Only a few hours remain before the 2016 NBA Draft starts, but the trade fireworks have already started going off and might continue all the way through the draft.
Hold onto your phones, folks, and keep checking Bright Side for analysis of rumors that might impact the Suns.
Today is a good day to be a fan. For the first time in a year, the Suns absolutely have to do something with their roster. Before the day is out, the Suns will have at least two new players under their control, if not four or more.
I have to say I will be sorely disappointed in the Suns if they simply trade out of the draft or trade down and pick up only a couple of boring names to add to the team without executing any subtractions.
THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN, so make it fun for heaven's sake, Ryan!
The reality, though, is that we are more likely to be disappointed than not. Since taking over as GM of the Suns three years ago, Ryan McDonough has executed more than a dozen player trades and turned over the roster more than once.
Yet, despite entering each of those three drafts with an intent to make trades, McDonough has managed only one - moving up one spot in 2013 from 30 to 29 to take Archie Goodwin.
In 2014, McDonough wanted to parlay one or two of his three bunched picks (14, 18, 27) into a higher pick or a veteran player that could help a near playoff team. But in the end, he didn't find a trade to his liking.
Then last year, it was reported the Suns tried hard to trade up from 13 to 9, but were rebuffed and ended up getting lucky with Devin Booker anyway. Booker, who'd been mocked as high as 9 by some outlets, could have been the target all along, but rumors had the Suns focusing on Frank Kaminsky, Myles Turner or Trey Lyles as well.
Anyway, if the Suns simply walk away from tonight with a couple of players and a couple of draft-and-stashes without having made any inspiring moves, I'll be disappointed. I just will.
The best possible scenario, to me, is that the Suns are able to parlay one of the 4th or 13th overall picks into a young, high-ceiling player from another team while taking the perfect prospect with the other pick. And then later in the draft, the Suns convert 28 and 34 into something good as well.
I'm not expecting four trades like I executed in the SB Nation Mock Draft, but I know I had the opportunity to have rid the Suns of both Chandler and Knight while importing a few non-guaranteed contracts and some exciting rookies. The Suns *could* have come out of my mock draft with the addition of Dragan Bender, Jaylen Brown and young veteran center John Henson while ridding themselves of Brandon Knight and Tyson Chandler. And I'd have still had the #34 pick to use on another player.
But the real life Suns could do even better.
The Lakers reportedly want a second top-5 pick, and are reportedly willing to trade 20 year old DeAngelo Russell to get it. Other young players are available as well in exchange for lottery picks.
At the same time, all of the teams holding picks 3-8 are open to trading their pick for the right player or package of draft picks. Sacramento, in particular, might be willing to trade down or out of the draft.
If, and this is a big if, the real life Suns could turn the #4, #13, #28, #34 picks and Brandon Knight into DeAngelo Russell and a top-8 pick like Jaylen Brown/Marquese Chriss/Dragan Bender, I would be thrilled.
There's probably only about a 1% chance of this, or something of similar impact, happening though. So don't hold your breath.
Yesterday, the Utah Jazz, Atlanta Hawks and Indiana Pacers made a big three-player trade that functionality set the price on starting quality point guards at the #12 overall pick in this draft. George Hill went to Utah, Jeff Teague went to Indiana, and the Atlanta Hawks got the #12 pick in this draft. Hill and Teague both make $8 million per year, with one year left on their contracts.
Three NBA teams today looked at the PG free agent class and said NOPE.— Tom Ziller (@teamziller) June 22, 2016
After Conley, I have Lin, Jennings, Delly, Rondo. Then it’s Lawson. So. Yeah. https://t.co/QMcBJScjaf— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) June 22, 2016
The Suns, meanwhile, have a starting quality point guard available for about the price that someone is going to pay for Jeremy Lin in this new salary cap era.
Before you laugh, think about this: the salary is going to be $94 million. That's 25% higher than last year, and 40% higher than it was just a few years ago. While a young point guard on the market might have gotten $8 million per year 2-3 years ago (like Hill, Teague and Brandon Jennings got, in fact), the 40% jump in the cap means it will now cost you $12-14 million per year for that same player. It's simple math.
