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Center of the Sun: With the first pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Phoenix Suns select Luka Doncic... and then?

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If the Suns select Doncic, there will be a LOT of work left to do.

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

A lot has happened since last week’s edition of the CotS. Quite a few of the top prospects in the Draft have come in for individual workouts as well as a few group workouts targeting players that might be taken with the Suns’ later picks. Absent from these workouts was top European prospect Luka Doncic but he does have a pretty good excuse... he was still playing.

There has certainly been a lot of talk about his draft stock dropping lately but you would be hard pressed to find many who don’t have him listed as at least one of the top 5-6 prospects. And there are still quite a few that will argue that he is at the top of that list, including many Suns fans. Where Ryan McDonough has him ranked is the real question though and one that won’t be answered unequivocally until something after 7:00 pm ET on the day of June 21.

As I wrote last week, there will still be a full summer’s worth of work ahead for Suns’ GM Ryan McDonough no matter who he selects in the draft. The Suns have plenty of weaknesses that need to be addressed. Defense and 3-point shooting are high on the list of general needs. Point guard, center and power forward are the positional needs.

Doncic can fill that point guard need but that probably wouldn’t be the best way to make use of his talents in the NBA, at least not in a traditional offensive style. Doncic would probably best fit in as a “point forward” and play at the small forward spot. But SF isn’t a weakness in Phoenix so head coach Igor Kokoskov would have to be creative if he wants Doncic, Booker and Josh Jackson/T.J. Warren on the floor at the same time. That might not be that difficult as Devin Booker and Josh Jackson are both also good ball handlers and distributors.

But that is a discussion for another time (maybe).

If Doncic rather than Ayton is the Suns’ pick at #1 that mostly changes the other moves that will need to be made this off-season. Many of the ideas that were proposed last week wouldn’t be appropriate and obtaining frontcourt help would be the priority.

This week we’ll take a stab at the predicting what the Suns could/should do through free agency and trades to try and build a winner after taking Luka Doncic with the first pick of the draft.


Fantable Questions of the Week

1. If the Suns draft Luka Doncic with the #1 pick, what should be their priorities for building a team that can actually win games next season?

2. List your preferred starting lineups for next season and bench depth.

GuarGuar: 1. If we draft Luka (who I still prefer by a very slight margin), the biggest priority this summer becomes finding a big man. There’s a couple of realistic options. It’s possible we can snag Clint Capela from Houston if we overpay or if the Rockets decide to go with DeAndre Jordan. Capela‘s rim running and defense would fit perfectly for the roster. If we can’t snag Capela, I would look into signing DeAndre Jordan to big money for a very short term contract (maybe similar to what the Sixers did with J.J. Reddick this past year). Money talks and we are one of the few teams with max player cap space this summer. Signing Jordan to anything over 2 years would be ridiculous though given his age.

Similar to if we draft Ayton, we still need to figure out the PF position. Marquese Chriss or Dragan Bender could be the answer long term, but if we are trying to win now we need to add a solid piece. Signing Trevor Ariza or trading for Kevin Love are viable options. A possible deal for Love could be 16, Milwaukee pick, Jared Dudley and T.J. Warren (just an idea). Love only has 2 years left on his contract so it wouldn’t be a bad move to make. He’s still an All-star level player.

If we draft Luka we also need a solid point guard defender to use at times (and possibly for small ball lineups). Patrick Beverley is a guy who stands out that we could get for a reasonable salary. His defense would be a breath of fresh air.

To get the salary space necessary we have to dump Tyson Chandler’s expiring deal, so packaging 31, 59 and a future 2nd (or more) may be needed.

2. In my dream scenario (which is rather unlikely), the Suns roster next year is:

  • Doncic/Beverley/Ulis
  • Booker/Knight/Daniels
  • Jackson/Reed/House
  • Love/Bender
  • Capela/Chriss/Sauce

Fantastic offensive potential and versatility among “The Hydra” of Doncic/Booker/Jackson. Love provides good floor spacing and an All-star level player for the “win now”. Capela provides the interior defensive presence we have been missing for so long. I truly believe this roster gets into the playoffs next year.

