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Phoenix Suns top draft pick could boil down to Ball, Tatum or Isaac

According to some strong claims from local radio host John Gambadoro of the Burns and Gambo show on 98.7 FM on Monday’s show, some of the top NBA prospects have already been promised Top-5 draft positions and will be curbing or cancelling all remaining visits.

Of the top five prospects on the big board

  • #1 prospect Markelle Fultz has supposedly received a draft promise at #1 overall and has eschewed any other team workouts. (There’s a report he is visiting the Lakers this week - I suppose that’s in case Boston trades the pick to a team who wants someone else)
  • #2 prospect Lonzo Ball has long been rumored as committed to the Lakers at #2 and has not done any other workouts with any teams. However, recent rumors have the Lakers looking around, so don’t be surprised if Ball shows up in Philadelphia or Phoenix in the coming days.
  • #3 prospect Josh Jackson has worked out twice for the Lakers at #2 overall and has otherwise cancelled or postponed workouts with other top-5 teams. Gambo speculates that the draft promise would come from a team who’d already worked out Jackson, and the only team who did yet was the Lakers. This is unfortunate for both the Sixers and Suns, as each team had been rumored to target Jackson in recent weeks.
  • #5 prospect De’Aaron Fox has worked out for the Kings at #5 and Lakers (twice) at #2, and last week declined a workout with the Suns at #4. Gambo’s information is that Fox just doesn’t want to experience further crowding of the Suns’ Kentucky-west backcourt of point guards (Eric Bledsoe, Tyler Ulis and Brandon Knight already on board, not to mention Devin Booker at shooting guard).

A potential 1-2 punch of Fultz and Jackson at the top of the 2017 NBA Draft leaves the Philadelphia Sixers, picking 3rd, and the Phoenix Suns, picking 4th, to choose among what’s left.

Lonzo Ball

It’s still quite possible, maybe even probable, that the Lakers are just having a little fun and trying to kill time before they can turn in the draft card with Ball’s name on it.

For months, the Balls have targeted L.A., and the Lakers have been smitten with Ball. They reportedly believe Ball and D’Angelo Russell would fit well in a back court together, with Russell moving to shooting guard/combo guard role.

But if the Lakers pass on Ball, then the Sixers and Suns have a tough choice to make.

Ball might be the #2 overall prospect because of his passing and playmaking and unselfishness, but the holes in his game (scoring, defense) and the uncomfortable situation of his overbearing father make both teams cringe at the downside of taking Ball over some of the other talent.

The Sixers need back court help in a bad way, so they might take Ball anyway. Or, they could take De’Aaron Fox despite Fox’s potential desires (for some reason) to be taken 5th by Sacramento.

Jayson Tatum

Once considered a #1 pick option, Tatum’s game has been dissed nearly as much as Lonzo Ball’s. Now teams are slotting Tatum as an old school type scorer (mid-range) who doesn’t quite fit the modern NBA.

It’s kind of like Tatum is the small forward version of the 2015 draft’s Jahlil Okafor. Okafor played well enough in his rookie season to lead the ROY race for three months before getting hurt, but since then his own team has reduced his role to almost nothing and found it impossible to trade him for any kind of value in his second year.

So would Philly grab Tatum? He certainly fits a much-needed scoring role.

Would the Suns take Tatum? Again, he’d fit a much-needed scoring role along with Devin Booker as a 1-2 scoring punch, but is he that much of an upgrade over T.J. Warren? And don’t the Suns need defense more than offense from the small forward position?

Jonathan Isaac

This one is intriguing. Isaac (ranked #9 on DX Big Board) does not have that one unique skill that makes him a top TOP prospect. He does not have Ball’s passing and playmaking sense, nor does he have Tatum’s scoring chops.

What Isaac (7’1” tall, 7’3” wingspan) brings is a versatile game with the ability to defend multiple positions on a single possession, guarding 1-4 at Florida State last year while being big enough to rebound, defend the rim and eventually take on small 5s in the coming years.

Isaac can also shoot well and a guard’s mentality which could help with the minutes he’s being played at small forward.

I’ve written before that a long front-court of Chriss, Bender and Isaac has a chance to be uniquely talented in today’s NBA, but it’s also possible that these three CANNOT play together since none is really comfortable at the three or the five position for long stretches.

In Isaac’s favor, he is the only player SO FAR to work out twice for the Suns (each team is allowed up to 2 but no more than 2 workouts with any player).

However, that’s just what’s been leaked. It’s probable the Suns have already worked out more players than we think.

What to watch for:

A lot can change in the coming week-plus, right up until the Draft itself on the night of June 22 - next Thursday.

What to watch for:

  • Do the Suns get workouts with Fox and Jackson after all - at least those leaked to media?
  • Does anyone besides Isaac get leaked to media about multiple workouts with the Suns?
  • Does anyone think the Suns would take Malik Monk (6), Zach Collins (12) or Jarrett Allen (17) with the #4 pick? All three will have visited the Suns with public, solo workouts. Maybe the Suns know something we don’t, and have convinced these agents a trip to Phoenix is worth the fuss (i.e. good chance of a trade-down getting the Suns a pick in the proper range).

Other storylines will emerge in the coming days.

Hold onto your butts, Suns fans!

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