Ed. note: Please welcome Omar Soussi to the BSotS writing team!
The Suns have once again seen another season of basketball flushed down the toilet of mediocrity, posting the worst record in the NBA so far this season. This terrible performance does have a silver lining as the Suns will have a 14% chance to earn the first overall pick in this year’s draft and are guaranteed to have a top five pick as long as they stay a bottom three team.
Phoenix has been playing in the lottery since 2011 and have gotten a lot of talented pieces through it but this offseason could present them with an opportunity to turn the franchise around and it all starts with the draft.
The Suns are in desperate need for a point guard and it’s no secret Murray State’s Ja Morant is the best point guard in the draft and is expected to be a top three pick. The Suns could easily snatch him in the draft and with Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, he would be a great piece for an explosive young trio that could potentially turn this team around. However, if the Suns continue to lose and earn the first pick, could you really justify drafting Ja Morant over the consensus top player, Zion Williamson? I say no.
Williamson seems to be a once-in-a-generation player. He’s built like Rob Gronkowski but he’s more athletic than the New England tight end. He’s an unstoppable force on both sides of the court, putting up 21 points a game for Duke while grabbing nearly nine rebounds a game off on average 28 minutes a game. He consistently gives it his all each play and is learning under the best coach in college basketball under Mike Krzyzewski. There’s no real debate if he should be the number one pick but the Suns have a problem when it comes to his fit with the team. The Suns have spent a lot of money and draft capital on the forward position, with top picks Josh Jackson, Dragan Bender not fulfilling their potential to TJ Warren, who’s arguably the third best player on the team, earning himself a four year, $50 million extension in 2017.
Just this last draft, Suns traded its 2021 Miami unprotected first round pick to the Sixers to get forward Mikal Bridges and then trade for forward Kelly Oubre Jr. in the middle of the season. The Suns’ point guard position is barren with talent and it’s forced Booker to move into that position more than a couple times this season. While drafting Morant fixes that hole, passing up on Williamson could be as bad of a decision as Portland taking Greg Oden over Kevin Durant.
Williamson presents the Suns with a big name talent right away and has the potential to change the team’s fortune right off the bat. At this moment, Suns only have one player who’s averaging more than 20 points a game (Booker), and one player that averages more than 10 rebounds a game (Ayton). Williamson could help on both sides, taking away some of the offensive pressure from Booker and causing headaches for offenses who’re trying to deal with him and Ayton. Obviously it would take some adjustment on his end and him being a better jump shooter with how the league is but that’s something he can work on throughout the season.
So, if the Suns get the first overall pick, the team shouldn’t waste a second to draft Williamson. The next step for this team is figuring out their point guard position. This could be solved in several different ways.
Boston’s Kyrie Irving, Charlotte’s Kemba Walker, even former Suns’ Eric Bledsoe will all be unrestricted free agents this offseason. Any one of those guys could sign with the Suns but given the strain on the team’s salary cap, the number of teams who’ll have cap space to have one or more max contracts, including both teams in Los Angeles, New York and Brooklyn, and the Suns recent failure to acquire talent in free agency, this seems like a far stretch.
The team could go after Rajon Rondo in the offseason or another veteran point guard but that would only prolong the bleeding in the position. “Scary” Terry Rozier will also be a free agent and his name has been rumored to be a Suns for a while but he’ll command a lot of money on the open market, making it tough for the Suns to sign him. The best and likely only option for the Suns to get that franchise guard is to trade for one and lucky enough for them, there’s a young guy on the Lakers who seems to be destined to be traded.
Lonzo Ball was intertwined with all the Anthony Davis-Pelicans trade rumors when his camp (his father) said that they would rather have Ball traded elsewhere than New Orleans. Lavar Ball went onto Arizona Sports Radio and said he wants Lonzo on the Suns and will “speak it into existence.” Lonzo has a lot of potential to be a great point guard and could fit into the role of distributor and tough defender that this team desperately needs. Yes, adding Lonzo means adding Lavar to the team but with LaMelo going to college next season, I have a feeling Lavar will be trying to hype his draft stock more than talk about Lonzo. Suns have plenty of young assets to send over to the Pelicans to make sure they get Ball on the team and if that doesn’t happen, the Suns still can trade for someone like Mike Conley, Jrue Holiday, guys on teams that are either tanking or going nowhere. Lonzo just makes the most sense with his rookie contract, the desperation the Lakers have to get Anthony Davis and the potential he has. Every other point guard likely to be traded is either at their peak or are getting paid a lot of money which would complicate the trade discussion and result in the Suns taking a bad contract.
With Williamson and Lonzo added to the team, the Suns have a potential stud in each position with a young bench that’s pretty deep. A Lonzo-Booker-Warren-Williamson-Ayton lineup could very much change the projection of this team with Lonzo and Booker running pick and rolls with Ayton and Williamson, Williamson driving to the paint and distributing to his shooters for the open shot, Ayton getting fed in the paint and Warren continuing to consistently perform well on both sides with Bridges and Oubre coming off the bench.
With all that’s said, the Suns will need to get lucky for all of this to happen. First, they need to get the first overall pick and the odds for them to get it aren’t as good as they were last year (14 percent this year compared to 25 last year). Second, they need Irving to leave Boston if Lonzo is the guy the team wants. Boston with Irving have more room to overwhelm the Lakers in trade talks with New Orleans and the Lakers aren’t going to trade Lonzo for some more young pieces if it won’t get them Anthony Davis. They can still trade for someone like Conley but that takes up a lot of cap space. Finally, they’ll need to develop these guys into the stars they can be. Just because you’re loaded with young talent on your team doesn’t mean you’re destined to win titles. Adding a vet or two to make sure these young guys are going the right path is crucial for their growth and having a stable organization helps too.
The Suns haven’t made the playoffs since 2010, they haven’t had a winning season since 2014, but if the team gets lucky and can acquire the first overall pick and land a point guard in the offseason, the future could go from bleak to very bright.