The NBA Draft Lottery did not go so well this time around for the Phoenix Suns, slipping three spots to No. 6 after a 19-win season.
Luckily, they still have key foundational pillars in place with Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. The question is now whether Phoenix stays in this position and takes another young prospect, or they ship it off to the highest bidder to plunge into win-now mode?
It’s safe to say falling to the sixth position has ramification on the organization. Instead of picking Zion Williamson, Ja Morant or RJ Barrett, they are now in a whole new tier below where immediate contributions to winning aren’t really expected from these rookies. Quite simply, the expectations are far lower right away compared to the likes of Williamson, Morant and Barrett.
The Suns are building the right atmosphere to develop young talent and sustain a winning culture, but it’s up to GM James Jones and Co. to really hit the following offseason periods out of the park. First up is the NBA Draft, which could add a $5.8 million salary onto their books before July 1.
Let’s dive into the madness that is draft season in the Association.
1. Pelicans - Zion Williamson, Wing/Big, Duke
Well, this one is simple and really needs no further explanation. Zion will be heading down to the Bayou to form an immediate playoff contender with Jrue Holiday. The question is whether Anthony Davis will want to join in with them or not.
The Davis derby could have a direct impact on draft night, too. With the Lakers and Knicks both top contenders for Davis, New Orleans could end up bringing Williamson plus Barrett or Culver along with him.
2. Grizzlies - Ja Morant, Ball Handler, Murray State
From all indications, Memphis has already locked in on Morant as their selection. What does that mean for Mike Conley? Well, expect plenty of playoff teams to immediately come calling with packages revolving around their pick on draft night (Indiana, Utah).
Will the Suns? Honestly, I don’t expect it but being shocked by a move for an All-Star type point guard would definitely do the trick.
Either way, pairing Morant with Jaren Jackson Jr. is going to be fun for the next decade in Memphis.
3. Knicks - RJ Barrett, Wing, Duke
This is where it starts to get interesting. Will New York even make this selection? If they do, Barrett will be the name called by Adam Silver. Barrett’s fit wouldn’t be the best alongside ball-dominant star players like Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving — if they even land either of them in free agency — but the Knicks are desperate for star power. Barrett would give them some hope, and he will be a star in this league if he reaches his bright ceiling.
4. Lakers - Darius Garland, Ball Handler, Vanderbilt
It sure seems like the top four of this draft is already set in stone a month out before it even happens. I feel that confident about Garland to the Lakers because of all the underlying connections, even though him slipping to Phoenix would be an ideal scenario.
Garland’s agent is Klutch Sports’ Rich Paul. Klutch also represents LeBron James. Garland is also a very snug fit alongside LeBron and Lonzo Ball because of his perimeter prowess. Once James fades into the background in time, a quartet of Garland/Ingram/Ball/Kuzma is very appealing.
It could also be appealing to Pelicans GM David Griffin if he wants to trade Davis to them, too, because of their young pieces.
5. Cavaliers - Cam Reddish, Wing, Duke
I’m very much in the camp that Reddish will be the one prospect who makes the biggest rise during the pre-draft process. It always happens with one or even up to three players sometimes.
If Reddish would’ve ended up running his own college team, I believe his stock would be much better off than it is now. He proved to be an unreliable gunner for Duke, but flashed some eye-popping offensive moves during conference play.
Cleveland needs to swing for the fences after selecting Collin Sexton last year. Reddish could be the 3-and-D high usage wing the Cavaliers are in desperate need of long-term.
6. Suns - Jarrett Culver, Wing, Texas Tech
The board broke a way where the Suns have interesting pieces available. It’s not Garland, but it will definitely do. Names like Culver, White, