It’s crazy to say, but the 2018 NBA Draft is now only five days away. After the Phoenix Suns sat through one of the worst seasons in franchise history at 21-61, it ended with the No. 1 pick, which will likely be Deandre Ayton. Unless a major curveball is thrown our way on Thursday, Ayton will be the final piece to #TheTimeline joining Devin Booker and Josh Jackson as the three main long term building blocks.
However, the Suns still need to fill an obvious hole at the point guard position. Even though Brandon Knight is returning from an ACL tear, Phoenix needs to address this area further either through the draft or in trade scenarios.
Below, I outlined nine possible deals Phoenix could make between now and Thursday night. Varying from pure win-now moves to upside grabs, the candidates named and the deals outlined actually make a lot of sense from both sides.
Clippers receive: No. 16
Suns receive: Patrick Beverley
If there is one thing general manager Ryan McDonough has to accomplish this offseason, it’s completely resetting the culture. With over 160 losses so far in Booker’s three years, patience is starting to run thin on this rebuild.
Well, say hello to Patrick Beverley. By far, he’s one of my favorite trade candidates because he’s not only on an expiring contract, but someone who will set the tone immediately in the locker room.
And from the point of view of crafting the ideal backcourt partner alongside Booker, Beverley is up near the top. He’s a tenacious defender who can also routinely hit the open three-pointer, shooting 37.6% for his career.
From the Clippers’ point of view, they would do this deal because it not only gives them more ammunition to trade with Nos. 12 and 13 but also will be the bet value they find on Beverley elsewhere.
With so many young players already on the roster, McDonough needs to bring in established veterans to help the steer the ship in the right direction. Beverley does exactly that, and he likely will be cheap if Phoenix wanted to keep him around longer than 2018-19.
This wouldn’t surprise me at all if this is exactly what happens on Thursday, because it kind of makes too much sense.
Pacers receive: Troy Daniels and No. 31
Suns receive: Darren Collison
Collison has bounced around five teams over his eight year career, but one thing that maintains is his pure shooting stroke and playmaking capabilities. This past season, Collison shot 46.8% (!!) on 205 total 3s attempted. Shooting is something the Suns need to prioritize this summer, and Collison fills that void at the point guard slot.
With only one year remaining on his deal as well, Collison could likely be had for No. 31 and one small asset. Indiana loses it’s best shooter in this scenario, but they replace him with Troy Daniels plus the No. 31 pick.
For Indiana to sign off on this deal, they likely are being aggressive themselves trying to add one final, big backcourt piece alongside Victor Oladipo (maybe Kemba Walker?). Indiana is one of few teams, including Phoenix, who have flexibility to work with this summer.
Whether he’s starting in the Suns’ backcourt or leading the second unit, Collison is an ideal depth move to add next to Brandon Knight. For one season while the young Suns continue to mature, having Knight and Collison as its point guard rotation doesn’t sound so bad.
Bulls receive: No. 31
Suns receive: Kris Dunn
Maybe I'm undervaluing Dunn here, but Chicago could sign Zach LaVine to his extension and draft one of Trae Young or Collin Sexton. Now, that would signal the end for Dunn in Chicago while teams call to try to snag him.
If that were to unfold, Phoenix is set up well to acquire this combo guard who’s defensive profile fits well alongside Booker. Even though adding another questionable shooter is worrisome, taking a flyer using a pick that will likely see G-League time makes plenty of sense for them to pull the trigger.
Instead of taking Dunn at No. 4 in the 2016 Draft, Phoenix chose Dragan Bender while Minnesota went in the direction of the former Providence point guard. Two years later, if the Suns were smitten about Dunn, could call up Chicago and see what it takes if they don’t see him as a long term piece in the Windy City.
There are a few other similar deals like this mentioned, but taking an upside flyer while losing nothing significant at all might be something McDonough targets on Thursday.
Heat receive: Marquese Chriss, Jared Dudley, No. 16
Suns receive: Goran Dragic
Is the third time the charm for Goran Dragic in Phoenix? That sure would be something to see Dragic return to the Valley after his unceremonious exit at the trade deadline, but he actually is one of the more attainable win-now grabs the Suns could pull this week.
Do me a favor and go look over Miami’s cap sheet over the next three years. They have little to no flexibility and likely Dragic would be the only one to really garner any sort of interest from anyone.
In this scenario after the Suns take Ayton, they call up Miami, who has been spotted at a lot of pre-draft pro days for prospects in the mid-first round range. They reportedly are interested in Maryland’s Kevin Huerter, and he likely goes in the 16-25 range.
