DeAndre Ayton is projected to be a legitimate, dominating big man. Not only when he hits the college basketball hardwood next season, but the following year in the NBA, as he’s a presumed one-and-done talent.
This is great news for the Arizona Wildcats, who landed Ayton, the nation’s No. 1 recruit for the 2017 class, on Tuesday evening during a SportsCenter special announcement.
Trying to get through the thoughts on how one feels about a high school kid making his announcement on national TV, let’s focus on Ayton as a player.
A sincere seven-footer, scouts have ogled over him for a few years at this point. Said to have insane coordination for a player his size, one of Ayton’s many positive attributes is that he’s as fluid a big man to hit the college basketball scene in some time. A comparison to Joel Embiid — in that specific regard — can be made, as can his footwork.
The comparisons to peak-Embiid (rid yourselves of your memory of his current NBA happenstances) are aplenty. Agile, footwork well beyond where a big man should be with his post-maneuvers at this stage in his career, there are very few flaws in his game.
There’s even more good news.
According to those who follow grassroots basketball more closely than those who followed the clues on Lost, Ayton can actually shoot the ball. While some reports claim he is a more-than-competent three-point shooter — which is a believe-it-when-we-see-it situation — he did shoot 82.1 percent at the free-throw line during the Nike EYBL. And rare is the large human who can hit from the charity stripe at the regular.
He also fits the checklist in every other category that results in a player that will enter college basketball as hyped as any player before him.
- Plays above the rim.
- Good basketball IQ (for a player with his experience).
- Fair shot blocker, but does a shockingly good job defending passing lanes.
- Solid-to-great frame (250-pounds).
- Soft touch near the basket.
- An excellent passing big man.
Basically, this appears to be the type of talent that former Philadelphia 76ers general manager, Sam Hinkie, ended up dying for our sins for. A mixture of everything positive people loved about every four/five hybrid from the last few seasons, with just a sprinkle of hyperbolic love.
That last part is pretty important. Between now and the 2017-18 season, we are going to hear a lot about how awesome Ayton is — deservedly so, too. But let’s not pretend like he’s coming in as a finished product or without some flaws. Hell, some of his supposed positives might currently be a bit misleading, as he has yet to play the more strenuous schedule and stiffer competition that comes at the college level.
As for what his “known” flaws happen to be, they are apparently few.
He has a habit of settling for jumpers far too much, which is concerning considering he is such a force underneath, but something that can easily be fixed by some good coaching and more experience. Ayton also has a habit of getting out of the flow of some games, but this is another rather fixable issue, as he can be bored by his competition or just needs a solid kick right in the rear.
Regardless, this is a monumental get for Arizona. It goes without saying that the program would have been mostly fine without landing a recruit even this heralded, but a player of this projected impact only comes around only so often (or, if you’re super into recruiting, every single season).
No matter. Might as well jump on the hype train, pack your backpacks to get on the bandwagon, and drink a full can of Red Bull, because the DeAndre Ayton era is coming to Arizona. And if the crazy hype didn’t begin for him yet, it will start very soon, and it will only gain monumental momentum as we get closer to his debut that is still more than 13 months away.