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Do the Phoenix Suns really want to move up? What would they target?

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Will the Suns take the best available player with their second first round pick? Or will they draft for need and best fit?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Oklahoma Sooners vs Rhode Island Rams Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

After taking the best available player with the top overall pick in the NBA Draft, the Phoenix Suns would love to end up with a higher ceiling player than what is available at #16 overall.

“We’re open to that,” McDonough said on Saturday of the possibility of trading up from 16. “As I mentioned before, we are looking to improve our team in multiple ways, so trading up from 16 is an option. Trading back is an option as well, because potentially freeing up more cap space to be even more aggressive in free agency, that’s one we’ll look at too. And if there’s one guy we can go get with 16 plus whatever [i.e. trading out], we’ll look at that too.”

The Suns have a number of assets, including up to four potential lottery picks in the next three drafts after this, plus this year’s #16, #31 and next year’s Milwaukee pick, as well as young players and expiring contracts.

The 2018 NBA Draft is only 11 days away now, but for trading purposes that’s a lifetime.

“It’s too early to make a call,” he said of trading up. “As to whether that’s worth it or not. As you remember, the trade for Marquese was an ‘on the clock’ deal. If there’s one particular guy we are targeting, we’ll know better on June 20 or 21 about where we need to get to get that guy.”

Reports surfaced yesterday that the Suns are trying to talk Trae Young into making an official visit to the Suns before the draft. Young could be drafted as early 3rd overall, but could also drop into the late lottery depending on how teams ultimately rank the available lottery-level point guards. Right now, he’s comfortably in the 6-10 range.

Tankathon.com has a great tab for comparing players in the draft. This link compares Young (projected #6 by Tankathon) to Collin Sexton (#12) to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (#15) to Elie Okobo (#23). They have Luka Doncic (#2) in the shooting guard group.

ESPN.com (formerly DraftExpress.com guys) have it as Doncic #4, Young #7, Sexton #9 and SGA #12.

The problem with a Suns team targeting Trae Young is that he comes up short on what Ryan McDonough said they needed after taking the #1 guy.

“We need to get better obviously defensively, we need more shooting, and you know we need more perimeter defense as well,” McDonough said when describing what comes next.

Young fits the shooting part, but not the defense part.

Both outlets have the Suns taking 19-year old Zhaire Smith at #16 — a talented wing defender who made 40% of his threes last year. Basically, what filling what McDonough describes as the top team needs.

I find it interesting that ‘passing’ was not at the top of McDonough’s list of team needs. Maybe that’s because he thinks a better offensive scheme will solve the passing woes, and that Booker and Jackson (and even Bender) will develop further as secondary ball handlers.

But there’s no point guard, and according to McDonough they don’t see ‘passing’ as a top need. That could be a smoke-screen of course, to help keep the price down on their PG target. But frankly, if you want to make progress in 2018-19, you can’t do that with a 19-year old point guard leading a group of 19-22 year olds through the NBA grind.

And neither was ‘best available player regardless of position’ a focus with that #16 pick.

“I think we’re shifting a little bit,” McDonough said. “As we get past #1. Rather than just best available, obviously the talent is important, but how does he fit with other four or five young guys.

“The guy, if we trade up, how does that guy fit in with the #1 pick but also with Devin Booker, with T.J. Warren, with Josh Jackson.”

If the Suns take Ayton as everyone in the country expects, you’re looking to build around a core with a center, a shooting guard and a pair of small forwards already in place. But only one of the four is projected to be a plus defender (Jackson).

You need a point guard for sure. You need shotmaking. You also need defense. Where the Suns get those traits to supplement the core could be anywhere.

“We have a lot of options,” he said. “But for us, we’re starting at 1, figure that out, and then kind of see how the rest falls.”