Well, the Suns seem to be the perfect partner for a possible deal, because both want to be active on draft night.
For Miami, they receive an expiring contract in Dudley and someone who could be compatible next to Bam Adebayo in Marquese Chriss. Meanwhile, they receive No. 16 to possibly draft Huerter.
The Heat need to start being smarter with their long term flexibility after giving out surprisingly large contracts to Kelly Olynyk, Tyler Johnson and James Johnson. Dealing Dragic would be a tough pill to swallow at first for Heat fans, but it allows them to be more attractive with more cap space in 2019 when many elite names will hit the open market.
Now, for Phoenix, they likely roll into opening night with their starting lineup like this: Dragic, Booker, Jackson, Bender or free agent signing, Ayton.
Nets receive: T.J. Warren, Troy Daniels, No. 16
Suns receive: Spencer Dinwiddie, DeMarre Carroll, No. 29
If there is one thing I noticed with the Suns during their pre-draft process is them not only being super diligent bringing in 59 prospects (Aaron Holiday twice) but many of those predicted to go way past the mid-first round outside of Zhaire Smith and Keita Bates-Diop. Even though I’m a big De’Anthony Melton fan, it’s looking like he could be had in the 20s instead, which is amazing value for someone like him.
Also, the Suns brought in Donte DiVincenzo for an interview, which wasn’t supposed to get out but DiVincenzo posted on his Instagram saying he was in Phoenix last week. If we follow the dots of how McDonough usually operates, that means they probably have some significant interest in Villanova’s hero in the National Championship. DiVincenzo’s stock is anywhere from the mid-late first, so trading back could be in play for Phoenix.
Out of all the deals I tried to produce that involved moving down, this one with Brooklyn really stood out. With D’Angelo Russell and Jeremy Lin already there and Spencer Dinwiddie coming off the best season of his career, he will likely be the one dangled by Brooklyn on draft night to help them move up.
Phoenix would have it’s point guard in Dinwiddie, allowing them to move back 13 spots to see if one of DiVincenzo, Melton, or Jacob Evans is still there (I would say it’s very likely at least one, maybe two are).
Dinwiddie’s size and shooting prowess make him an ideal Booker backcourt partner while also fitting into the team’s overall age timeline. This deal allows the Nets to get off DeMarre Carroll’s expiring contract and move up 13 spots to take whoever they are targeting.
Brooklyn also could value T.J. Warren as it’s long term answer at wing, as he does look like a possibly great fit alongside Russell and Caris LeVert, if they add more perimeter shooting this offseason.
Raptors receive: No. 31
Suns receive: Delon Wright
If there is one player who is being criminally slept on by Suns fans as a possible trade option, it’s Delon Wright.
Standing at 6’5” with an above-average wingspan for a primary initiator, Wright fits the billing of the versatile, two-way player McDonough and Co. seem to be wanting to add more of.
Even though Wright has never gotten the opportunity to start in Toronto, he helped buoy one of the stronger bench units this season averaging 8 points, 2.9 assists and 1 steal while shooting 36.6% from deep. Stretching Wright’s minutes out to per 36, he amassed 13.9 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1.8 steals.
The foundation is there for Wright to develop into the long term answer alongside Booker with his two-way skill set. I’m likely way undervaluing Wright — I imagine it takes No. 16 to get it done — but he’s a very attractive piece who could be an underrated piece on a future Suns contender.
With three high usage players (Booker, Jackson, Ayton), adding in someone who can do most of their damage without the ball and can play both on and off-ball, Wright could be stabilizer in certain lineup combinations.
Timberwolves receive: No. 31
Suns receive: Tyus Jones
If there is one player Minnesota has terribly misused since hiring on Tom Thibodeau, it’s the development and lack of playing time for former first round pick Tyus Jones. Through three years, Jones has still yet to crack over 20 minutes per game. Even though Jeff Teague isn’t an All-Star caliber point guard, Thibodeau still brought him out there for 40+ MPG while Jones sat for no reason.
However, that wouldn’t be the case for the former Duke Blue Devil in Phoenix. Likely playing behind Knight and running the second unit, Jones would crack 22-28 minutes while bringing much-needed scoring and playmaking ability to the roster.
With rumors popping up this weekend about Jones considering asking for a trade then being persuaded by Thibodeau not to, their relationship certainly seems rocky. Maybe going out and acquiring an upside grab who’s been mismanaged by his original team could lead to a resurgent, breakout season from Jones in the purple and orange.
