Rumors are beginning to swirl around the NBA Draft, just as they always do. And, as always, a lot of trades will actually be made on draft night.
Yet the top 3-6 picks almost never get swapped outside each other. The reason teams avoid giving up Top 5 picks is that this is a league of stars, and the stars nearly always come out of the top 3-6 picks in a draft. Rarely, though it does happen, but rarely is a star born after they join the NBA.
Yet this year, more than most years, some of the worst teams are ones who absolutely hate being some of the league's worst, so it's quite possible they will dangle their primo pick for a high level veteran starter who can help them sniff the playoffs sooner. The Los Angeles Lakers (#2 overall), New York Knicks (#4) and Sacramento Kings (#6) all might rather have a ready-to-go semi-star than could-be-ready-someday star.
Trading Eric Bledsoe
While Denver dangles Ty Lawson, and other teams dangle their semi-stars, it's the Phoenix Suns who just may have the most desirable young veteran available in trade for a Top 5 pick.
Rumors have already circulated that the New York Knicks would rather have Eric Bledsoe and another asset or two in exchange for the #4 overall pick. This could just be a rumor of the media, but the logic is there for the scenario to play out on draft night as predicted.
The Knicks have been working out late-lottery picks. And their president, Phil Jackson, has been saying for a year he doesn't want to rebuild through the draft. In the East, all you need is a good offseason to get into the playoffs, so it just might be that Phil wants to make a splash to reach the playoffs next year. A top 5 pick won't guarantee that as much as Eric Bledsoe would.
Additionally, the triangle offense would help someone like Bledsoe be successful as the jack-of-all-trades. The best triangle teams in history had average distributors at the point because the offense often runs through the big or the shooting guard as much as the point.
The Kings at #6 have been drafting in the 6-10 range for a about a decade now and getting nowhere with it. It's likely they'd prefer a ready-made point guard in Bledsoe, who is great friends with Boogie already, in exchange for their #6 overall pick.
The Lakers, at #2 overall, seem interested in a trading a tiny bit but not likely outside the Top 5 (or 6). They, just like the Knicks, have zero assets beyond this year's pick. It's quite possible the Lakers would move down a skoch from #2 to pick up another asset for the future. They (rumor) have already decided to move on from Jordan Hill this summer to add even more money to their free agent coffers. They want to make a splash. Maybe Bledsoe could be that splash?
You can scratch off Minnesota (Town really IS that good), Philadelphia (likely to draft anyone who gets injured in the next few days) and Orlando. They all covet these high picks and haven't gotten sick of drafting them yet.
Should the Suns do it?
I say yes. The Suns need a star. If they identify an available player at #2, #4 or #6 who they think will become an All-Star in the near future, then I say go for it. Trade Eric Bledsoe to them. Trade the #13 pick. Trade anything outside the Top 10 in future drafts.
You need stars to win the big games in this league. The Suns have a lot of good players. Eric Bledsoe is a good player. Brandon Knight is a good player. Markieff Morris is a good player. The list goes on. This year's #13 will be another good player.
The Suns need a great player, and they need to roll the dice anywhere they can to get that player. There aren't any great players available in free agency, so stop looking there. A great player is only getting picked up in the draft or via trade, or both.
The Suns need to trade into the Top 5 or 6 to get that great player. No matter what it costs. What's left will STILL be a team full of good players, no matter how many assets are sacrificed to get into the Top 5.
Of course, if you can get Karl Anthony Towns you do it. But he won't be available so don't spend time on him. Jahlil Okafor would provide the scoring the Suns desperately need around the rim. He's a taker. In fact, as long as he's still on the board you can forget about acquiring the pick to take him. The Lakers and Knicks would snap up Okafor in a second.
It's possible that D'Angelo Russell is also in that unavailable group. Would you trade your pick if he were still on the board? He's drawing comparisons to James Harden lately, in that he can score on anyone but doesn't really love the defensive side of the ball. Yet the kid is still 18. Who at 18 that could score at will has ever loved defense? If the Suns could acquire a pick and Russell is still on the board, you take him as quickly as possible.
Those three are easy.
Who scares me
It's the next group of guys that are likely a 50/50 proposition to make it big in the NBA. In fact, there might be a bust or two among Kristaps Porzingis, Justise Winslow and Emmanuel Mudiay.
Porzingis has great size (7'1") and a defined position (PF) that the Suns desperately need. He also can score beautifully and if he reaches his potential he could be the star the Suns have needed for half a decade. But Porzingis might be awful defensively, and might avoid contact in the NBA. And what if he can't connect on his shot? What if he's Darko Milicic(taken #2 overall), or Nikoloz Tskitishvili (taken #5 overall) or any number of international men of mystery who flopped in the NBA.
Taking Emmanuel Mudiay would be like taking Eric Bledsoe and putting him on a stretch machine to make him grow 4 inches. Mudiay is a great physical specimen who appears to have all the tools to make it in the NBA, including great size for the PG position, except that he can't shoot straight and isn't a pure, pure point guard. He's been likened to Tyreke Evans, which is both good and bad. Feels like a treadmill move to replace Bledsoe with Mudiay.
The other options as Top 6 picks include wing players Justise Winslow and Mario Hezonja. Both look to be good players who have a chance to be great but probably will turn out to be... good.
Taking Winslow would be negating the acquisition of T.J. Warren last year. Both are different players, but both profile at the exact same NBA position of small forward. Winslow might be better than Warren, but now you've punted on the 2014 draft (unless BB Gun turns out great some day).
Taking Hezonja would be fun. Putting him next to Brandon Knight would make the Suns nice shooting team once again. He supposedly plays defense as well as shooting lights out. And he'd be the great personality the Suns have been missing for a few years. But is he a difference maker? Is he better than a "good" player?
It's quite possible that Hezonja is my favorite option outside the Top 3 for the Suns. But I'm not sure he moves the needle going forward. Still, a pick like Hezonja would up the star power of the Suns very quickly, whether he works out immediately or not.
Move up anyway
The Suns need a star. Moving into the Top 4 just might secure that star, and if the draft board falls the Suns' way they should jump at any chance to move into that range.
Moving into the 6th or 8th position is a lot dicier. Ask Sacramento how difference-making their picks have been in recent years. They hit on DeMarcus Cousins but none of their other Top 10 picks have been stars.
Yet, the Suns have even dimmer prospects with yet another #13 pick. Markieff Morris is actually a "hit" in that range, and any player the Suns take at #13 would be lucky to have a career arc in Keef's mold.
Move up, Suns.