Sun-Arc: 1. Building around Booker and Doncic is, in my opinion, far more complicated than if we draft Ayton. It may very well be worth it, though. As I mentioned last week, with Ayton and Book you need to surround them with 3&D players at the other positions. I think the team still would need that around Devin and Luka - but there is the added issue of size/depth of the center position. How much size and depth is a question of identity and schemes.

I am not certain what Igor would want to do with a bevy of wings in Booker, JJ, TJ, and now Doncic - though it would be easy to guess that it would closely resemble the Slovenian team’s schemes. I do not have intimate knowledge of that team but here’s what I can gather about its make-up from the championship run against Spain:

We know there were a lot of wing/guard play and action.

  • Guards: Goran & Prepelic, both 6’-3”: near 30 min each. The backup (Nikolic, also 6’-3”) played 13 minutes.
  • Small Fwds: Doncic & Cancar, both 6’-8”: Luka played over 35 minutes while Cancar barely touched the court at just 2 minutes.
  • Power Fwds: Anthony Randolph @ 6’-11” (he’s Slovenian?) played 30 minutes & Zagorac 6’-9” (beefy dude) played over 11 minutes.
  • Center: Vidmar @ 6’-11” (big dude) played nearly 30 minutes, backed up by another 6’-11” bruiser named Dimec at under 11 minutes.

Lots of speed, passing, and versatility with the 1-3 positions, with nearly as much at the 4 with a PF that can hit 3’s, and a ‘bone crusher’ at center that is meant to defend, enforce, and get easy dunks.

For comparison:

  • Goran: No one exactly like this, Knight is a very inefficient version that isn’t as crafty or good at passing. I do not think JJ can fill this role unless he can hit 3’s near 40%, which would be a big jump. Still might prefer him to Knight to start depending on the big men we end up with. We could go with a 3&D PG here like Beverly or Bradley.
  • Propelic: Booker is a much bigger, more talented version.
  • Doncic: Hey! We have the same guy already!
  • Anthony Randolf: Chriss/Bender hybrid? Someone better would likely be needed. Aaron Gordon might work well here- though I’m wary on his lack of defense and career 3-pt shooting. Interestingly, if Bender could grow a pair and grow up to reach his ceiling, he’d be pretty ideal.
  • Vidmar: Need to find this player too. Capela would be great- but Deandre Jordan would be pretty nice too. Or a smaller version in Derek Favors.

From the draft- Kevin Knox @ PF might suffice, but is a huge risk and likely will take 2 years to develop. Robert Williams could be a good version of Vidmar for Igor. Mitchell Robinson might even be better, but may also take a couple of years. So - the draft is probably not the place to find our big men for Igor.

On Goran Dragic… I would not be opposed to bringing him back (yet again). He would REALLY help run the team for Igor as an on-court leader. Having him at the helm would have to be an improvement over Knight or JJ. Is there a better PG available for Igor’s scheme? I would think Kemba Walker would do fine - but in terms of getting the most out of Doncic and Igor…?

I’m going to assume we can’t clear enough space for two top-end FA big men, but still have to drop Williams, Reed, and Payton. I’ll assume we miss out on Gordon, but we are able to trade TJ+Chriss+picks for Mo Harkless.

And also trade a couple of picks & players for Goran.

2. Starting line ups and (minutes per game):

Goran (30), Booker (34), Doncic (30), Harkless (32), Favors (30)

Rotation players:

Knight (14), Harrison (16), JJ (34), Bender (20)

It is kind of an odd line up. But any successful team with Doncic is likely to be kind of unusual. The offense should be fun to watch, though not so sure about the D and whether Igor has schemes and coaching ability to keep that roster out of the bottom third on that end. And maybe it would be better to have Bradley over Goran for more defense. But, again… who would run the team better?

SDKyle: 1. The biggest difference between this and the Ayton scenario, for me, is that the biggest priority shifts from PG to big. I’d use the same basic trading blocks from before: Warren, our draft picks, Bender, Ulis, and target Kevin Love. I know I’ve argued against Love before, but I feel his price is coming down and he might now cost less than would trying to trade for a pick high enough to acquire Mohammed Bamba or Jaren Jackson Jr. I’d also remain interested in signing Derrick Favors and Trevor Ariza.

