Even though luck struck once in their franchise history, Tuesday’s familiar gut punch feeling of falling in the lottery struck once more. The tumble was historic, too. Instead of staying in the top three to nab one of Zion Williamson, Ja Morant or RJ Barrett, the 19-win Suns will now be selecting outside the top five altogether at No. 6 overall.
Now, the question is who makes sense for Phoenix if they even make this selection? Right after the results were unveiled Suns GM James Jones didn’t even once mention how they were excited to bring aboard a player at No. 6 to their bright young core. Jones instead pivoted to talking about their pillars already in place — Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, and more now being coached by Monty Williams — uttering the phrase “I’d tell people we still have the No. 1 pick.”
That’s a sure sign of them definitely being open to trading off their pick, but what happens if that idea doesn’t come to fruition? In a class described as weak outside the top selections, per multiple national pundits, will there even be much value to squeeze out of this potential bargaining chip?
Unless Jones backs off his stance earlier in the season where they didn’t want to add players in the age range of Mike Conley, he won’t be an option. Aaron Gordon continues to be a name I’m intrigued by in a trade back scenario to No. 16, but Orlando may not be willing to trade him that easily after finally appearing in the playoffs. Outside of those two names, there really isn’t many realistic options unless the Lakers decided to ditch Lonzo Ball after two seasons, who the Suns had ranked No. 1 on their draft.
With that being said, lets dive into the five most realistic options for Phoenix if they’re content staying at No. 6.
If the Suns are truly locked in on adding their point guard of the future, then Garland will be their guy if he’s still on the board. I’ve spent the last 48 hours or so watching plenty of Garland tape from his quick pistop at Vanderbilt, plus his high school career, and I walked out of it less concerned of his potential lack of “fit” in Phoenix.
Unlike Morant, who was most effective playmaking and making aggressive attacks to the basket, Garland is the more prolific scorer type who can burn his defender from all three levels at high efficiency. Overlooking the small sample size alert number of 23 three-point attempts is a dangerous game to play, because if you watch more of his high school tape you would realize he’s a legit 40 percent hitter.
The hinderances against Garland relate to his defense and overall size. He didn’t get measured at the combine along with Williamson, Morant and Barrett, but if we take Trae Young’s official measurement of 6’1 3⁄4 “ as a barometer then Garland definitely does fall on the smaller side. That shouldn’t be seen as any sort of crutch, though. Young and others have proven if you can score from any level and can create the needed separation, it doesn’t matter.
Garland paired with Booker would mimic the Portland style, but with Ayton included as the true wildcard if he reaches his sky-high potential completely. Bridges and Kelly Oubre Jr. would provide the 3-and-D wing buffer needed for this duo to be sustainable as well.
Another aspect is pick-and-roll play. Garland knows how to maneuver as a playmaker or scorer easily in these situations. Whether it’s hitting the dump-off man or hitting a stepback three-pointer off the roll, Garland has many tricks in his bag in these situations.
You’re betting big on projection with the wiry-framed point guard, but the possibilities are endless if it actually manifests. Booker and Garland both hitting near 40 percent from deep on 15 or so attempts per game while appropriately spacing the floor for Ayton to do significant damage inside sounds fun.
The other point guard that will be picked in the Suns’ range also hits more on the “combo” rather than “point” guard, but he makes up for it with his defensive potential and speed on the break. Also, compared to Garland, White is 6’4 3/4” instead.
White would bring more size to the Suns’ backcourt alongside the 6’6” Booker, plus he knows how to turn on the jets whenever he pleases. If a coach can tap into his defensive upside, he could be a help kickstarting opportune looks in transition as shown below.
White ranks more in the 8-10 range on my personal big board, where Garland is more in the 6-8 range. The reason for the separation between these two stems from White’s erratic inconsistencies shown from time to time at North Carolina. Whether it was forcing his shot too often or not reading the situation correctly, that’s what would worry you placing someone like that next to Booker.
Also, I believe White is a more long-term play than Morant or Garland. There’s a high possibility that White figures it out more in years three to four compared to a year or so.
There’s a chance White could be a flamethrower from deep who can also facilitate well. If Garland isn’t on the board, the former Tar Heel point guard will be there for the Suns depending on how they view him.
If the Suns go the best player available route, Culver is the name to follow over the next month-plus of pre-draft activities. Depending on how many times you watched Culver this past season, you might think why another wing? But, Culver is much more than the general labels thrown on him.
The lanky Texas Tech wing is Bridges-esque in the sense that he allows makes the right play and never gets himself in trouble, an area that definitely showed itself often for the Suns’ No. 10 pick this past season. He’s unselfish to the point where he does so for the betterment of the team, as was displayed during the Red Raiders’ Final Four run. When Culver needed to take over, he did exactly that.
