able to do almost anything he wants.
However, with Booker already being on the team in Phoenix, it is likely that Doncic would have been forced into a second role and his growth as a player would have been greatly stunted.
Ayton’s skillset allows him to play to his full potential without limiting other players on the roster.
As a result of this, he is by far the best fit for Phoenix from the 2018 NBA Draft.