It’s crazy to say with how fast this season has flown by, but we are now less than two months away from the most important night in recent memory for the Suns: The NBA Draft Lottery in Chicago on May 15.
This years draft class is set up to be one of the strongest since 2003, let alone the last 10 years for sure. With elite names at the top like Luka Doncic, Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III, and Michael Porter Jr., the Suns are set up to add that critical third pillar to their stable alongside Devin Booker and Josh Jackson.
However, what I want to focus on today revolves around how the Suns could be viewing draft night as not only a retooling but a roster reset.
A fix to the mistake that was made in 2016 by trading up for Marquese Chriss with too many assets, Phoenix now sits in a spot to move back up into a stronger crop of prospects in that 7-11 range.
As we all know, it is very unlikely the Suns keep all of these picks if they convey. At the moment, Milwaukee only sits 1.5 games behind Washington, so if they pass them it won’t go Phoenix’s way, in case you were wondering. The real question lies in how general manager Ryan McDonough views this lottery group compared to previous ones.
Last year, we saw Portland package two mid-firsts and move into the No. 10 slot to select Zach Collins. Phoenix has more ammunition in their war chest, but other hopeful movers such as the Los Angeles Clippers (picks 12 and 13), Atlanta Hawks (picks 3, 18, and 30), and Philadelphia 76ers (picks 10 and 23) make compelling cases if their on the other end of the phone while someone else is on the clock.
If the Suns are lucky enough to land in the top two to secure either Doncic or Ayton, they could feel a need to clinch their big victory by obtaining another quality long-term piece in this draft.
Below, I’m going to relay six names that could intrigue the Suns in such a scenario. Some of these names I would agree with and some I disagree with, but these all fit the profile of possible Suns.
After thinking more and more on this scenario, Bamba seems like priority No. 1 if they landed a ball handler such as Doncic or Young in the top 4 picks. He fits exactly what they need desperately in a rim protector. He also not only would be allowed time to develop with ample scorers already around him, but that also gives Bamba the ability to focus on rim protection and rebounding.
As you have seen Rudy Gobert’s effect in Utah, Phoenix would hope much of the same from Bamba by 2020 when they are ready to vault towards actually making playoff noise. Also, the issues you would see on the surface with either a Booker/Doncic or Booker/Young backcourt would be wiped away by Bamba’s presence down low.
Bamba’s fit in Texas, when looking back on it after their quick elimination in the NCAA Tournament, wasn’t great. Shaka Smart had to be told by Bamba himself to coach him harder and his on-court teammates surrounding him did not suit what will happen on the next level. In the NBA, he will be the new Gobert and be littered with shooters around him.
If Bamba hits his potential, you have the possibilities of unlocking Pandora’s box there. It could be special, and that’s what I believe could tip the scales for Phoenix in an aggressive move up like that.
Before the season began — before Marvin Bagley III even reclassified late this summer — Bamba was mentioned near the top for Phoenix by a league source. Alongside names like Doncic and Porter, Bamba certainly fits the criteria of what the Suns are starved for with their long-term outlook of ample length and versatility all over the court.
If they are able to land Doncic, moving up for Bamba might be in the cards. On the surface, that honestly could be Ryan McDonough’s dream scenario to redeem himself from two years ago at this time.
Much like I mentioned with Bamba throughout his section, it revolves around what happens in front of Phoenix for the cards to fall perfectly for Young to land here. Not only would the Suns need to believe in Ayton as an eventual two-way force and above-average rim protector, but for Young’s stock to actually be falling like many suggest into that 7-8 range.
On draft night, I can’t see Young falling any lower than No. 8, so in a similar manner to Bamba, this would have to be in very aggressive fashion by McDonough.
If they believe Young’s offensive superpower overlooks his awful defensive habits, he and Booker could form the most dynamic backcourt since Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Trust me, that potential is there and that has to be on the mind for people in Phoenix’s front office.
Young might have been in an even worse college situation than Bamba because he had no actual pro-level talent around him. Christian James and Brady Mannek shouldn’t be the ones called upon for secondary help. If that’s Jackson or Booker, for example, many are calling Young an easy top three pick in my mind.
There’s definitely a possibility where Young falls if people buy more into his flaws, but if he’s there at let's say No. 8 for the Bulls do you call up Gar Forman and John Paxson from Phoenix? With Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine already in the fold, offering up something to help consolidate their rebuild faster could land them two potential stars out of this draft with Ayton and Young.
If you have been listening in to Locked On Suns all season, you would know how much I’m already in on this idea for Phoenix. Simply put, Bridges is everything T.J. Warren can offer plus a lot more.
Standing at 6’7” with a 7’2” wingspan, Bridges has been drawing comparisons to Kawhi Leonard lately simply off of length and late bloomer-like production in college, but that’s not the case. Bridges is not like Kawhi, but he’s unique in his own that could attract plenty of teams like Phoenix to move up for him.
We saw it on full display in the Sweet 16, but Bridges can take over a game at any moment. He went off for 23 points in the second half recently and his defensive ability makes him a nightmare for opposing players for 40 minutes.
One area where this Suns team, outside of rim protection, is in need of is just adding actual 3-and-D shooters to this roster. Outside of Davon Reed, nobody else fits the profile of a modern wing outside of Jackson’s talent making up for his average wingspan.
