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Draft and Trade season is here! What kind of trades work when both sides are involved

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Our annual SB Nation Blogger Mock Draft is coming, and it’s a great insight into what trade proposals work and what gets laughed off.

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

It’s one thing to propose draft selections and trade proposals in a vacuum, meaning that you don’t require the other side to agree to the terms before getting to say “that’s more than enough!” and declaring victory.

The other day, I put out a vote on my twitter feed to garner fans’ assessment of the Phoenix Suns assets in terms of trading into the 2-5 range without giving up the #1 overall pick this year. Almost 23 of respondents thought the Suns had plenty of assets to do just that.

Lots of people in my mentions abstained from voting because they wanted a “don’t do this” option, but that wasn’t the point of the vote.

While 61% of Suns fans think that package could obtain a pick in the 2-5 range, I have to tell you that my outreach campaign to the editors of the associated SB Nation blogs (SacTown Royalty, Peachtree Hoops, Grizzly Bear Blues and Mavs Moneyball) almost spit into their drink cups at the thought and then politely declined. Sorry, Suns fans. T.J. Warren has a very low trade value at the moment. As do Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender. And for the same reason you WANT to convert the #16 pick into, say, #4 pick in a draft loaded in the Top-5 is the very reason that team doesn’t want to give it up.

Teams, and their fans, always overvalue their own players and dramatically undervalue other teams’ existing players. Draft picks are unicorns,

That doesn’t mean draft picks are the end-all beat-all. In fact, more than half the top 10 in any draft turn out to disappoint their fan base. The Suns, for example, are dangling their top picks in the 2014 and 2016 drafts as we speak, and might include their top pick in 2017 if the offer is right. (It’s too late to trade Len from the 2013 draft)

Let’s take a walk down memory lane, as painful as it is for me to relive, and review my results in the last four SB Nation Blogger Mock Drafts as I attempted to create a playoff team in the Valley.

I failed. But the exercise is instructive on the folly of “scouting” and “group think” and quite helpful when you’re trying to assess trade value outside the box of your own fandom.

2014 — Stauskas and Payne

Lol, I wanted Noah Vonleh that year to add to the cinderella Suns that just barely missed the playoffs and were expected to return most of the team.

That take did age well. I also did not like the idea of Dario Saric. I was on a roll. Check out my diary.

And then there’s this...

So, the top 10 are gone and the Suns (Bright Side brain trust) still see many of their favorites sitting on the board. Nik Stauskas. Gary Harris. Elfrid Payton. Adreian Payne. That was our target four (at 14 overall), with only three picks between us and the them.

And then... in a grand effort to move up and take two of our fave four, I absorbed Corey Brewer in order to take Adriean Payne AND Nik Stauskas. /throws up a little in mouth

There was little to no conversation about NOT taking Payne with one of the picks. He was a given.

I admit here and now that I’m a Payne homer. I know he’s got limited upside and likely won’t be more than 28 minute-per-game player in the NBA. And he’s old at 23 already. I know all that.

Missed on: Still on the board at 13/14 were: Gary Harris, Jusuf Nurkic and Clint Capela. And of course T.J. Warren. We liked Harris. But we liked Nik Stauskas better.

Hey, at least at 27 I took Jordan Clarkson (at old friend Kris Habbas’ recommendation), who played well for the bad Lakers and then crapped the bed for the playoff Cavaliers.

Warren was not even taken in the Blogger Mock Draft first round by any of the 30 teams.

El. Oh. El.

2015 — D-Lo over Kristaps

Maybe I’ll be better this time.

I remember being super-high on the Suns taking a power forward/center type at #13 overall, wanting either Myles Turner (who went 11th in the real draft) or Trey Lyles (who went 12th) or even Bobby Portis (who went 22nd overall).

But I did love Devin Booker, despite being worried about his youth and translatable skills beyond shooting and was not disappointed at the actual real-life pick when Turner and Lyles were off the board.

