NBA.com has released it annual Rookie Survey, and it seems other rookies think very highly of the new Phoenix Suns draftees.
Every year, NBA.com polls rookies with questions that mostly revolve around their own draft class. While it’s pretty easy to look back at past results and see they’re very rarely accurate, it’s still notable when players get acknowledged by their peers.
The survey’s first question is who will win the Rookie of the Year award. Deandre Ayton was tied for first place with 18 percent of the vote. Surprisingly, the player he was tied with was Collin Sexton. They each received double the votes of Luka Doncic and Kevin Knox, who were tied for third.
It’s worth noting that the incoming players have only correctly selected the Rookie of the Year once since the survey began (Kevin Durant, 2007). Also significant is that 18 percent is the lowest share of votes the first place player has ever received in the survey.
Ayton being chosen first makes sense since he went first overall, although the first player taken isn’t usually the consensus choice for the award amongst the rookies. Luka Doncic would likely be his biggest competition, but he didn’t play in college, so other rookies are less familiar with his game. Nonetheless, it’s nice to see Ayton get recognized for his play.
Mikal Bridges didn’t receive any votes despite being widely considered an NBA-ready player. Players drafted after him did receive votes, so it’s probable Bridges was overshadowed by Ayton.
For the question of who will have the best career, Wendell Carter Jr. took the cake with 13 percent of the vote. But Ayton and Bridges (along with three others) came in tied for fourth with seven percent.
After selecting Ayton first, the Suns would have to be a bit disappointed if he doesn’t have the best career out of anyone in the draft. But Bridges sliding in at fourth is higher than expected. Of course, it’s just the Rookie Survey, and Luka Doncic didn’t receive a single vote, so it can’t be taken too seriously. But the recognition is nice.
None of the Phoenix Suns four rookies received votes in the question of who was the biggest steal in the draft, which makes sense. Ayton can’t possibly be a steal since he went number one. Bridges at ten is just right. And Okobo is international, so he’s unlikely to garner votes amongst a crowd that mostly came from college in the United States.
Zhaire Smith, who was selected by Philadelphia with the 16th pick the Suns traded for Mikal Bridges, was voted most athletic. If the Suns had kept the pick, they likely would have selected Donte DiVincenzo, not Smith. DiVincenzo received votes in numerous categories throughout the survey, including best career, biggest steal, most athletic, and fifth place in best shooter.
Sticking with the category of most athletic, Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges were both listed under “others receiving votes.” Neither are thought to be elite athletes, but they’re certainly above average, and they use their athleticism well on the court. It’s nice to see other players take note.
The Suns didn’t have any rookies receiving votes in the best shooter category, which is a bit surprising. Mikal Bridges shot 43.5 percent from three last season, and he shot it well in the Summer League. Ayton’s also a good shooter for his size, but he doesn’t belong in the conversation of best shooter in his class. The omission of Bridges does seem strange, though.
In the category of best defender, Mikal Bridges came in at number four, and Deandre Ayton also received votes. Bridges enters the league with a reputation of being a strong defender, but Ayton being included on this list wasn’t necessarily expected. His defensive numbers weren’t great in college, but it’s possible that’s more related to scheme than ability. Clearly, his defense is respected amongst the other rookies.
Unsurprisingly, the Suns didn’t have anyone receive votes for best playmaker. Second round pick Jalen Brunson was second in voting, but coming off a college season where he won every meaningful player of the year award, Brunson isn’t an ordinary second rounder. Elie Okobo may have been deserving of some votes here, but again, international players tend to fare worse in this survey.
Finally, in the category of favorite NBA player, no Suns received votes. Hopefully that changes as the team gets better and sees more games on national television. Any rookie who chooses Devin Booker would get immediate respect in Phoenix.
Overall, Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges received plenty of recognition in the Rookie Survey. It’s nice to see the new Phoenix Suns pieces get respect from their peers. While the survey doesn’t mean much, it’s never a bad thing to be included on any of these lists.