Culver can also operate as a secondary creator and excel. Like Bridges, Culver tends to always hit the read correctly on short rolls and quick cuts while also driving-and-kicking when necessary.
Many smart draft analysts I follow along with on Twitter actually have Culver above Barrett in their rankings. So, the question is whether Culver even makes it to No. 6. If the Lakers lock in on Garland or trade the pick, plus Cam Reddish wows in pre-draft workouts (very possible), Culver will be on the board for Phoenix.
Culver is a three-tool prospect who has plenty of untapped upside in every category. If all goes well with his development, he would be another playmaking guard who can attack off the dribble and defend with the best of them. A trio of Culver, Oubre and Bridges between Booker and Ayton has me salivating the more I think about it.
If the Suns were to go BPA, Jarrett Culver is the one to select at No. 6. Culver is a three-tool prospect who has plenty of untapped upside as a scorer + playmaker on top of already being a solid defender.— Evan Sidery (@esidery) May 16, 2019
He's Bridges-esque where you watch him and he never makes the wrong read. pic.twitter.com/yJ780KUvpD
When I first watched Hunter last year, I immediately thought to myself who in the world let Kawhi Leonard back in the NCAA? I’m not outright comparing the two, but, physically, Hunter looks like he was created in a lab with his physical build and long wingspan with a near seven inch height-to-wingspan ratio. And much like Leonard was coming out of San Diego State, he’s very raw at the moment.
Hunter plays solid switch defense who can guard wings on the next level, but against quicker guards he tend to struggled. The upside with Hunter, though, is his true 3-and-D capabilities, which he showed off to perfection in the National Championship against Texas Tech dropping 27 points.
Hunter would fill the role T.J. Warren held as their new small-ball 4, but he would be the inverse as a defense-first power forward alongside Ayton. When prioritizing what’s needed next to Ayton, defense is exactly what should be the main focus (Thaddeus Young is a name to watch to fill this mold if they don’t address it in the draft).
The bulk and length of Hunter will allow him to get down and dirty inside with bulkier bigs and allow him to survive as a 4 on the next level rather easily, in my opinion.
If he is able to quicken his shooting mechanics, there’s no reason to believe Hunter wouldn’t a prospect who provides a team solid play on both ends of the floor with no issues attached. That type of player might be exactly what the Suns need right now.
The final player on my top five list is actually a Phoenix native. Even though his teammate Rui Hachimura took preseason headlines, Clarke ended the year as Gonzaga’s top prospect. The 6’8” power forward was an analytics darling, too. His box-plus minus was only exceeded by Williamson this past season, which tells you the on-court impact Clarke provides.
He will be 23 at the start of the season, walking in Day 1 as the oldest member of the Suns’ young core, but he might be the most impactful acquisition if all goes well. Clarke’s defensive versatility is staggering, even though his lack of length is a little worrisome on the next level.
The best way to describe Clarke is it looks like he has a rocket inside him when he skies for block attempts. Somehow, someway Clarke finished this past season with the same number of blocks as missed shots (!!!).
I had the chance to cover the Jerry Colangelo Classic in December and watch Clarke in-person against another powerhouse in Tennessee. I went there to watch Hachimura, but after the first 10 minutes I was blown away by Clarke. His effort is infectious and his basketball IQ is up there for No. 1 in this year’s draft class.
With Williamson out of play as a potentially snug fit next to Ayton, Clarke is next on the list. He would be able to defend pick-and-rolls along with covering for Ayton’s mistakes as a weak side rim protector.
However, his offense needs to translate in order for him to be more than a role player on the next level. For this reason, even though he might be one of their best fits, I don’t see the Suns selling themselves on taking Clarke this high in the draft. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz have even suggested this week that the analytics might love Clarke more than actual executives do, which could be foreshadowing for a possible slide.
Well, that does it for the top five for Phoenix at No. 6. If the Suns are unable to find a deal, this is how the board will most likely shake out. The best scenarios at this point, if they are truly content where they sit in the draft, is hoping Culver and/or Garland are available.
Between now and June 20, speculation and smokescreen season will be at all-time highs so stay tuned as we ramp up draft coverage to full throttle on Bright Side Of The Sun.
Who would you select for the Suns at No. 6?
This poll is closed
Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt
Coby White, PG, North Carolina
Jarrett Culver, SG/SF, Texas Tech
De’Andre Hunter, SF/PF, Virginia
Brandon Clarke, PF/C, Gonzaga