2. Starting lineup/rotation:

  • PG: Doncic, Knight
  • SG: Booker, Knight
  • SF: Jackson, Ariza
  • PF: Favors, Chriss
  • C: Love, Williams.

Doncic typically would guard the opposing SF while Jackson guards the PG. This lineup is hardly a defensive terror but has plenty of passing ability and four players who figure to average or better perimeter shooters.

SouthernSun: 1. With the Suns drafting Doncic the priority will be to get some defense behind he and Booker. And, well, just talented basketball players in general. Something the Suns lack outside of like three people.

The Suns will need to be aggressive in both trades and free agency here.

With how well the Rockets did against the Warriors when they were at full strength (at healthy Chris Paul) for those first 5 games, I’m assuming Clint Capela isn’t up for grabs.

I’ve decided to go a bit off the beaten path on this one. Normally I’d be here talking about Aaron Gordon and Derrick Favors. And honestly, that would be a great duo to bring in, in the event we get Doncic. However, I want to do something a little different here.

The Suns make trade for Tobias Harris.

Suns send:

Marquese Chriss + Jared Dudley + Tyson Chandler + 2018 #16 + MIL 1st + 2018 #31

Clippers send:

Tobias Harris + Patrick Beverly + Boban Marjanovic

Suns renounce rights to Alex Len, Elfrid Payton, and Shaq Harrison. Suns also cut Alan Williams.

Suns then sign DeAndre Jordan in free agency to a 4 year max contract.

2. Suns go into next season looking like

  • Luka Doncic/Patrick Beverly
  • Devin Booker/Brandon Knight/ Troy Daniels
  • Josh Jackson/TJ Warren/Danuel House
  • Tobias Harris/Dragan Bender
  • DeAndre Jordan/Boban Marjanovic

This team would absolutely be in the mix for the playoffs next season, and has a lot of room to grow. Tobias is a great scorer and 3 point shooter, while also being a passable defender, and Jordan is a perennial DPOY candidate. Patrick Beverly off the bench on a steal of a contract for the time being isn’t a luxury to sneeze at either.

T.J. Warren was not included in this deal because his extremely limited skill set isn’t as valuable in a trade as even that MIL pick. So the Suns keep his one dimensional scoring on their bench where it belongs.

Alex Sylvester: 1. CLINT. CAPELA.

If this team doesn’t have a legitimate center on the roster next year, I will be incredibly irritated. Clint and Doncic would be a very good scenario for the Suns, if everything played out like this.

The rest of the draft should be looked into maneuvering up the draft board to pick up the BPA from the bigs group (Bamba/Ayton/Porter jr/Bagley/JJJ)

Porter Jr would be the best target for the Suns to acquire in the 6-8 range. #7 (Chicago) would be the place to move up in order to grab MPJ.

Whatever defensive pieces you can add in FA would be the best way to proceed after. Assuming Clint would be signed in RFA, you wouldn’t have too much room to work with, so we’ll the roster as such.

2. Ideal depth if we were to draft Luka:

  • Doncic-Booker-Jackson-MPJ-Capela
  • Knight-Daniels-Warren-Chriss-Bender

Many thanks again to our Fantable - GuarGuar, Sun-Arc, SDKyle, SouthernSun and Alex Sylvester - for all their input!


2017-18 Season Highlights

Phoenix Suns vs Philadelphia Sixers Full Game Highlights 4 Dec 2017

Devin Booker Puts Up a Season-High 46 Pts vs. Sixers | December 4, 2017


Quotes of the Week

“When you see him on tape, I don’t think you realize on tape how big he is. He’s able to jab and create his own shot. He’s able to lower his shoulder to create space and overpower defenders. He’s adept at getting to the free-throw line.” - Ryan McDonough on Luka Doncic

“That’s the hardest part of the game, the most difficult to teach. To be a good passer, you have to understand the game. It’s basketball IQ. He’s really unique and special.” - Igor Kokoskov on Doncic’s ability as a distributor


