The 2017 NBA Draft is fast approaching, and to call it an important one for the Suns would be an understatement. Depending on what happens, it might very well be a legitimate tipping point for the franchise. The end of the rebuild is in sight.
That being said, it felt like the right time to gather some Bright Siders to talk about the draft, McDonough and what this offseason means for the Suns. Here is a quick four-on-four to kick off the summer:
1. So it seems like Josh Jackson of Kansas is number one in just about everyone’s mind in terms of the best fit and value where the Suns are likely to pick. Does that change if Markelle Fultz is available, or if the Suns get the first overall pick?
Kellan Olson: Absolutely. Fultz is the best prospect in this class by a substantial margin and I think he should be No. 1 on every team’s board. His polish as a point guard and creation skills are getting overlooked quite a bit. I get taking Jackson if the team wants to make a run at it with Bledsoe, but it would be a mistake to pass on Fultz.
Rod Argent: Yes. Jackson may be the best “fit” for the team if the Suns are planning to keep Bledsoe but Fultz is the best player in the draft. If Fultz is available, you take him and alter your plans. The Suns can’t afford to be rigid in their rebuilding efforts.
Dave King: For sure, Fultz has to be #1 overall with Jackson #2 overall. Just depends on the Suns pick. If they take Fultz, they need to trade Bledsoe for a defensive player at the wing who can bring what Jackson could have.
Brendon Kleen: Fultz is a franchise-changing player on offense. To see someone lead an offense with such ease as a freshman in the NCAA was remarkable, especially in a competitive Pac-12 this year. More than any other scenario, the opportunity to install Fultz as the ringleader of this young group is the one that supersedes anything else that’s in progress.
2. Chad Ford’s latest mock draft has the Suns picking Lonzo Ball, and he even goes so far as to say the Suns would “absolutely” pick another point guard even given the stuffiness of that position on the roster. *Tim Allen noise*!?!
KO: As an avid supporter of #McNinja since 2014, it takes a lot for me to subscribe to any reports on the thinking of the front office. In my opinion, Ball and Fultz are prospects worth smashing the big red button to reset and move on from the Bledsoe era. Beyond those two, however, it’s tougher, unless you love Frank Ntilikina as much as I do, which is pretty much impossible.
RA: If the Suns get one of the top 2 picks I could see them taking either Ball of Fultz but if they fall to 3rd or lower I doubt they go after another PG. I’m not at all certain that any of the other PGs could outperform Tyler Ulis in their 1st season in the NBA. But if the Suns do go that route, you pretty much have to trade Bledsoe and go into the season with Ulis and whichever PG they draft as the team’s starting and backup PGs. I just don’t see how they could make it work keeping all three on the roster.
DK: I am all for the Suns picking point guard Fultz. Or if they drop down a peg or three, to consider De’Aaron Fox or the French guy. I’m not a big Lonzo Ball fan myself. If they take a PG, then trading Bledsoe is the best move.
BK: I trust the front office to see their plan to its final stages, and this draft has enough prospects at point guard and on the wing to fill in where needed. Ball and Fultz would be excellent replacements for Bledsoe, but I hope the market has been thoroughly explored before the “big red button” is smashed (h/t Kellan). It would be unfortunate to take a point guard and then get smoked in a Bledsoe deal by way of lost leverage.
3. How much do you think the decision to pick up Ryan McDonough’s option was influenced by the opportunities available in this draft and during this offseason? Do you see this as a make-or-break year for McDonough?
KO: By default of him being in the last year of his contract it’s that type of year for him. The long list of questions for this team this offseason -- trade Bledsoe? Len or Williams? Both? Trade Knight? Draft a point guard? Extend Warren? -- make it completely illogical to bring in someone new right now. Extending on that point, whatever direction McDonough puts the team in after he answers all those questions should factor in.
RA: I have to agree with Kellan about the extension. If we hadn’t seen so much promise in the young core guys that McDonough has assembled then this could have been his last season in Phoenix. Ryan needs to be here to play out his hand rather than turning it over to someone else who might have different ideas about how to move forward. And I do see this as a make or break year for him. It’s possible that he might be gone before the end of next season if enough things go badly.
DK: I think it was terrible to simply pick up McDonough’s option. You can’t have a lame duck at the helm of a rebuilding team. Every loss, every “miss” is magnified. McDonough might become gunshy and take the “safe” pick more likely to play than taking the highest upside guy. I wish the Suns had given him a one-year extension just for some breathing room. But alas, now McDonough knows he has to show progress this year on the court to keep his job.
BK: Dave is right in that McDonough will feel the pressure, but looking around the league, he’s lucky to even be in this position. Job security for a GM in the NBA is generally more tenuous than it has been for McDonough; getting four years to see this project out to the end is a gift. Now he has one more season to see if he can be the Hinkie and the Colangelo for Phoenix, not just the Hinkie. It starts with this draft.
4. Who is on your big board for the second round? The Suns also have the 32nd and the 54th overall picks.
KO: Anzejs Pasecniks is going to be a riser in the last month I think, but if the mobile 7-foot-2 center is around at No. 32, he’s a terrific fit as a draft-and-stash selection. Combo forwards Tyler Lydon and Semi Ojeleye would be at the top for me as potential first rounders to slip to round two. The Suns need shooting at forward and both bring that while doing different things to compliment that primary skill. On that same point down low, Harry Giles or Bam Adebayo as a project center wouldn’t be so bad either. For 54, I like some of the more established players like Nigel Hayes and Sterling Brown. I can’t pass on the depth of this class at No. 32 for a draft and stash (unless it’s someone perfect like Pasecniks), but that’s the most likely outcome, though, so give me the duo from Mega Leks of shooting guard Kustja Mushidi and big man Alpha Kaba along with Barcelona’s combo forward Aleksandar Vezenkov as three overseas guys at 54.
RA: I really don’t have any specific favorites but my opinion is that with as much youth as the Suns already have that they should be taking the longest looks at international “draft-and-stash” players. Although if someone who is projected to be a late first round pick drops down to #32 then they should jump at the chance to get him. And if the Suns decide to part ways with Alex Len, then getting a center at 32 should be a prime consideration.
DK: In the second round, I would take a project center, someone who has the physical tools but just need to learn to play the game (Jeanne, Lessort, etc.). Or, I’d take a mature three-and-D guy on the wing who can make an immediate impact in the rotation of a young team as one of their more mature players (Blossomgame, Hart, etc.).
BK: Just because it’s a different route than the other options listed above (which are all super logical as well), I’d say the Suns should consider taking advantage of two-way G-League contracts created by the new CBA that can basically act as domestic draft-and-stash opportunities. This way, a college player like the ones listed above by the other guys (or Alec Peters whom I also like) could spend time developing in Prescott Valley, just like Dragan Bender and others have done overseas in a professional environment.