With the question of the next Phoenix Suns head coach out of the way, now it's time to consider the Phoenix Suns draft strategy in June.
Keeping Earl Watson on staff means the Suns want to stay the status quo, developing youth and keeping the veterans motivated to be part of the process instead of the individual glory.
With four of the top 34 picks, plus Bogdan Bogdanovic potentially coming over, the Suns will have too many young players in the mix in 2015-16. But you can be nearly sure they will draft in the Top 5, and that they will draft at least one more of the 13, 28 and 34 picks.
Let's discuss each stage of the draft.
1. Which player currently in the Draft Express Top-5 (Ingram, Simmons, Bender, Brown, Dunn) would you be most excited to add to the Suns, and what is uniquely impressive about them?
Kellan Olson: Brandon Ingram. He gives the Suns another lethal shooter on the wing and his quick release from three in the catch and shoot should immediately translate. His scoring ability is still raw, but the promise he showed at Duke has his upside extremely high.
Sean Sullivan: Ben Simmons. As much as I like Ingram, and believe he has nearly closed the gap between he and Simmons, I still believe Ben to be the more special talent. In addition, the Suns have a gaping hole at the power forward position, and Simmons would be the perfect addition to the team. Simmons is more than just your typical four...he can distribute the ball and run point-forward, which is another huge bonus for a team missing a more traditional point guard. On defense, he is also a very good rebounder, which the Suns are in desperate need of as well. Of course, the only way I see the Suns drafting Simmons is if they get lucky enough to land the first pick overall.
Dave King: I'm with Sean - I agree that adding Simmons is the right call. Simmons will be such a unique talent in the NBA that there's really no good comp at the moment. The biggest worry is that Simmons doesn't care about defense much, and is no longer than he is tall. Ingram would prove incredible length at the SF position and good potential on both ends of the court. If the Suns drop to 4th or 5th, I am actually a big intrigued by Kris Dunn. I'd trade Knight, and bring in Dunn to potentially be the third guard in a much bigger three-guard rotation with Bledsoe and Booker.
Geoff Allen: I'm going to make it three in favor of Simmons. I like the fact that, at least in my opinion Simmons has a higher floor than Ingram. Simmons is in my opinion a better all-around talent, and a little more a sure thing to contribute at a high level next year. However, if we drop out of the Top-2, I'm totally on the Dragan Bender hype-train. Bender might not end up as a great player, but he's a unique player, and that in-and-of itself can be really valuable.
Rollin J. Mason: Ingram for me. Simmons seems he'll need to be in a lineup that complements his strengths in order for him to live up to his hype, which has diminished considerably. Ingram is a more natural fit for today's NBA, and depending on how his defense rounds out could stylistically fit alongside pretty much anybody -- kind of like Devin Booker. The point-forward thing -- which Simmons was at LSU -- is nice as a novelty but I have doubts about how successfully it can be applied. I also get a bad vibe from his demeanor and the way he carries himself but I'm not gonna try to pass that off as analysis.
2. With so many picks in hand, Ryan McDonough and company face an interesting choice when choosing how to balance need and best-player-available. Given the Suns depth at the 2 guard, should the front office say no to adding more players at that position, or stick with the best-player-available philosophy?
KO: BPA. With the way this draft is shaping up, McDonough won't need to worry about many shooting guards anyway. There are good fits at power forward and small forward in all four areas of the draft where the Suns are selecting.
SS: BPA...but keeping need in mind. For the most part, the Suns should be able to draft the best player available. However, if it comes down to a scenario in which players like Buddy Hield or Jaylen Brown are the two best players left on the board, I think the Suns should, and will be mindful of their current roster situation, and would likely take Brown before Hield, even if they thought Buddy was the better overall player. Hopefully, the Suns will be able to significantly improve their roster while not overloading an already stacked position.
DK: No to a SG in the top 5, but if there's a potential high ceiling SG at #13 you take him. Top 5 has to be a PF, SF or PG with a higher assist ceiling than Bledsoe.
GA: I'm going to take maybe the opposite opinion of Dave. I think with our two top picks we should strongly focus on need rather than potential. I'd be focused on long-shots with the last two picks. I also agree with Kellan - it is unlikely we're going to be found in a position where the BPA is undeniably a 2 guard.
RJM: If they're confident that a shooting guard is the BPA, sure. They'll have an entire summer to make room if it becomes absolutely necessary.
3. Should the Suns make all four of their picks? Should they attempt to trade up or trade out? Or should we be fairly comfortable with making this many picks this year?
KO: If they don't win the lottery or wind up at No. 2 and prefer one of Ingram and Simmons over the other, they should absolutely trade up. It's only fair to evaluate this draft as it stands beforehand, and right now the class looks very very poor, with steep drop-offs after the top two prospects and another after the third. The good news with this draft is that there is a ton of variety and that extends to international prospects, so the Suns will be able to draft and stash in their last three selections if that's what they want to do. As always, they should try and improve the team for next season with the rebuilding basically done already, but a trade like that seems unlikely in this draft. Use the picks.
