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Bright Side Draft Mailbag 2.0: Will Suns Go All-In On Lonzo Ball?

The Process brought Philadelphia Markelle Fultz. Will Ryan McDonough swing for the fences with Lonzo Ball? This, and much more, in the Bright Side Draft Mailbag.

NCAA Basketball: Oregon at UCLA Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Rarely do we see the first pick, especially in an NBA Draft, get moved almost a week prior. However, Bryan Colangelo cashed in Sam Hinkie’s process trading up to the No. 1 spot for Markelle Fultz.

With that being said, all eyes will now begin to shift towards who the Lakers will select right after. Will it be Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson or move down for Jayson Tatum or De’Aaron Fox? This is where the Suns come heavily into play with possibly making some noise on Thursday night.

I discuss this topic and other questions Bright Side readers sent in for the second edition of our draft mailbag below.

Draft Express’ latest mock draft that came out Sunday morning actually shows Josh Jackson falling right into the Suns’ lap at No. 4. Even The Ringer’s latest mock has Jackson slipping, but has De’Aaron Fox heading to the Valley instead ahead of him. I don't see that happening if the former Jayhawk is on the board, though.

Compared to Jayson Tatum, Jackson’s floor is lower (however, I have more confidence in Jackson hitting his ceiling compared to Tatum) and I’d have to say his fit alongside Jaylen Brown would be puzzling, to say the least. When Brown was taken last year he was described as a high energy wing who needed to work on his shot, ditto for Jackson but Brown’s shot has much more promise from the perimeter.

Boston needs another weapon who can create for himself, and Tatum’s offensive repertoire collaborates well alongside an ISO-dominant guard like Isaiah Thomas. Meanwhile, Al Horford’s game is stretching more towards the outside, allowing Tatum’s advanced moves on the post to shine in the right scenario.

Many are pointing towards Jackson as Danny Ainge’s target at No. 3, but after choosing Thomas over Fultz long-term, continuing to complement your franchise player's skillset sounds like the move for Boston. This opens the door even more for a free agent of Blake Griffin’s caliber to slide right in at the four spot, and a willing passer who would help set up Tatum and Thomas while taking less pressure off of them.

I use to be in the Jackson-Boston wagon, but, man, Tatum opens up plenty of possibilities for the Celtics to maintain flexibility with Brown, Marcus Smart, and Terry Rozier, who for some reason Ainge covets to the point of keeping him out of multiple deals.

A lineup of Thomas-Bradley-Tatum-Griffin-Horford, with a bench featuring Jae Crowder and Brown, is a buildable core. Even then, they could use the multitude of picks they have collected on a player like Jimmy Butler who’s value will diminish closer to the trade deadline in February.

Anyways, I believe Jackson has his flaws offensively, but his overall playmaking and defensive mentality put him barely above Jonathan Isaac on my board. A Jackson selection for Phoenix would be a best-case scenario outside of Lonzo Ball taking a tumble.

Pairing Devin Booker and Jackson together on the wing is oh so tantalizing. Adding in a playmaker of Jackson’s caliber will allow for more open looks in the corner for shooters, who’s going to draw a crowd driving inside each and every time.

And with Jackson, this gives Phoenix a major weapon in transition who can either lead it or run out alongside Marquese Chriss. (Those two out in front is a scary idea.)

I’ll dive deeper into the Jackson-Suns scenario Monday morning when my first and only lottery mock will drop on Bright Side.

Do you see Boston taking Issac at No. 3?

Even though Boston did previously workout Isaac in Las Vegas this month, I would have to say out of the three wings he has the lowest odds by far to be in Boston. While adding a versatile defensive stopper in Isaac would really help mask a lot of their deficiencies on defense, I can’t constitute trading away the rights to Markelle Fultz for him.

However, where it could get interesting is if Boston calls up Sacramento or Phoenix to move up to No. 3.

The love the Kings have De’Aaron Fox is legit, while the Suns could feel a team behind them could jump up and take Ball if he’s available or Jackson. Boston worked out Lauri Markkanen and Dennis Smith Jr. on Saturday, two prospects who I have ranked near or outside my top ten. The Celtics could easily see a deep draft in front of them and use it to their advantage.