Bridges is definitely a candidate who could be available in that 8-10 range, which falls perfectly into where the Suns’ assets might vault them. If they were to offer 15 + Warren, that might even be enough for a team above them to bite on with his 20 ppg scoring prowess.
I’ll continue to hit on Bridges throughout the pre-draft process, who sits at No. 7 on my latest big board update, but he’s a name to keep an eye on if the Suns want to cap off a successful draft night.
SGA is gaining a ton of steam lately and for good reason. He’s risen up to No. 10 on my board and might continue to climb if he does well at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago.
He fits a lot of the qualities I have hit on thus far in above-average length and adding a versatile dynamic. For a point guard, Gilgeous-Alexander has a huge wingspan supposedly meeting the 7’ plateau that Frank Ntilikina crossed himself last year.
Gilgeous-Alexander also fits the billing of someone set to rise league-wide due to how well he performed for Kentucky once he was given the keys to John Calipari’s offense about two months ago. When that happened, SGA’s numbers went up across the board while his efficiency on both ends didn’t drop off.
He was only a 4-star recruit, but he’s showing the qualities of a moldable prospect who could pay dividends in future re-draft type of stories.
We have discussed plenty throughout the season about ideal backcourt fits alongside Booker. Two of them are the overall length and defensive profile. Gilgeous-Alexander fits both of those ideas snuggly so keep an eye on him as a prospect who might be the crown jewel ball handler in McDonough’s eyes.
Unlike Gilgeous-Alexander, Sexton has been a mainstay near the tops of boards since last summer but has fallen off a little bit due to his lack of progress in some areas. While Sexton is an above-average finisher, he has yet to fully display a sense of improved court vision.
The more I watch of Sexton, the more I come away believing he’s a combo guard and not exactly a pure playmaker. If he’s bred to be the third or fourth option on offense, which easily could happen in a place like Phoenix, I don’t see that ending well for somebody like Sexton who has the dog in him to be an instant impact.
For a comparison, I believe he’s a hybrid of adding many two-way attributes of Eric Bledsoe but also the craftiness and scoring ability of Kemba Walker. I have Sexton at No. 12 on my board, third ball-handler behind Doncic and Gilgeous-Alexander, because of that lack of progress.
However, it should be noted that Sexton wasn’t even rated by some recruiting services two years ago. He’s blowing up at the moment and could be someone targeted by Phoenix who they believe can still ascend in some areas we haven’t seen yet.
If Sexton falls to a team like Charlotte, which has mentioned before in mock drafts, that could open up the possibility of not only them taking calls for possible Sexton deals but Kemba ones as well.
Definitely monitor Sexton through this pre-draft process, because he has the making of a culture changer the Suns might be targeting at this moment.
Wendell Carter Jr.
This fit might be weird on the surface for some, but Carter will be an immediate impact rookie. I have no doubts about that due to his high ceiling, high floor projection by myself and most other draftniks.
He really does have all the making of becoming Al Horford 2.0 if he lands in the right system.
For a team like Phoenix, Carter could fill a lot of holes they were expecting with Dragan Bender. Carter is a great passing big man but also has rim protection skills that Bender lacks in massive quantities.
Sure, Bender brings you the versatility to switch and stay with quicker-footed bigs/wings, but could Carter? I feel like we don’t have the exact answer to that question, which means there might be more to Carter’s potential on that end than I realized.
Even if they kept Bender, Carter is a great fit alongside him too. He’s a pure post body who can bring his range out to the NBA three-point line consistently. I saw on multiple occassions this season where Carter blocked a shot at the rim then followed up with a three-pointer as the trailer.
Those are some impressive sequences from Carter that became regular for him.
Right now, the Suns are in need of not only immediate impact players but ones who don’t have high bust potential. Carter has all the makings of becoming a stretch big who can be a consistent two-level scorer with more defensive instincts than advertised.
That has the makings of not only a move up the draft boards for Carter but also becoming a prime target for the Suns to move back up into the top 10 if they acquire their ball handler in the top three picks.
Carter currently sits at No. 9 in the rankings, but he could make a solid push for the top seven on plenty of teams boards like the Suns.
Best trade up locations pre-lotto: Cleveland (6), Chicago (8), Philadelphia (10), Charlotte (11), Los Angeles Clippers (12)
This is an area that should be covered, too, because of how the asset value of those two mid-first round picks could fall.
There have been plenty of instances where teams in that range where Phoenix owns likely back-to-back selections move on up. What also works in the Suns’ favor is that 2021 Miami pick in their back pocket if they truly believe this piece will cement them as an up-and-coming threat.
Sprinkling in the possibilities of adding that asset alongside plenty of other ones (picks, young players, etc.) gives the Suns a slim shot of jumping even higher than we all imagine. There’s definitely a shot they could get to where Cleveland sits at No. 6 (via Kyrie Irving trade), but that would take plenty for them to move off that perch.
Some realistic places to keep an eye on likely land in the 10-12 range, which ironically feature two teams as well with multiple first round picks this year. The possibilities could easily go all the way up into that 6-7 slot, though.
If the Suns are able to land their Plan A at the top, they could agree upon this route if a name like Bamba, Young, Bridges, Gilgeous-Alexander, Sexton or Carter is falling at a rate they didn’t expect.