SS: I can't see the Suns using all four of their picks on players they are bringing into the fold next season. They may be able to trade up, or possibly package a couple of picks for a perceived high draft pick next season. Or, they could go the international route and draft a player who they intend on keeping overseas for a few seasons, as they did a couple of years ago with Bogdan Bogdanovic. They could also draft a player like Thon Maker at #13 (I still don't think he'll be there at #28), and stash him on the new Northern Arizona Suns D-League team for a couple of seasons...which I would personally be in favor of. There are many options available, but the least likely is that four new players make it onto the team next season.
DK: Definitely trade away 2-3 of the top 4 picks for a higher pick or to push 1-2 picks to 2017, which is a better draft. Ultimately, McD needs to identify his BPAs after the top pick and maneuver to acquire them. If they can't move around to their favor, then do as Kellan says and take a draft-and-stash or two.
GA: If we can package picks to get Ben Simmons, I take that in a heartbeat. Otherwise, I think I'm pretty comfortable making our picks. At 13 and 28 there are very strong draft-and-stash candidates. And while the middle top and middle of this draft are generally agreed to be pretty weak, I think the bottom middle is pretty strong. Guys like Gary Payton III, Brice Johnson and Zhou Qi are all projected to be available with our last pick and I think all likely to be rotation ready immediately.
RJM: They have three first-rounders in what looks to be a very unimpressive draft. They have a roster full of solid role players but no All-Stars. They just signed Earl Watson to a three-year contract to be an NBA head coach. I have no idea what the plan should be, only to say that they should leave every possibility on the table.
4. Outside of the Top-5, are there any players who are particularly intriguing?
KO: As Geoff and I discussed on the podcast, Marquese Chriss has a ridiculous ceiling and floor. He led the NCAA in fouls and doesn't look like he knows what he's doing half the time, but he's an explosive leaper with capable shot blocking instincts and 3-point shooting. If the Suns want to go all out on a selection in the lottery, I think he's the guy.
SS: I've already said that I think Thon Maker will end up being a borderline lottery pick, and I would love the Suns to take a chance on him at #13, if another team doesn't beat them to the punch. Maker has a rare combination of physical attributes and skills that could pay off big after a couple of years in the D-League. If the Suns want a less risky player, I think Ivan Rabb could be a good defending/shot blocking power forward who could fill a need on the Suns, as well as the athletic PF Marquese Chriss, whom Kellan Mentioned above.
GA: I like a lot of the late draft and stash guys. I think Zhou Qi is a really interesting prospect, a guy who at one point was seen as a late lottery pick and has dropped into the late first/early second for reasons that are fairly opaque to me. I'm also a fan of DeAndre' Bembry out of St. Joe's, an upperclassman with a big body and big hops. He reminds me a bit of PJ Tucker, and that's exciting.
RJM: I like Rabb as a John Henson type, whom I was hoping the Suns would choose in the Kendall Marshall draft. 6'10 with a 7'2 wingspan is plenty enough length to play center in the NBA, and while it'd be nice if he added some pounds to his 215 lb frame, it isn't 100% necessary (see Brandan Wright). I also like the dark horse potential of Gary Payton II, who I think has a high floor for a projected second-rounder.
5. What should be the Suns' top priority going into this draft?
KO: Upside, upside and upside. They got a gift to their current roster situation in the last draft and they could do it two years in a row. Guys like Ingram, Dragan Bender, Chriss, Timothe Luwawu and Cheick Diallo are available with that upside throughout the draft. The Suns outlook for the future could change drastically if they find another talent worthy of being alongside Booker.
SS: Find a star player. The Suns have a rare chance to likely pick in the top-5, as well at #13. They'll have two chances to land a star player, and I wouldn't be averse to them gambling on that second lotto pick in order to try to do so. The caveat to this is that I don't think they should gamble their first pick on a player like Dragan Bender, who is too far from being ready to contribute. I'd rather see them go with a more proven player there, if possible, because I think there are many others to choose from with a very high ceiling who could contribute almost immediately. But I do like them swinging for the fences at #13, unless a player happens to slide who they didn't think would be there and can't pass up. EIther way, the Suns have to use this opportunity to try to land a star player. They aren't going to attract a top-flight player in free agency, so the draft is currently their only hope of obtaining one.
DK: I'm with Sean and Kellan. Don't go safe. Go with upside over everything. There will be talent at every spot the Suns pick where an available player ends up as a better pro than several guys taken ahead of him. The key is finding those guys and getting lucky that it works out. McD did that with Len, Goodwin and Booker so far, and at least Booker looks like a potential star.
GA: I'm actually going to go the opposite, and its not just me playing devil's advocate. I don't see much star potential in this draft. If I'm not getting the top 2 guys, I'm going to go with guys that are more proven. The guys that are 'upside' picks - Cordinier, Maker, Chriss, Diallo - I think are really, really long shots. There are other guys - Taurean Prince, Domantas Sabonis - who are definitely not sexy picks, and probably won't be All-Stars, but who are already capable of contributing at an NBA level. For the team right now, in this draft, I'd rather have that.
RJM: It's really tough to say without knowing where they'll be picking. If they pick first, their top priority will be to nail the Ingram/Simmons decision. If they pick second, they can pretty much chill and pick whichever one doesn't go first. If they're outside of the top 3, golly, I lean towards Geoff's point of view. Just nail down a good NBA player. In this draft, that'll be enough to hang your hat on.