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Draft tiers: Ranking the top 5 picks from the 2017 and 2018 drafts

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How would you rank the Top-5 picks from each of the last two drafts if they were combined into a single draft?

NBA: Lottery Draft Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Have you ever wondered what would happen if two draft classes were merged into one?

The NBA recently announced to all teams that the one-and-done rule might be suspended as early as the 2020-21 season, which would mean that the 2021 Draft could be a windfall of talent — two drafts worth.

And that could mean a windfall for the Phoenix Suns.

This just two years after the NBA levels the odds of winning a Top-3 pick via the lottery system. Starting with the 2019 Draft, the odds of moving into the Top-3 are as such:

The worst three teams will have the same chance at the #1 pick at 14%, and a team as low as 5th has better than a 10% chance, while even the 10th team has a 3% chance.

Compare that to this year’s odds.

So as the Suns improve year over year, as long as they finish 5th or lower in the reverse rankings, they will have a better chance at ping-ponging into a top 3 pick than they’ve had in any year besides this 2018 draft.

Oh, yeah, and guess what?

The 2021 Draft might be a HUGE deal to the Phoenix Suns, when you combine the new lottery odds WITH the two-years’ worth of talent at once. As long as one or both of those teams miss the playoffs, that is.

Remember that the Suns have not only their own pick but also the Miami Heat’s unprotected first round pick in 2021. So that gives them up to two chances for a really valuable player.

What does two years’ worth of talent look like?

I recently asked some draft experts how they would rank the Top-5 picks in each of the last two drafts.

2017 (actual): Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Jayson Tatum, Josh Jackson, D’Aaron Fox

2018 (projected): Deandre Ayton, Luka Doncic, Jaren Jackson Jr., Marvin Bagley III, Mohamed Bamba

The only rule was to try to use pre-draft analysis of 2017 picks and NOT be swayed by their actual rookie season performances, so that the propects could be ranked on a somewhat level playing field.

But I did NOT ask them to create a rank order, because that would have caused unnecessary dissension over something as little #1 vs. #2.

So I asked them to rank the players into tiers and gave them a template to start with.

A composite look at my “starter” tiers goes as follows:

  • Tier 1: Deandre Ayton, Luka Doncic
  • Tier 2: Lonzo Ball, Markelle Fultz, Jaren Jackson Jr., Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum
  • Tier 3: Marvin Bagley III, Mohamed Bamba, D’Aaron Fox

In my opinion, Doncic is better than any predraft analysis of Fultz or Ball, and that Ayton and Doncic would have gone 1 and 2 even if both drafts were combined.

One of the analysts, Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report, agrees with the tiers for the post part,

“I would have put Fultz into the Doncic, Ayton tier if I was in sleeping for the past year and missed what happened in Philly.

Next would be JJJ by himself.”

Wasserman said he’d put all the remaining players into Tier 3, except he’d move Fox into a Tier 4 next to Jonathan Isaac.

Bobby Marks, formerly the assistant GM in Brooklyn and now a full-time NBA analyst, agrees with my rankings and only commented that he might have made Jonathan Isaac his 10th player over Fox.

Two other analysts wanted to remain anonymous. One called the 2018 Draft stronger than 2017 at the top and overall agreed with the rankings without providing specifics. The other anonymous analyst said the opposite, that the 2017 Draft was stronger. He’d only have Doncic and Bagley amidst the top players from 2017, dropping the rest of the top 2018 prospects into the lower tiers (including Ayton).

Either way, imagine having the Heat’s 10th overall pick in 2021 and getting a player the caliber of Mohamed Bamba or D’Aaron Fox or Jonathan Isaac?

Come on down, 2021 Draft! The Phoenix Suns are waiting to reap the rewards.