The Phoenix Suns have been tanking for draft picks for years now, beginning unabashed during the 2015-16 season when the erstwhile playoff-clawing Suns saw the wheels fall off under a Timeline of Destruction.
The Suns had what looked like a budding superstar in 18-year old Devin Booker and a couple of nice but not nice enough young players in Alex Len, Archie Goodwin and T.J. Warren. Oh sure, many Suns fans though at least one of Len, Goodwin or Warren could grow into a starter on a playoff team some day, but none were stars.
So the Suns went super-young from there on out, and in the process they forgot how to win games. Over the past four years, from 2015-16 to 2018-19, the Suns have won the fewest games in the NBA with one of its youngest rosters.
Remember them starting three teenagers in 2016 (Devin Booker, Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender) and later becoming one of the only teams in NBA history to play four in the same game (now including Derrick Jones Jr.)?
Even this year — four full seasons later — the Suns have often started lineups with no player over the age of 22, including top picks from each of the last five drafts (2014 - T.J. Warren, 2015 - Devin Booker, 2016 - Dragan Bender, 2017 - Josh Jackson, 2018 - Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges).
What’s it got them? The worst record in the NBA through the All-Star break and a franchise-record 17-game losing streak.
With such a young core that knows nothing but constant losing, it’s no wonder the random vets have checked out. The fact that we are drooling over the contributions by Tyler Johnson in recent weeks and periodically arguing over Troy Daniels’ lack of playing time shows how bare the cupboard of veterans has been.
The Suns have suddenly won 6 of their last 11 games — a herculean effort around these parts — including wins over conference-leading Bucks and Warriors mainly because they FINALLY got contributions from mid-career veterans who made fewer bonehead plays down the stretch.
Doubt the contributions of Johnson and Oubre on this team’s psyche? Fine. But then explain how the suddenly-competitive Suns regressed to a 15-point loss to the equally-bad BULLS on Monday with those two out nursing injuries.
Now the Suns have a dilemma. After the loss to the Bulls, the Suns have a three-game “lead” on the Bulls for the league’s third-worst record with only 10 games to go.
With a nearly-guaranteed Top 6 pick in the upcoming draft, mostly likely in the 3-5 range based on new lottery odds, should the Phoenix Suns stay the course by trying to find another star in the draft or should they move out of the 2019 draft in favor of more playable veterans?
Currently, in my opinion, the Suns have a handful of players they definitely should have on the floor in 2019-20 in shooting guard Devin Booker, center Deandre Ayton and small forward Mikal Bridges, plus probably restricted free agent Kelly Oubre Jr. Everyone else is fungible, but the Suns depth is at small forward and there’s no real room for shooting guard or center.
Obviously, to me at least, if the Suns win the lottery and get the top overall pick, they should take Zion Williamson, stick him at power forward next to Ayton, and start planning for the playoffs for the next decade.
But what if the Suns end up picking 2-6? The next half-dozen prospects all have their high ceilings but all have their flaws too.
Their choices will likely be
- take yet another small forward who would almost certainly come off the bench for the foreseeable future (R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish, De’Andre Hunter)
- risk Devin Booker’s prime on a 19-year old point guard (Ja Morant or Darius Garland) who needs years to develop
- roll the dice on a late-rising power forward who might be good but also might not be any better than what the Suns already had/have in Chriss and Bender (Brandon Clarke)
Check out the latest Ringer article on the 2019 draft.
All those guys look exciting, but this draft is also rumored to be no better than 2013 or 2016, which we all know turned out poorly.
The Suns could stay the course and bring on yet another young player, OR they could trade that pick for a veteran in the 25-30 range who can help the team win games now. We don’t know who will be made available this summer, but I’m only talking about a player that’s better than Tyler Johnson here. Even Johnson has turned this team into a competitive group.
Cast your vote now. Of course, you’d vote to trade the pick for an All-Star caliber player. So this vote is limited to a more difficult choice.
If the Suns pick is in the 3-5 range (non-Zion) after the lottery, what should they do?
This poll is closed
Take the best available college player
Trade the pick for a mid-career, non-All-Star veteran
We’ll check back as March Madness rolls on (i.e. casual fans watch NCAA basketball for the first time all year), the Suns season winds down and the draft approaches.