Draft time is nearly here, and all predictions and prognostications will quickly fly out the window when the names start coming off the board. With that in mind, we here at Bright Side of the Sun will get our final two cents in before we all turn into pumpkins.
The Phoenix Suns will be taking their accustomed spot in the late lottery at no. 13 and will be picking no. 44 in the second round. Additionally, the Suns currently own all of their future draft picks, plus Cleveland's top-11 protected pick in 2016, Miami's top-8 protected pick in 2018 and Miami's unprotected pick in 2021. These might come into play if the Suns decide to make a move up or down the board on Thursday.
General Manager Ryan McDonough has established a interesting draft record during his tenure in Phoenix thus far, drafting Alex Len (5), Archie Goodwin (29), and Alex Oriakhi (57) in 2013, and T.J. Warren (14), Tyler Ennis (18), Bogdan Bogdanovic (27), and Alec Brown (50) in 2014.
We now head into Year 3 of the McDonough Era. The Suns are being tight-lipped as usual with their draft preferences, leaving us with little options other than reading tea leaves
and Chad Ford tweets.
Despite this, the writers at BSOTS will bravely step to the mic and give their best predictions.
1. Let's get this out of the way right off the bat. Putting aside your own personal crushes and hangups for the moment, whose name do you think the Phoenix Suns will call at no. 13 on Thursday?
Jim Coughenour: I looked up the consensus mock draft on NBA.com before answering this and saw that the 12 different sites represented there had the Suns selecting nine different players. Nine. Just to be contrarian, and because this also wouldn't shock me, I'm going to pick a player none of them pegged - Bobby Portis. Dave may have planted the seed for this wild guess when he wrote about the rave reviews Portis received after his workout with the Suns. In a few ways, Portis parallels Warren's profile from last season. Great workout where they lauded his defense, not the greatest athlete but moves fluidly, scores in a variety of ways and has a great feel for the game... plus he's kind of an overlooked conference player of the year (SEC).
While McDonough seems to profess that he likes two way athletes with lots of upside he continues to draft guys that don't necessarily fit that profile. It's kind of like a guy who says he likes blondes, but keeps dating brunettes. While a guy like Kelly Oubre, who I would pick at #13 if he's on the board, better fits the first description... Portis fits McDonough's actual tendencies.
Rollin J. Mason: Excellent question. I'm going with Trey Lyles. McDonough professes taking the BPA regardless of position, and Lyles might check both boxes. His versatility compliments the NBA's trend toward "positionless" basketball nicely, and Hornacek commended his professionalism after his workout, saying he'll "do whatever the coach tells him to do." He's a bit of a mystery due to the star-studded frontcourt at Kentucky, but I know a couple Wildcat fans who have told me that he's a better player than Cauley-Stein. He might be able to contribute right away at backup PF.
Austin Elmer: I can't get away from the notion that the Suns will pick Bobby Portis, but I guess that's my personal hangup. I think McDonough will lean towards best player available and select Trey Lyles, with Cameron Payne, and Kelly Oubre being close seconds.
Kellan Olson: This draft gets really weird once the top eight players are gone. If Frank Kaminsky, Stanley Johnson, or Myles Turner fall to 13 I think there's a 99% chance the Suns take whoever it is. There is a chance of that, but it's unlikely.
I think the pick is Bobby Portis. He can contribute right away as a backup 4 and is a pretty good backup plan for the Morii. He's a two-way player with range on his jumper and he works really hard. I think that's a great fit for the Suns. All it takes is one PG or wing that McDonough loves though...
Dave King: Well, with everyone saying Bobby Portis, I'll have to go with someone different. I see Montrezl Harrell rising up draft boards in the final week as people finally remembered what Harrell brings to a game after being star-struck by 18 year olds with crazy wingspans for a few weeks. But then again, Harrell (21, already developed as a player) is not the kind of guy the Suns seems to take.