Brandon Knight will make $12.2 million this next year, and he's proven for three years now that he's able to post 18 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds per game.
I think Brandon Knight has some serious value on the trade market this summer.
Don't expect Chandler to be traded. For one thing, I firmly believe the Suns are still on the fence about whether to compete for the playoffs in 2016-17. It all depends on how free agency works out, and how the trade offers today and into July and August work out.
Unless and until the Suns decide to fully commit to a youth movement and play for a Top 5 pick in the 2017 Draft, they will hang on to Tyson Chandler as a veteran influence.
Same is true for P.J. Tucker and Eric Bledsoe. As long as there's a sliver of hope for a playoff run, the Suns will keep that band together.
Chriss vs. Bender
Marquese Chriss is the uber-athletic one who doesn't know how to play basketball yet. Dragan Bender is the uber-skilled one who might not be the best athlete but has length and tools for days.
One or both could be NBA stars. One or both could completely bust out of the league. Neither outcome would be a surprise.
Yet one of them looks destined to be wearing a Phoenix Suns uniform in the near future, while the other one will be "the one the Suns passed on".
Much the same way that Nerlens Noel and Alex Len are permanently linked in Suns fans eyes since the 2013 Draft, such will be the case of Marquese Chriss versus Dragan Bender if the Suns indeed take Chriss while Bender is still on the board.
My greatest hope is that one of these guys is taken at #3 overall so the Suns will just be able to shrug and take the other one and engender no hard feelings.
But if Bender and Chriss are still on the board at #4 and the Suns keep the pick and take Chriss, we will all spend the next 5-10 years arguing over who ended up the better player after all. And frankly, I believe the better player will be Bender.
On the plus side, at least both players are healthy so we don't have to wait a year to start the arguments!
Zero signs point to the Suns drafting Jaylen Brown with any pick they own or might acquire. And that makes me a bit frustrated.
While Brown has a long way to go to become a very good two-way NBA player, he is already big, strong and quick enough to be a difference maker on the defensive end even as a rookie. Brown can guard nearly any player on the court from point guards to undersized centers. On top of that, he can already hit the corner three at a high frequency.
Basically, he's already got a very good chance to be the defensive portion of Shawn Marion who helped a Suns team that spent zero time practicing defense to become a middle-of-the-pack defensive team anyway. Brown won't get 10+ rebounds per game, and won't score 20 points per game either. But he can lock up any opponent at nearly any position while hitting enough shots to stay on the court.
In a perfect world, the Suns use their later picks to move up into the top 10 and take Brown as their second selection on the night.
But this isn't a perfect world.
Trades, trades, trades
All signs point to a number of different trades being completed today and tonight. After the top two players are picked, there just isn't enough separation to keep teams hunkered down in their spot.
Anyone from 3-8 could go in any order and no one will be surprised. Kris Dunn, Marquese Chriss, Jaylen Brown, Jamal Murray, Buddy Hield and Dragan Bender will almost certainly be called among the 3-8 picks. But which teams are making the calls, and which order they come off the board is a a total guess at this point.
The same is true of players ranging from 9-20 or so. A Henry Ellenson could go in the back end of the Top 10, or drop all the way to the late teens. Same with Deyonta Davis. And Jakob Poeltl. And Timothe Luwawu. And so on.
And so on and so forth with the late first and early second round.
What this means is that if a team falls in love with a certain player, it should be easier than other years to move to get him because the other teams know the board is so fluid they will get a comparable player a few slots down anyway.
Take the Sacramento Kings picking at #8 overall for example. They only got ONE top-30 player to take the time to visit them for a pre-draft workout. And that player is Wade Baldwin, currently projected in the mid-teens. Rumor has it they are also enamored with Domantas Sabonis, who is also projected mid-to-late teens.
Wouldn't it be smart for the Kings to trade down to, say, #13 overall, rather than overdraft a guy they like? In the process, they could easily pick up a late first, like say #28, for their trouble. Or even a proven point guard like Brandon Knight.
Hold onto your hats, Suns fans. And keep those google and twitter alerts fresh!
If you hear a rumor, post it here.
In the meantime, what are YOUR best and worst case scenarios?