Rookie rundown from NBA preseason: Ayton, Bagley III, Dončić

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After months of no NBA basketball, preseason is in full swing and I’m ready to overreact.

To start, let’s see how the NBA’s top three draft picks from this year’s class are doing so far.

  1. Deandre Ayton

If Shaq could shoot free throws, how good would he have been?

Probably not as good as Deandre Ayton.

In his first four preseason games, the 20-year-old Sun averaged 21 points, 11 boards, 2.5 blocks, and a steal on an eye-popping 59 percent shooting from the field and 78 percent (!) from the line.

Ayton has looked dominant inside, and if his free-throw shooting can translate to some shots outside the arc, the 7’1” monster will be a threat from everywhere on the court.

Aside from his gaudy numbers, Ayton has also flashed defensive potential, which he was knocked for during his one year at Arizona. He had all the athleticism, quickness and length to be absolutely dominant on that side of the floor, too, but throughout the season, experts could always pick out times during games when he seemed lost.

But on the stage that really matters, Ayton has shut down his critics with impressive block and steal numbers.

With all his absurd athleticism, size and shooting ability, the question isn’t if Deandre Ayton can handle the league, but if the league can handle Deandre Ayton.

  1. Marvin Bagley III

Marvin Bagley III has seen frankly too much hate leading into this NBA season.

Reports of his inability to defend and lack of a jump shot made it seem like the perfect storm for a classic bust, but I haven’t seen many busts who can average 20 points and 11 rebounds on 61 percent shooting in college. As an 18-year-old.

At 6’11” with a 7’1” wingspan, the Sacramento Kings rookie has the physical tools to match up with anyone in the NBA and an extremely high motor to go with it. Couple that with athleticism that mirrors that of Ayton, and Bagley possesses an extremely intriguing skill set as a forward.

But with all the hype and all the hate, so far in the preseason, Bagley has been OK.

Not bad, not great — just OK.

Bagley’s best game this preseason came against the (mostly) centerless Lakers, as he posted 19 points and 10 boards in 32 minutes of action.

He still lacks the instincts to truly protect the rim as a big and the jump shot to play on the perimeter as a wing, but Bagley’s motor, speed and strength should be more than enough this season to prove that he belongs in the NBA.

  1. Luka Dončić

Drafted two spots behind Ayton, Luke Dončić is like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

The Dallas Mavericks gave up two potential lottery picks to pick up the EuroLeague MVP, but nobody in the Mavs organization should be losing any sleep over that decision.

So far in the preseason, Dončić has played everywhere from point guard to the four position, and it’s his unique versatility that’s getting fans excited. With subpar athleticism being his main weakness heading into the draft, Luka’s amazing handle and vision have been his saving graces.

Watch Luka break down his man on one end, grab a steal on the other end and then toss a beautiful outlet pass to teammate Dennis Smith Jr.

Dončić has shown the ability to be a very, very special player, showcasing his elite skills on the offensive end and high IQ on the defensive side.

As a 6’7” point forward, Dončić has a place on just about any NBA team, and the Mavs were smart to grab him while they could.

Harshil Desai writes for Bear Bytes, the Daily Californian’s sports blog. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @harshdailycal.