To be different, I'll make a bold prediction that Willie Cauley-Stein drops (foot/ankle) and the Suns jump all over that.
2. Last year there were no reports or rumors linking Warren to the Suns until the eve of the draft. Bright Side didn't even bother profiling the dude. Who is your "dark horse" candidate for the Suns this year?
JC: Bobby Portis. See my first response.
RJM: Awesome question. I'll go with Cameron Payne. The Suns do in fact need a point guard, and Payne's combination of shooting and playmaking should fit nicely. As they learned from the Isaiah Thomas experiment, plugging a veteran in to fill that 3rd PG spot in the 2PG system isn't as easy as it sounds. Of all the PG prospects outside of Russell and Mudiay, Payne seems to be the Suns' speed. The only concern is his size and finishing ability, but if he was a perfect prospect we wouldn't even be talking about him, right?
DK: I already did Cauley-Stein above, so maybe him. But I also could imagine the Suns tabbing Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
AE: My dark horse candidate for the Suns is Kelly Oubre. Not many people have the Suns selecting Oubre. McDonough might have fallen in love with Oubre's potential and athletic frame. McDonough said best player available means the player who will end up with the best career, and for potential late lottery prospects, Oubre could end up having a great career in the NBA.
KO: Montrezl Harrell. Putting my crush on him aside, he's a perfect fit for the Suns. They need someone with his energy and he fits two needs on the depth chart right away. It's a little bit of a reach, but he's worth it in my opinion.
3. McDonough has been steadfast in his belief of always taking the best player available regardless of position. Putting that aside for the moment, the biggest current holes in the Suns depth chart are power forward, backup point guard, and possibly backup center. Are there any players projected in the Suns' range that you think can step in and fill one of these holes immediately?
JC: There's not a point guard I would be happy with at #13. Cameron Payne scares the hell out of me due to the combination of his lack of size and explosiveness. I just don't see how he will be able to score in the paint at the NBA level. Frank Kaminsky is the other player that worries me in the Suns range. I don't think his game will translate well to the NBA as I question some of his physical tools. Among the bigs, it's possible that the Suns could have their pick of Myles Turner, Trey Lyles and Portis. In that case I would trust McDonough's judgment picking any of those three.
RJM: Stellar question. Portis fits the bill here. His hustle and energy should make him a viable backup at PF right out of the gate. If he starts drilling jumpers, he should even be able to push for the starting job. He's the kind of prospect that could hit the ground running and still have plenty of room for improvement. No complaints whatsoever from me if his name is called on Thursday.
AE: Portis could jump right in and be the backup PF. Cameron Payne could easily step into the role of backup point guard considering the Suns don't have a decent one currently on the roster. This doesn't necessarily mean Payne would adjust right away but he could still earn minutes solely on the lack of depth at the point guard position.
KO: Harrell and Portis both can, but I'd watch out for someone like Jerian Grant. He has the experience to play immediately and is a two-way player. The Suns do need a point guard...
DK: I'll agree and say Portis and Harrell too. Even Cauley-Stein, if he drops. Although, I also think Myles Turner would step right into a role at backup center and stretch guy. He'll just be a turnstile on D.
4. "Best player available" is an entirely subjective term that is thrown around with no abandon around draft time. McDonough defines this as the player who will have the best overall career -- out of the players profiled here on BSOTS, who fits this bill the most to you?
JC: I think BPA in terms of ceiling at #13 is probably Oubre. I think he could easily become a player in the mold of Trevor Ariza - a three and D guy who promises to be really valuable in the evolving NBA game. He might have more bust potential than some of the big men in the Suns range, though, so while he has great potential one could definitely make a compelling argument against him.
RJM: Hahaha. What a question, Mark. I'm gonna copy my fellow Oubre Enthusiast and agree with Jim. Kelly could either be the next Jimmy Butler or Wesley Johnson. I'll vote for something closer to the former since I've already opened my big mouth and I don't want to be wrong.
