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#pounditMonday, November 29, 2021

Alleged reason why Suns passed on Luka Doncic revealed

Luka Doncic bringing the ball up the floor

The Phoenix Suns made the NBA Finals last season, but their fans probably still wonder what could have been if the team drafted Luka Doncic in 2018.

ESPN’s Tim MacMahon said recently on “The Hoop Collective” podcast that Suns owner Robert Sarver was the one behind the decision to take Deandre Ayton over Doncic.

“I’ve been told by multiple people who were with the Phoenix organization that [picking Ayton] was a total Robert Sarver move,” said MacMahon. “It sure wasn’t [then-Suns coach] Igor [Kokoskov]. He wanted them obviously to get Luka, and to put a big offer on the table for Clint Capela.”

MacMahon’s co-host, Brian Windhorst, added that Ayton attended college at the University of Arizona, where Sarver is “a proud alum.”

Kokoskov, who is now an assistant coach for Doncic’s Dallas Mavericks, was certainly no stranger to Doncic’s talent. He coached Doncic on the Slovenian national team, winning the EuroBasket title in 2017 with a teenage Doncic.

The Ayton pick worked out to an extent for Phoenix, as he was indispensable to their run to the 2021 Finals. But that run was largely viewed as a one-year blip that the Suns took advantage of thanks to a profusion of injuries in the West. Passing on Ayton, a future potential All-Star, to draft Doncic, a future potential MVP, might have given them a more sustainable championship window. Ironically enough, the Suns themselves do not even think that Ayton is a truly elite player, which is causing friction in their contract negotiations right now.

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