Arizona Athletics

Bibby should have gone No. 1, but it looks like Ayton will in the NBA Draft

The more things change the more they stay the same. Or so it seems to me in this year’s NBA draft as it pertains to the University of Arizona.

Back in 1998 – almost to the day – Mike Bibby, Michael Dickerson and Miles Simon were prospects for the NBA draft, with Bibby being a near shoo-in for the No. 1 pick.

It would be silly if he wasn’t, right?

Of course, the Los Angles Clippers proved otherwise, botching yet another draft. (Read my reaction to the Clippers not taking Bibby here from a Tucson Citizen Column in 1998).

To Bibby, then a sophomore at UA and a year removed from helping the Wildcats win a national title, he didn’t feel slighted when the Clippers drafted Michael Olowokandi.

“It was a dream of mine to even play in the NBA,” Bibby told me this week. “I would have loved to go number 1, but everything happens for a reason. I was blessed to get drafted.”

Deandre Ayton celebrates Arizona’s Pac-12 tournament title (Pac-12 Network photo)

Fast forward to tomorrow and now it’s Deandre Ayton who might – very likely – become Arizona’s first No. 1 NBA draftee. That’s, of course, if the Phoenix Suns don’t screw it up.

Here’s hoping they don’t.

What will happen to Rawle Alkins and Allonzo Trier is anyone’s guess. Each of their NBA stocks has risen and fallen over the last two to three years it’s been amazing. Trier came in with so much promise and now might not even get drafted.

And Rawle, who tested the NBA draft last year but found he had no true position, is probably in the same boat, although he could go somewhere in the second round. My bet is he will – given his potential.
And the NBA is all about potential.

No one has more than 19-year-old Ayton, who had a stellar one-and-done season at UA.

“I look at the NBA as trying to figure out who they are going to pick from two to 60,” said Arizona coach Sean Miller when I asked him about the upcoming draft involving his players last month. “…there’s nobody like Deandre, nobody.”

Miller talked about Ayton’s intelligence, competitive spirit and his athletic ability being unmatched.
“Unreal hands and soft touch,” Miller said, “can play today’s NBA game.”

No player in my time covering Arizona basketball – 28 years – has there been a player ready for the NBA. Not Khalid Reeves, not Damon Stoudamire, not Derrick Williams. Maybe Lauri Markkanen but likely no one … especially after one year.

As for Alkins, Trier and Dusan Ristic, we will all see if they are ready. And if anyone takes a chance.
Miller said they should. Miller said they have “great chances” to make it. He went as far as saying he believes they will be NBA players “for a long time” specifically talking about Trier and Alkins.

“I believe Rawle and Allonzo in their own respective ways make their ways toward success in the NBA,” Miller said. “They do too many things well.”

In a trite but true way, Miller said “their best days are ahead of them” given that the NBA game may be better suited to their talents when compared the Miller-designed game that saw them play mostly in the half court and with two big men playing at the same time. In fact, Alkins said at his most recent workout with Indiana that he has been able to do more and show more in the workouts.

“Both guys have played in highly competitive games and have won a lot of games,” Miller said.

As did Dickerson and Simon back in the day. Dickerson eventually went No. 14 (Houston) and Simon 42nd (Orlando).

Twenty years later, Alkins and Trier can be so lucky to be in the same position. Whether they get drafted and stick in the NBA will be anyone’s guess. But the first step comes Thursday night.

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