In the Blogger Mock Draft, things didn’t quite go the same as real life.

I wanted to make a splash, and executed a trade up from #13 overall to #3 to take D’Angelo Russell to lead the Suns into the future. Eric Bledsoe was the bait with the Sixers (in real life retrospect, they’d have preferred Bledsoe over Jahlil Okafor, I’m sure). Bledsoe was coming off his best season and was only 25 years old. His nightly line of 17 points, 6.1 assists, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per game made him a rare commodity and he was in the early stages of a very affordable contract.

Sure, yeah, I could have taken Kristaps Porzingis after trading up to 3 (he eventually went 8th in the Blogger Mock). But I didn’t. I really liked D-Lo and the Suns needed a better playmaker for the future, in my opinion.

At this point, the Suns had already traded away future All-Stars Isaiah Thomas and Goran Dragic the prior February. In this blogger mock, I traded Eric Bledsoe to get the #3 pick. So it’s Russell’s team, with Darren Collison backing him up (as a part of the trade), surrounded by Knight, Len, Tony Buckets and the Morrii. No Booker.

Missed on: Welp. After getting to #3, I could have taken Kristaps Porzingis to share the court with Brandon Knight, T.J. Warren and the Morrii.

If I’d stayed at 13 and kept Bledsoe... Devin Booker was already off the table at 12th and Myles Turner went 9th in the mock. But Trey Lyles was available. Trey Lyles went 22nd. Bobby Portis was available as well.

Hindsight: Devin Booker has been the best of them all, though many might argue Kristaps would have been better. Myles Turner would qualify as third-best on this list, with Russell well behind all three. D’Angelo Russell was so bad he was given to the Nets for basically nothing two years later, while Bobby Portis’ NBA highlight is that he punched a teammate. Trey Lyles was eventually traded for co-ROY Donovan Mitchell, so that worked out pretty well for the Jazz.

Another year, another bad experience for the BSotS brain trust. Sigh.

2016 — Bender (over Murray), and Brown

Ahh, 2016. I loved Dragan Bender, and nearly every mock draft around the country — including Draft Express, CBS and ESPN and others — had Bender going inside the top 4. Most often to Boston at #3.

So I traded up one spot to take Bender at #3, giving up only #28 to move up the one spot.

You’ve got a potential All-Star and building block next to Devin Booker for years and years to come. This trade was a no-brainer when it came down to it. The Suns are a better team for the next decade with Bender in the mix.

In my Blogger Mock, the Suns then traded Brandon Knight for the #8 pick to take Jaylen Brown, as part of a 3-team trade.

The Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings and Orlando Magic have agreed to a three team trade. The Sacramento Kings acquire Suns guard Brandon Knight and the #11 pick. Phoenix Suns acquire the #8 pick, Ersan Ilyasova and Devyn Marble. The Orlando Magic acquire Rudy Gay.

I’m proud of this one, swapping Knight for Jaylen Brown. The Kings needed a proven guard were dis-enamored with the NBA draft in general after a decade of picking underwhelming guys mid-lottery. Brandon Knight had just finished his first full season with the Suns, posting 19.6 points per game along with 5.1 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game.

So the Kings took on Brandon Knight and gave up the #8 as long as someone else took Rudy Gay’s huge contract off their hands (thanks Orlando).

That move created a future core of Bender, Booker and Brown (rather than Bender, Booker and Chriss). As you know, Jaylen Brown has turned out pretty darn well in the NBA.

Marquese Chriss went #9, right after my Brown pick.

I did funky weird stuff the rest of the draft because I was bored, I guess. With Bender and Brown already in the bag, I swapped #13 for Joffrey Lauvergne and #19 (Cheick Diallo). Then I swapped P.J. Tucker for Gary Payton Jr. to let P.J. have a new lease on life with a playoff team. But let’s not focus on that.

From my draft, the Suns would have had a core of Bender, Booker and Brown, with Diallo growing into a backup big man role and Payton as some kind of guard.