Interesting Suns Stuff


News & Notes

Moore: The talk is Deandre Ayton, but what if Luka Doncic is the guy? Greg Moore/AZCentral Sports

It Looks Like the Suns Have Made Up Their Minds About Deandre Ayton. The Ringer

Former Suns GM Colangelo resigns as 76ers president after wife admits to tweets. ABC15 Arizona

2018 NBA Mock Draft: Latest Prospects’ Stock Movement and Predictions. Bleacher Report

Charles Barkley admits he was mad at Steve Kerr for disrespecting Suns. Clutch Points

Report: Suns pursuing another lottery pick, possibly for Trae Young. Hoops Hype

All four of these top draft prospects came to Phoenix for individual workouts in the last few days. If you haven’t already read the BSotS stories about them, I encourage you to give them a look.

Sense of closure surrounds Deandre Ayton’s predraft workout with Suns (by Evan Sidery)

Marvin Bagley grew up Suns fan, feels “disrespected” to hand #1 pick to anyone else (by Dave King)

Possible #1 pick Mo Bamba knows exactly how he can help the Suns (by Dave King)

Jaren Jackson’s versatility could entice Suns to trade down and take him (by Dave King)


Suns History in Video


Suns Trivia

Although Phoenix Suns Ring of Honor member Alvan Adams leads the Suns in lots of positive cumulative career statistics (games, minutes, rebounds, steals, etc.), he’s also the runaway leader in fouls with 3214 (Walter Davis is the runner-up with 1888).

The NBA record for fouls committed by a player for a single team belongs to Hall of Famer Karl Malone who committed 4462 fouls as a member of the Utah Jazz.


Previewing the Weeks (& Months) Ahead

June 11 through 20 - Pre-draft workouts continue

June 11 - NBA Draft Early Entry Entrant Withdrawal Deadline (5 pm ET)

June 21 - 2018 NBA Draft (7 pm ET)

June 24 - Last day for potential restricted free agents to exercise player options.

June 25 - NBA awards show.

June 29 - Last day for decisions on player, team and early termination options, unless individual contracts specify otherwise.

June 30 - Last official day of the 2017/18 NBA league year. Last day for teams to make qualifying offers to players eligible for restricted free agency.

July 1 - Official start of the 2018/19 NBA league year. July moratorium begins. NBA free agency officially begins (12:01 am ET) and free agents can begin reaching verbal agreements with teams. Restricted free agents can sign an offer sheet. Teams can begin signing players to rookie scale contracts, minimum salary contracts, and two-way contracts.

July 6 - July moratorium ends (11:00am CT). Teams can begin officially signing players, extending players, and completing trades. The two-day period for matching an RFA offer sheet signed during the moratorium begins.

July 6-17 - 2018 NBA Summer League (Las Vegas)

July 13 - Last day for teams to unilaterally withdraw qualifying offers to restricted free agents.

July 15 - Last day for teams to issue required tenders to unsigned first-round picks; those players become free agents on July 16 if not tendered.

August 31 - Last day for teams to waive players and apply the stretch provision to their 2018/19 salaries.

September 5 - Last day for teams to issue required tenders to unsigned second-round picks; those players become free agents on September 6 if not tendered.

Late September (specific dates TBA) - Training camps open.


Last Week’s Poll Results

The poll was, “The Suns best off-season acquisition (other than the player selected #1 in the draft) will probably come by way of...”

16% - Free agency.

72% - A trade.

12% - One of their other draft picks.

There were a total of 413 votes cast.


This week’s poll is about the rumor that the Suns may try to trade for another lottery pick to draft Trae Young. To actually get him, they would probably need a top 5 pick as Orlando would probably snap him up at #6 if he is still on the board when their turn to pick comes.

Poll

Do you think it’s possible for the Suns to get another top 5 pick in the draft?

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    Yes.
    (135 votes)
  • 31%
    No.
    (145 votes)
  • 39%
    Maybe but it would probably cost too much to be worth it.
    (186 votes)
466 votes total Vote Now