AE: My best player will be based on who will have the best overall career, which happens to be incredibly hard to decipher. Therefore, I'll shoot and arrow into the dark and say Trey Lyles. Lyles could become a third option on a playoff team during his prime if he puts all the pieces together.
DK: Best overall career... if we knew that, we'd be working in the NBA. Hmm... I'll say of the guys in the Suns range, the one with the best long-term career could be Oubre, or maybe Harrell.
KO: It's absolutely one of those three guys I mentioned earlier if they fall, but if they don't I think it's either Oubre or Lyles. They have the highest ceiling in this late lottery tier.
5. The second round of the draft always has a much larger pool of prospects to choose from and a lot more variance in where players are selected in relation to the mock drafts. Are there any players you are hoping to see the Suns pick at 44?
JC: I'd like the Suns to take Pat Connaughton from Notre Dame as a Gerald Green replacement. He may never play a major role in the NBA, but perhaps he could win a slam dunk contest with his 40+ inch vertical.
DK: Second round? Did you say second round? Who the heck cares about the second rou-- oh hi, Goran. Hey there, Marcin. Okay, maybe second round picks do matter. How about that Jaiteh character. Or Christian Wood.
RJM: Nailed it with this question. When it comes to second-rounders, I usually wait to see what Geoff Allen says. Then I go along with that.
AE: Cliff Alexander. I doubt he falls all the way to 44 but if he does and the Suns don't take him, I'll be bitter for at least the next 4 years. Other prospects that could fall that I would want the Suns to pick are, Robert Upshaw, Christian Wood (his stock is dropping), and Jordan Mickey. A little more realistically I like, Richaun Holmes, Pat Connaughton, and Andrew Harrison.
KO: I like grabbing the best talent at this point and there's a couple of guys projected around 44. Andrew Harrison, Dakari Johnson, and Cliff Alexander are very talented prospects who would all fill a need on the depth chart.
BONUS QUESTION: Indulge in your fantasies for a moment (but keep it about basketball, please). What scenarios do you fancy that involves the Suns moving up in the draft to snag a real impact player?
JC: I like all the scenarios that have the Suns moving up somewhere between #3 and #6. The SB Nation mock draft would be a dream come true. The Suns need a franchise player and this could be a conduit to that goal. I actually think there's the potential for a deal there, too. The Suns would probably have to sacrifice Eric Bledsoe to make something work, but I could find a way to console myself over the loss.
RJM: Saving the best for last, I see. The Kings seem to be the most realistic option to trade down, since they've been drafting 5-10 since the W. administration and have hired George Karl. Karl doesn't want to rebuild, Karl wants point guards. The Suns could offer Bledsoe and can choose between Winslow, Hezonja, Porzingis, etc. This would make the Suns' alleged rebuild immediately more interesting.
AE: There has been rumors about trading Bledsoe and the 13th pick to the Knicks for the number four pick in the draft. The dream scenario would be to trade for the number 4 slot in the draft while keeping the number 13 pick. Drafting Porzingis who turns into a star. Then for fun the Suns trade P.J. Tucker to Sixers for Pierre Jackson and the 37th pick who ends up being Robert Upshaw. It's perfect, the Suns get a back up power forward with the potential to start and become a start, a backup point guard who has the drive to show the world he is ready to play in the NBA, and a back up center who has a lot of potential. To make things better T.J. Warren shines in his new role as a starter with P.J. gone. This was supposed to be a fantasy right?
KO: Kristaps Porzingis falling out of the top six and the Suns trading up to get him. The price of the pick would be too low for Bledsoe so it would have to be 13 and a combination of players and picks. Porzingis has an incredibly high ceiling and would be a great fit in Phoenix. Getting him without giving up a major asset is the dream.
DK: Well, I've already spent the last few days going over my own proclivities for trading up and around. I'll leave it at a big yes that there's a strong chance the Suns can trade into the Top 6 and that they should go for it when they get that chance. No one on the team in untouchable. Get. A. Star.