Star center Deandre Ayton selected first overall by Suns

Deandre Ayton's new NBA home won't be too far from his college one.

Ayton, the 7-foot center who starred as a freshman at Arizona, was selected with the first overall pick by the Phoenix Suns, who kicked off the NBA draft at Barclays Center in New York with a selection that was widely expected entering Thursday night.

The Suns never before had selected first overall in the draft, and with Ayton now on board, they hope not to do so again in the near future.

Ayton, who turns 20 in July, starred in his one year at Arizona, where he was named the Pac-12 Player of the Year and the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, while averaging 20.1 points, 11.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks and shooting 61.2 percent from the field. His 24 double-doubles tied for the second-most ever by a freshman in Division I history.

Phoenix needs the help on both ends of the floor. It was one of just two teams in the previous 20 seasons to finish last in both offensive and defensive efficiency, joining the historically bad 2011-12 Bobcats (worst win percentage in NBA history, .106).

Ayton won't have to get adjusted to his new zip code.

Born in the Bahamas, he moved to the Phoenix area during high school and said most of his family now lives there. The University of Arizona is just a couple of hours down Interstate 10.

His only pre-draft workout was with the Suns, and afterward, he expressed confidence in his standing.

"I know I'm going No. 1," Ayton told reporters.

The Suns, meanwhile, reportedly told Ayton he was their pick weeks ago.

Phoenix finished 2017-18 an NBA-worst 21-61, but it has young talent in high-scoring guard Devin Booker and 21-year-old Josh Jackson, the fourth overall pick last year.

With Ayton, the Suns get a player who possesses elite physical traits, a developing inside-out skill set and already one of the most athletic centers in the league. He'll need to improve defensively but has all the tools to be a quality rim protector given time. Phoenix also owns the No. 16 pick on Thursday night.

This marks the first time Arizona has had a player selected No. 1 overall.

Ayton's tenure with the Wildcats wasn't without controversy.

In February, ESPN's Mark Schlabach reported that FBI wiretaps intercepted phone conversations between Arizona coach Sean Miller and Christian Dawkins, an employee for ASM Sports agent Andy Miller. According to sources familiar with the government's evidence, Sean Miller and Dawkins discussed paying $100,000 to ensure Ayton would sign with the Wildcats. Attorney Lynden B. Rose, who represents the Ayton family, denied the allegations and urged the FBI to clear Ayton's name. Sean Miller also denied ESPN's report about the alleged pay-to-play conversation.