Here we are with my final BIG BOARD for the 2017 NBA Draft!
The Phoenix Suns have the 4th overall pick in one of the better drafts of the past decade. The only problem is that there are always duds in every draft, and the Suns have to hope and pray that their target is not one of those.
In recent weeks, the Suns’ reported interest has wavered back and forth. Who knows if their REAL interest has wavered at all, but according to the internets the Suns have been in love with several players who could ALL be there at #4. First, it was Lonzo Ball. Then Josh Jackson. Then Jonathan Isaac. Then Jayson Tatum. And lately De’Aaron Fox.
Interestingly, the Suns have only reportedly been able to work out Tatum and Isaac among that group. Supposedly, none of Ball, Jackson or Fox have returned the Suns phone calls for a workout. But we all know that “reported” workouts don’t really mean much.
Which of those players would fit BEST with the Suns? Remember, the Suns have Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, T.J. Warren, Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender as the best of their current core. Only Booker and Bledsoe have shown All-Star ability to date, though both have their flaws. Could this year’s pick become the best of all of them?
Here are my top 5, NOT including Markelle Fultz who is a virtual lock to go #1 overall to the Sixers. But any of the other guys on the top of the draft board could fall to #4 on Draft night.
For all of these picks - go to DraftExpress.com for full coverage. These players are listed in my own order. See the DX order at the link.
Bright Side Big Board #1: SF Josh Jackson
SF, Kansas, 6-8” tall, 6-10” wingspan, 20 years old at draft time
Jackson has refused to workout for the Suns in Phoenix, though the Suns got to visit him just outside Sacramento last week in what may or may not have been a group workout. But before that, Jackson was declining workouts from anyone but the Lakers, indicating either the Suns promised him sight-unworked, or Jackson really does have a promise from the #2-picking Lakers.
However, the Lakers just traded their point guard (D’Angelo Russell) for peanuts, so I don’t think they take a small forward in the draft. With the Sixers going heavy for Fultz, the Lakers almost certainly leaning to Lonzo Ball, and the Celtics reportedly liking Jayson Tatum more than Jackson (note: Jackson has also declined to work out for the Celtics to date), it’s quite possible that Josh Jackson is in a Suns uniform on Friday afternoon.
If you’re looking for the next Jimmy Butler or Paul George, this is your guy. Jackson has a hitch in his shot, but he does everything else at a high level - scoring, passing, defending - and he’s making shots anyway. He might be a First-Team All-Defense some day. Remember when rookie Jimmy Butler played 40 minutes a night for Thibs because of his defense? That could be Jackson next year.
Jackson’s on court persona could be even more impactful than his actual skillset. He is locked in emotionally, with a high-running motor that any team would love to have on the court.
Bright Side Big Board #2: SF Jonathan Isaac
PF/SF, Florida State, 6-11” tall, 7-1” wingspan, 19 years old at draft time
Isaac has had two workouts for the Suns, and after working out he stopped accepting requests from any team below the 4th overall pick. Could be that the Suns promised him that he wouldn’t go lower than 4th, or it could be a team just below the Suns promised him. We don’t quite know yet.
Isaac is a small forward in a power forward’s frame. He has some filling out to do, but he’s so fluid and natural in his movements right now that even if he keeps his current frame he’s likely to succeed physically the same way Kevin Durant and Kevin Garnett have done. The kid can score, rebound and defend. And he doesn’t need the ball to be effective.
Imagine a front line of Isaac, Bender and Chriss - all 7’0” or longer wingspans, able to switch everything on the perimeter and under the rim. None are full-time centers nor are they full-time forwards. They are just players who don’t need the ball in their hands to be effective.
In today’s NBA, having a long, active front line is key.
Kellan Olson adds: It’s hard to find a better match of top-10 prospects from one year to the next than Isaac and Bender. Bender’s better defensively and Isaac’s a better rebounder, but other than that, it’s pretty close with what they do on the floor. On the downside, I love Isaac as a prospect and the idea of loading up the front line, but Bender is already going to struggle getting minutes at his preferred power forward position.