Let's say Sacramento feels they need to move in front of Phoenix to take Fox. If that occurred, it wouldn’t be for their two lottery picks after what happened with Philadelphia. I’d imagine a package around No. 5, an extra early second rounder, and a future protected first would get it done. This then opens the door for Fox at three, with Jackson heading to Phoenix while Boston still has their choice of Isaac or Tatum.

With a savvy general manager, don’t count out Ainge and Co. to call up Vlade Divac and McDonough to see if they can continue stockpiling assets for a future superstar trade. After letting go of Fultz, I can’t count them out to continue being aggressive and pulling a Cleveland Browns, who continued to move back in the NFL Draft a couple of years back to stockpile assets in a loaded draft class in 2017.

Booker’s Impact on the Draft

One of our readers sent in a question about Devin Booker’s involvement in the draft process.

McDonough spoke previously about how that would be a factor, but the media has not been able to obviously see the impact that’s had. And really, it should not factor much into the choice. Whoever the best player available is and will help the Suns get closer to championship contention, you should take them.

And be well aware, I’m probably reaching to the moon here, but Booker does only follow Jayson Tatum on Instagram out of all the prospects rumored to the Valley.

Again, though, we have no read on who prefers who and so on, but it could be a factor come Thursday night, however big or small it goes into the front office’s mindset.

As assistant general manager Tim Connelly told the media at a draft workout earlier this month, their scouts have thousands of reports on all of these prospects. Whether Booker prefers Player A to Player B should not be a factor on one of the most important drafts in the McDonough era.

It really depends on how the Suns’ front office sees this draft class. Does Ball rank on the same tier as Fultz, or are the top five prospects really that close to one another? From what McDonough said post-lottery, though, it makes me think he wishes the ping pong balls didn’t knock them off their No. 2 pedestal.

Many media outlets have made us believe Ball would have been their top target, even with the first pick, so if he somehow drops to four the card should be sprinted up there. Whether Suns fans like the Ball family or not, Lonzo is a transcendent player for a franchise. And for a team looking to Run-N-Gun, Ball is a perfect point guard to replace Eric Bledsoe long-term.

I’ve wavered back and forth on if the Suns should go all-in on Ball, but if they feel he would change the franchise’s upward trajectory then I’m all for it.

With Miami squarely in the mix for top free agents this summer -- I think Gordon Hayward going there is getting too slept on at the moment — their 2018 pick will lose value. Why not send that one, but also the 2021 pick in a deal to obtain Ball, because those will be mid if not late first rounders.

The window for the Suns to cash in their assets is closing, especially the Miami picks, so pull a Philadelphia and get your point guard of the future alongside Booker while moving Bledsoe for a later lottery pick. As we get closer to the draft, it’s making much more sense to pull the trigger.

Suns receive: No. 2, Luol Deng

Lakers receive: No. 4, 2018 first via Miami, 2021 first via Miami

I’m tossing in a veteran like Deng into the deal, even with his albatross of a contract, because he fills an immediate wing need in substitute minutes while also adding veteran leadership to a locker room that needs more of those voices. Also, I think Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka aren’t going to let Ball out of their hands unless Deng or Timofey Mozgov’s contracts get sent off alongside him.

Taking on Deng’s contract to get your franchise point guard shouldn’t cause a pause in the Suns’ front office to get ahold of Ball.

As I wrote in February, Lonzo might just be the best overall fit for the Suns in this draft class, even ahead of a transcendent talent like Fultz.

Here’s how the roster could realistically shake out if they manage to wrangle in Ball:

PG: Ball, Ulis

SG: Booker, Knight, Draft/FA

SF: Warren, Deng, Jones Jr., Dudley

PF: Chriss, Bender, Draft/FA, Williams

C: Bender, Chandler, Draft/FA (Keep an eye on Zach Collins if they obtain Ball), Williams

This might not match “The Process” over in Philadelphia, but I’d take my chances with this roster to build around, while still maintaining their own picks in the upcoming seasons to max out their core of Ball, Booker, Chriss, and Bender.

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