Like Wright, I think I’m slightly undervaluing Jones, so maybe it takes No. 16 to get it done, but I would do it. I have more confidence in Jones becoming an everyday contributor compared to someone like Aaron Holiday, at least over the next few years.
Trail Blazers receive: No. 16, 2019 1st (top 5 protected), T.J. Warren, Troy Daniels, Jared Dudley, Marquese Chriss
Suns receive: C.J. McCollum, Al-Farouq Aminu
Originally, this deal was meant for Damian Lillard but the more I think about it, C.J. McCollum has to be the one moved if there is any reshuffling in Portland. Lillard has remained loyal amidst constant rumors, so maybe adding more win-now pieces around him compared to McCollum makes most sense from general manager Neil Olshey’s point of view.
Compared to other possibilities, Phoenix is likely low on the totem pole of McCollum destinations but he does have playmaking upside not shown often enough due to Lillard’s presence. If he were to land with the Suns in this scenario, McCollum and Booker would create a dynamic scoring backcourt but the defense is concerning. Portland also didn’t have defensive pieces around their backcourt pairing, and especially not young guys with possible All-Star upside down the road in Jackson and most likely Ayton once Phoenix is officially on the clock Thursday.
The Trail Blazers would be able to add a near lottery pick plus one that will likely be in the top 10 next season off of this proposed deal. They land a player with Pacific Northwest ties in Chriss, who could be an ideal partner next to Zach Collins. Also, Warren could become their long term answer at small forward while Dudley and Daniels are expiring deals allowing more cap relief next summer.
Phoenix receives Aminu alongside McCollum for salary purposes, and Aminu’s deal wipes off their books in 2019 next to Tyson Chandler.
How far could a lineup of McCollum-Booker-Jackson-?-Ayton go in the playoffs, lets say three years down the line? It’s certainly attractive to think about with the scoring punch all around, but the defensive foundation would need to be rock solid for head coach Igor Kokoksov.
McCollum’s extension runs until 2020-2021, which would still allow the Suns flexibility once bigger names hit unrestricted free agency around that time (cough, Giannis Antetokounmpo, cough).
Hornets receive: Warren, Chriss, Dudley, No. 16, No. 31
Suns receive: Kemba Walker and Marvin Williams
Outside of the Beverley deal due to it’s simplicity, this one likely has even greater odds of going down Thursday night.
Ever since the All-Star break, Walker’s name has been connected to Phoenix as Charlotte looks ready to finally hit the reset button. If Charlotte wants to jumpstart their rebuild, Phoenix seems like the perfect trading partner. They not only have many picks to work with, but also young, controllable assets.
In this proposal, Charlotte sends out Kemba Walker and Marvin Williams (contract expires in 2020) while receiving two more picks plus two players who could do better in a fresh setting. The Hornets could easily select their point guard of the future at No. 11 with Collin Sexton or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, then select someone like Zhaire Smith or Troy Brown Jr. at No. 16.
Diving in further from cap space viewpoints, Phoenix would still have around $10-15 million in cap space, including the Mid-Level Exception, to work with in free agency to round out their bench after this deal was completed.
Walker obviously wants to be in a winning situation moving forward, which Phoenix currently isn’t, but they could easily sell him on a long term future alongside Booker, Ayton and Jackson allowing him to be the veteran leader.
The Suns could go about showing their commitment to Walker by immediately signing him to an extension similar to Kyle Lowry’s with Toronto. He signed a 3-year, $100 million extension last summer. The same thing could happen with Walker once he likely finds a new home, and honestly that’s not that bad.
I would pause at giving Walker $30 million annually over five years, but getting the out for both sides after three allows each to re-examine their options. If Walker isn’t able to attract much attention in 2021, Phoenix would still be there to offer him more years but likely at less money as extensions for Jackson and Ayton would be rapidly approaching.
If I was a betting man, I’ll say this is the deal that actually happens. General Manager Mitch Kupchak seems set to move on from Walker with a rookie selection, so Phoenix could be ready to pounce.
How is this for a 10-deep rotation for the Suns?
PG: Walker, Knight, Ulis
SG: Booker, FA, Reed/Daniels
SF: Jackson, FA, FA
PF: FA, Bender, Peters
C: Ayton, Chandler, Williams
2 Way: Harrison, House
Either way, whichever direction Phoenix decides to go in later this week, it’s going to finally kick off the fireworks we have been expecting to ignite for months.
For McDonough, Thursday is likely the biggest day of his executive career thus far. If he walked out of their with Ayton and Walker, that sure is one way to spark back interest locally and nationally with the Phoenix Suns.