Recently, the #Timeline has experienced a boost in excitement for the future as the Phoenix Suns have played (mostly) competitive basketball over the past month on the backs of their draft pick kiddie corps.
20 year old Marquese Chriss has gone through the best 9-game stretch of his young career, scoring in double figures in 7 of 9 games, and putting up averages of 11.5 points (51% shooting, 37% on threes), 7 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 1.2 steals per game in 26 minutes a night.
When Chriss suffered a hip pointer early in Sunday’s signature win over the Thunder, fellow 20 year old power forward Dragan Bender then produced the game of his career with 20 points (6 of 8 on threes), 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks. He’s had three straight 4-assist games and is making 39% of his threes over the last 10 games.
A third 20 year old, Josh Jackson had his own best game of the year against the Thunder, and has been putting up almost 11 points (47% three point shooting), 4 rebounds, 2 assists and nearly a 2:1 assist/turnover ratio over the past 10 games.
And then there’s 21 year old #BookEm Devin Booker, who is playing like an All-Star every single game. His season averages (25/4/4) have historically been All-Star good and he’s been converting at a much more efficient clip this year.
And we haven’t even mentioned 22 year old guards Tyler Ulis and Davon Reed, or 24 year old T.J. Warren who is putting up nearly 24 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists per game over the last 10.
None of these guys are becoming free agents any time soon, meaning #TheTimeline has a lot of runway left to go before having to really take off.
The only young free agent pending is 24 year old Alex Len, who is looking forward to a second try at a big contract after finally delivering like the big man he is.
So why do the Suns need more draft picks? Don’t they have enough kids anyway?
To be used in trades, and to cull down the focus from too many not-quite-cornerstone kids to a 1-2 more high potential kids to join Devin Booker’s parade to the playoffs.
What the Suns have coming this June
This June, the Suns could have 3 more first round picks in their back pockets. Get the details on realgm.com.
- Their own, which currently sits at #10 but will likely finish as a Top-5 pick given the Suns difficult schedule from here on out
- Miami’s pick, as long as it’s not Top-7. The HEAT, currently 24-17, have the 4th best East record and very likely will make the playoffs, ensuring the Suns get their pick. According to basketball-reference.com, the Heat will likely convey a pick in the 16-22 range
- Milwaukee’s pick, as long as it’s between 11-16 this year (the protections dwindle as the years go by). bball-ref predicts about a 25% chance the Bucks pick ends up in that range. Most likely, this pick conveys around 2020.
- Up to 4 second round picks, though only the Suns pick is likely to come in the top half of that round.
Do the Suns need 4-7 more draft picks this June? Heck no. They barely need one more. Something will happen with these picks, even if it ends up the Suns draft Euro guys who won’t come over for a while or kicking the can down the road to more future picks.
Greg Monroe has a nice, juicy expiring contract. Given that only half-dozen teams even project to have ANY cap room this summer, and a few of the remaining teams are desperate to shed salary to get under the luxury tax, I am hoping the Suns can turn Monroe into... something.
But what would the Suns want back? The Suns might want to have Monroe’s expiring contract for themselves. To give another team salary relief without making the Suns own cap sheet onerous, the Suns would have to find a team with cap room for him (which isn’t going to happen), or find a team with their own expiring contract of similar size, or take back draft picks.
Tyson Chandler has the perfect contract for trade, actually. Since Chandler has another season beyond this one, the Suns are already committed to that money and can take on a contract in return without hurting the cap sheet. Don’t be surprised when Chandler is traded for someone no one wants in Phoenix, but at least doesn’t hurt the future.
With each of Monroe and Chandler, the Suns could easily attach one of more of their own incoming draft picks to sweeten the talent pot to bring back a usable body.
Troy Daniels could be moved to a playoff contender to make room for Davon Reed as he gets healthy. But Daniels’ contract (another season beyond this, for about $3 million each) won’t bring back anything of value for the Suns, so don’t expect a lot.
Another tradable asset is the impending free agent Alex Len (who must approve any trade, and wouldn’t bring Bird Rights with him).
The only assets likely to bring back real value in trade are the long-term affordable T.J. Warren (under contract for 4 more years at just $12 million per) and any one or more of the kiddie corps - Chriss, Jackson, Bender, Booker.
It all depends on what’s coming back.
Stop dreaming about buying a Top-5 pick
I’ve seen this floating around comment sections lately.
Please stop thinking the Suns can buy their way into a Top-5 pick using some combination of those extra draft picks detailed above, and one or more of the kiddie corps.
The same reason YOU think it’s worth doing is the very reason other teams will say no thank you. Remember when Danny Ainge offered SIX draft picks to buy the 9th overall pick in 2015? Charlotte said no thank you, and took Frank the Tank instead. Even in hindsight, the Hornets would still say no because the NBA is about top-end talent, not middling talent.
No wants to give you the unopened treasure chest for a clear sack of pocket lint and silver coins.
I’ll leave that one to you all.
But let’s recap the talent that Ryan McDonough has brought back in trades since taking over:
- 2013: Eric Bledsoe (for Dudley and a second round pick); Gerald Green and Miles Plumlee (for Luis Scola); Slava Kravtsov and Ish Smith (for Caron Butler); Tyler Ennis (for lots of guys, including Marcin Gortat)
- 2014: Isaiah Thomas (just technically; it was really a FA signing); Tony Mitchell (for Anthony Tolliver)
- 2015: Brandan Wright (for flotsam); Reggie Bullock (for Shavlik Randolph); Brandon Knight and 3 low first round picks (for all the gold in the land, including the Dragon and IT); a second round pick (for Marcus Morris and others); Jon Leuer (for a second round pick)
- 2016: late lotto pick (for Markieff Morris); 8th overall pick Marquese Chriss (for what really equated to Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, Isaiah Thomas, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Skal Labissiere, Georgios Papagiannis, Reggie Bullock and Danny Granger)
- 2017: Alec Peters (for P.J. Tucker); Troy Daniels (for a second round pick); Greg Monroe (for Eric Bledsoe)
The Suns got three good years from Eric Bledsoe. And a sometimes-promising 1.5 years from Marquese Chriss so far.
But that’s it.
No All-Star games. No perennial All-NBA should-be’s.
All the rest of those players acquired in trades by McDonough lasted less than a year with the Suns or spent much of their time in and out of the rotation or on the DNP list.
So, don’t expect a ton in trades.
Have a nice Thursday!