As the 2017 NBA Draft approaches, the Phoenix Suns hurtle toward their most impactful draft slot since at least 1987 (Armen Gilliam, #2 overall). And as we get closer to the franchise-defining #4 overall pick on June 22 from a draft reported as one of the best in more than a decade, the Suns appear to be pulling their cards closer and closer to their chest.
They know as well as we do that they cannot afford to screw this up.
Oh sure, the Suns have had loads of better draft picks than Gilliam over the years, from second-round pick Jeff Hornacek in 1988 all the way to #13 overall Devin Booker in 2015.
And, they have absorbed top-5 draft picks that just did not live up to their supposed draft status without killing the franchise:
- Neal Walk, 1969, #2 overall pick (behind Kareem, coin flip)
- Corky Calhoun, 1972, #4 overall pick
- John Shumate, 1974, #4 overall pick
- Alvan Adams, 1975, #4 overall pick
- Walter Davis, 1977, #5 overall pick
- William Bedford, 1976, #6 overall pick
- Armen Gilliam, 1987, #2 overall pick (behind David Robinson)
- Alex Len, 2013, #5 overall pick
- Dragan Bender, 2016, #4 overall pick
- _________ _________, 2017, #4 overall pick
Some were busts. Some were Rookies of the Year. Some were All-Stars. Some are in the Suns Ring of Honor. Some even still work for the franchise.
So why would I say THIS #4 overall pick should have to be any better than Corky Calhoun was (career 5.3 points per game) or Alex Len?
Why does THIS #4 overall pick need to better resemble Alvan Adams or Walter Davis than Neal Walk?
Because the Suns are in the midst of a 7-year playoff drought, the longest in franchise history, with no plan for playoff contention in the coming season.
The team has gone super young. Even as they open the 2017-18 season, the Suns project to have at least four players in their rotation not even old enough to purchase alcohol - Devin Booker, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender and Derrick Jones Jr. All have proven they deserve at least a small NBA rotation spot. Assuming no trades, they should be adding a 5th such player in the June 22 draft.
No, a team with five underage players is not built to make the playoffs in 2017-18.
So what the Suns MUST do is solidify the core of the next great Suns team around potential star guard Devin Booker, already a 22 point scorer with a chance to be a sublime secondary playmaker as he matures.
This year’s #4 overall pick should immediately become either the most talented player on the roster or the second-most talented, right next to Booker.
The 2017 Draft is supposed to be loaded with star power.
Any and all of Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum have been projected by scouts and league executives for months as probable high caliber NBA starters. Their fit with the Suns may be questionable, especially Tatum, but the Suns cannot afford to pass on a guy just because he doesn’t fit the current rotation makeup.
And every draft has gems dotted outside the projected top players, some of whom become stars in their own right. This year, one of De’Aaron Fox, Jonathan Isaac, Malik Monk, or Dennis Smith Jr. or someone else could end up as the best player from this draft.
The Suns, with the #4 overall pick, don’t hold all the cards. They are in a tenuous position of being at the mercy of the top three teams’ picks/trades ahead of them, but after that they get to pick from the best of the rest.
Today, news leaked that Jayson Tatum (projected somewhere 2-6 overall) is getting a private workout in Phoenix, 12 days before the draft. A couple of days ago, another news leak promised that De’Aaron Fox (2-6) would get a private workout in Phoenix too.
Earlier this week, the Suns reportedly visited Jonathan Isaac (4-8) in CA, per John Gambadoro of arizonasports.com and 98.7 FM, and they hosted Malik Monk (3-10).
No word yet on Ball (2-6), Fultz (1) or Jackson (1-4), but that doesn’t mean the Suns haven’t seen them already, or won’t see them in the coming days leading up to the draft.
Keep your pants on and ears open, Suns fans.
And then don’t be surprised if the Suns pick someone you didn’t expect them to pick on draft night.
We all just have to hope that player pairs well with Devin Booker to form the foundation of the next great Suns team.
Rate your confidence level that the 2017 #4 pick will match or exceed Booker's impact on team (1-10, with 10 being high)
This poll is closed
10 - total confidence!
1 - uh, no. Disaster awaits.