The Phoenix Suns announced the team’s four 2018 draft picks: Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, Elie Okobo and George King. General manager Ryan McDonough, coach Igor Kokoskov and vice president of basketball operations James Jones joined the group in the team’s introductory press conference on Friday.
Here are a few of the highlights:
One of the most intriguing storylines was when Villanova foward Mikal Bridges was selected by the Philadelphia 76ers, where his mother is an employee. A hometown kid gets to play for the team he loves. Then, he got traded. Bridges recaps his night:
“I was doing some media stuff, getting some nice pictures and then I was walking to sit down and wait,” Bridges said. “Somebody kind of mumbled, ‘Just be prepared you might get traded.’ And I was like ‘what did you say?'”
“I sat there and I watched. It’s crazy, I just didn’t know. We talked to Donovan Mitchell and he told us he got traded, so you have to prepare for that, but I’m excited and I’m happy to be here.”
Bridges and Deandre Ayton have become close throughout the postseason process, and they described their relation ship on Friday:
“(We met at) all the awards we won in college, especially in (Los Angeles). We got the Hall of Fame awards and we just build up a relationship when going to events and going on the bus, meeting at the hotel, just being around each other all the time just cracking jokes to build that chemistry. He’s a cool guy, I respect his game, he respects mine.”
“It felt like I knew him for years, and it’s crazy. I never thought we would be on the same team. We never talked about ‘Oh we might be together,’ but it’s crazy right after I got traded, I was waiting to see him and he was hyped and I was hyped too.”
To be able to pull off the trade with the 76ers to acquire Bridges’ draft rights, the Suns had to trade pick #16 and Miami’s unprotected 2021 first round pick that was acquired when the Suns traded Goran Dragic. It could turn out that the Suns paid a tall price to essentially move up six picks if the Miami pick is a high one, but Suns general manager Ryan McDonough said a series of factors played into that decision:
“It’s unprotected, it could be a great pick. It could be a not very good pick. Miami historically has been a stable and well-run franchise from the top down. Starting with the Arison family and Pat Riley. I think they have one of the best young coaches in Eric Spoelstra. If you look at where they usually draft it’s in the teens to 20. They are in the Easter Conference, they are in a destination market. All of that factored into our decision making. They also have cap space in 2020. We weighed the pros and cons of trading it heavily and carefully and we were only going to put it in play if we had a chance to get a special player and that’s how we feel about Mikal.”
Pick #1 Deandre Ayton and pick #59 George King played each other three times last year when Arizona and Colorado squared off. The two teammates gave scouting reports on how to play against eachother:
“Try your best.”
I had to guard George most of the game. He’s a heavyweight, he’s a good shooter as well. He attacks the rim, and he can post up as well. He’s a big guard. He’s always on the offensive glass as well. He’s everywhere.
The top pick of the second round, French guard Elie Okobo, is one of the more intriguing picks in the NBA draft. The 20-year-old guard averaged 12.9 points, 4.8 assists and 2.7 steals per game this year in France’s LNB Pro A league. Suns head coach Igor Kokoskov shared his thoughts on the Suns’ newest guard.
“I love his game. Obviously, you watch the list of this class in the draft and also free agents, and he can be one of the elite point guards in this league and I think he’s crafty, he’s a great ball-handler. One thing that really, really kind of draws attention is how fast he improved and how fast his game changed in the last six months to last year so we’re just hoping that’s going to go up and we are going to help him become even better.
The Suns kick off their summer league schedule on July 6th against Dallas in Las Vegas.