Bright Side Big Board #3: PG De’Aaron Fox
PG, Kentucky, 6-3” tall, 6-6” wingspan, 19 years old at draft time
Fox declined a visit to Phoenix, reportedly citing the overabundance of guards on the roster. But the Suns reportedly love him anyway, and just might draft him if Jackson is gone by the 4th pick. I’d still take Isaac before Fox.
De’Aaron Fox had a great post season for Kentucky, especially in a matchup against Lonzo Ball. Fox could be a demon on defense and is the fastest player with the ball in college - and will be one of the fastest players in the NBA the day he takes the court. His athleticism reminds a bit of Russell Westbrook. Fox can’t shoot very well, and is not a high-volume assist man, but can slash, drive, and score while defending at a very high energy level.
Bright Side Big Board #4: SF Jayson Tatum
SF, Duke, 6-8” tall, 6-11” wingspan, 19 years old at draft time
The Suns appear to really like Tatum, working him out in California and then bringing him to Phoenix for a 2-day workout last week, making Tatum and Isaac the only two #4-prospects with multiple workouts for the Suns.
The Celtics, picking 3rd, may like Tatum better than Jackson though, so it’s possible the Suns won’t even get a chance.
I have grown to like Tatum a little better over the course of the spring. He’s a multi-dimensional scorer who can get his shot wherever he is on the court, something the Suns only otherwise have in Devin Booker. Tatum also has good athleticism and might become an average defender (even better than Booker), so this could be the guy from this draft who turns out the best after being picked apart all spring.
Tatum profiles as a better overall player than T.J. Warren, allowing the Suns to have a pair or put scorers on the floor (with Booker) while also potentially bringing better defense.
Bright Side Big Board #5: PG Lonzo Ball
PG, UCLA, 6-6” tall, 6-7” wingspan, 19 years old at draft time
Ball has declined meeting with ANY other teams besides the Lakers, so it might be moot to even list him on my Big Board. But if he DOES drop and is available at #4 overall, I would still pass on him.
People know by now I’m not a huge fan of Lonzo Ball’s future in the league. He could be incredibly unique as a sublime floor general who turns the league’s worst passing team into one of the best just by his presence. But he needs to become a threat to score outside of wide open long-range bombs, and he needs to prove he can hold his own defensively.
Kellan Olson adds (from April): I was one of the most vocal about his flaws throughout the season, but I can’t deny he is one of the three players in this class with the special sauce that could change a franchise. My ranking of him for a team is also highly dependent on the fit and I like it in Phoenix. Booker is a capable secondary ball-handler that can cover up some of the halfcourt concerns and the weapons in transition are everywhere. Yes, defense would be a concern, but while Ball has a low ceiling, he improved over the course of the year and has good instincts that would probably make him the better of the two in the backcourt.
Owen Sanborn adds (from April): I was fortunate enough to see Ball live when he came to Tempe to take on ASU. I did not know what to expect as I purposely had avoided watching any highlights/games he had been involved in so that I could develop my own opinion on him. His stat input for that game wasn’t anything to write home about (he hovered around 2 points, 11 boards, and 6 assists the last time I checked the scoreboard), but you could still feel his impact on the game.
And that is the argument for Ball, right? His feel for the game and ability to keep the train moving offensively is next level, and while you would prefer his shot not look like a tantrum come to life, it goes in a respectable percentage of time. His fit in Phoenix would require less movement because he does not need the ball as much as Fultz, but it makes sense why much of the fan base prefers Jackson over him.
There you have it, Suns fans. My Big Board for tomorrow’s #4 pick is:
- Josh Jackson as the best fit, #1 overall
- Jonathan Isaac at #2
- De’Aaron Fox at #3
- Jayson Tatum at #4
- Lonzo Ball at #5
What say you, Bright Side fans?