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Arizona landed the biggest recruit in program history Tuesday night when DeAndre Ayton surprisingly picked Sean Miller’s team over Kentucky and Kansas.

Ayton is the top-ranked prospect in the class of 2017 and a good bet to go No. 1 in the 2018 NBA Draft. His ceiling is considered unlimited, and if you’ve been following him at all, you’ve likely heard comparisons to Kevin Garnett.

Ayton even made the comparison during his on-air commitment Tuesday.

This, of course, is a dangerous game, talking about an 18-year-old kid who’s never played a single second of college basketball in the same breath as one of the 30 greatest players in NBA history (many have drawn the same parallel between Garnett and Duke freshman Harry Giles).

It’s important to note that nobody — or at least nobody with sensible perspective — is projecting Ayton to have a similar career as Garnett, a 15-time all-star and surefire Hall of Famer who is currently 17th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, not to mention the man who reignited the prep-to-pros movement when he went No. 5 overall to the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1995. There’s just no way you can ask Ayton, or anyone, to replicate that level of impact or those numbers or anything in their orbit.

But stylistically — the physical tools, tendencies, similitude — there is merit. Much like Garnett, Ayton, who stands 7-feet to Garnett’s 6-11, is a modern-style center (i.e. a “big man” more than a “center”) who can do so many things so well. At his last weigh-in, Ayton was 243 pounds, per Draft Express. Garnett is 240 pounds. Garnett didn’t go to college; Ayton committed to a college, but some still wonder if his transcript will meet NCAA specifications when he gets to Arizona next summer.

aytongarnett.jpgAyton’s biggest question is his consistency with on-court work ethic. Nike/USATSI

On the court, Ayton is not the intimidating, fiery presence Garnett has always been, while Garnett’s not the long-range shooter Ayton already has proven himself to be (albeit on a lower level). Ayton is more gangly, but he’s also got a really good handle. I’ve seen him put the ball on the deck from the 3-point line and finish at the rim against Division I talent.

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Ayton’s natural athletic ability isn’t quite at Garnett-peak level, but it’s close. And Ayton’s defensive ability combined with his solid post game make for a player who’s going to have NBA scouts salivating. When watching Ayton play, his movement and body type look closer to an unripe, young Tim Duncan. I think that’s actually a better player-to-player comp, if we’re going to be injecting NBA legends into Ayton’s case file.

The prospect seems bust-proof at the college level. The comparison game is dangerous, but fans want ideas about these five-star prospects because they haven’t seen much of them, save for YouTube mixtapes, and so we plant these ideals into fans’ heads. Sometimes they’re right, other times they become laughably misinterpreted.

I don’t expect Ayton to have a career in the NBA that approaches Garnett. But he’s almost certainly going to be a top-three NBA pick in 2018, and with that will come big calculations of a long-term, successful NBA career. Sean Miller continues his recruiting tear with this acquisition. If anything, you have to like Ayton’s confidence. He’s not yet all-in on the NBA. Check out the Photoshop art he tweeted after picking Arizona.

The kid could bring Miller his first national title, which would likely make Ayton college basketball’s best big man since Anthony Davis. That could happen, even without the title.


Source: CBS Sports Headlines / DeAndre Ayton’s best comp is between Garnett and a young Tim Duncan