Missed on: The Suns and I both passed on: Jamal Murray, Domantas Sabonis, and Jakob Poetl. The rookie class in 2016 was so “strong” that second round pick Malcolm Brogdon won the ROY.

Hindsight: Jaylen Brown would have been a great pick, but the rest has been quite the poo-poo platter, so far. Bender and Diallo have done little for their teams, but at least I got off the Knight contract!

2017 — Isaac over Tatum

I had Josh Jackson in the Top 2 of my Big Boards last year, behind only Markelle Fultz. I still believe in Fultz, and fully expect that kid to grow to dominate in the league (as long as he gets over his mental hurdle on shooting).

But it was Josh Jackson who I thought would be the best wing fit next to Booker.

May 18, 2017

June 21, 2017

Jackson was a great pick for the Suns at #4 overall, universally praised locally and nationally, but had a rough rookie year. He barely made second-team All-Rookie, with eight 2017 draftees getting more All-Rookie votes than Jackson.

In the SB Nation Blogger Mock Draft, Jackson was off the board at #3, and I took Jonathan Issac at #4 instead of Jayson Tatum.

This is a bold move, but with Jackson off the board Isaac is the best available player for the Suns. I can envision a super long and mobile Suns front line of Isaac, Bender and Chriss able to defend in space, defend the perimeter, defend at the rim, rebound and switch constantly. Guys like Isaac are needed in today’s NBA.

Missed on: I was clearly wrong on Jayson Tatum, only warming to him at the end after he was relentlessly picked apart in the predraft process. Boston/Ainge knew better, and Tatum did become the best of the Top-5 picks in his rookie year. You can also say I missed on Donovan Mitchell, but MItchell was a late-lottery pick everywhere you looked and I was picking #4 overall.

Let’s compare the kids:

Hindsight: My blogger mock of Jonathan Isaac has been a bust so far. He had injury issues just generally doesn’t have a Type A personality to take over any games.

Jayson Tatum was clearly the most impressive of the three as a rookie, and we all know #13 pick Donovan Mitchell went on to be the best of draftees in this group in year one.

Let’s see how it plays out over the next several years.

2014-2017 Overall Hindsight

While each draft felt great in the moment, the benefit of hindsight shows I don’t really know what I’m talking about. So you can all tell me to stop prognosticating — at least those of you who KNEW before the draft started that Nik Stauskas, Adreian Payne, D’Angelo Russell and Jonathan Isaac were poor choices where they were picked.

  • PG: D-Lo
  • SG: Stauskas
  • SF: Brown
  • PF: Payne
  • C: Isaac

That team might win 25 games a year. At its apex. /facepalm

I could have taken Harris and Capela (2014), Kristaps Porzingis (2015), Jamal Murray and Jaylen Brown (2016) and Tatum (2017) the last four drafts.

  • PG: Murray (combo guard)
  • SG: Harris
  • SF: Brown, Tatum
  • PF: Porzingis
  • C: Capela

If only I had a flux capacitor...

2018

So that brings us to 2018. We’re doing it again! Let’s see how bad I can screw this up!

We will have our SB Nation Blogger Mock Draft this week and will post the results a couple days before the actual draft.

I’ll let you know then who I take at #1, and whether I take or trade any of the #1, #16 or #31 picks the Suns have coming.

What I love about this Blogger Mock Draft process is that I have to negotiate trades with other GMs who care only about their own, just like me. So I can’t propose one-sided trades and pretend they will be approved.

Over the last four years, I’ve been able to use Eric Bledsoe to trade up from #13 to #3, and use Brandon Knight to acquire the #8 outright.

So anything is possible, right?

Let me know your best trade proposals that you think superfans of OTHER teams would accept as well. Each trade just has to involve at least one 2018 first round draft pick, and they must work under the CBA rules. I’ll propose the best of them throughout our Mock Draft this week.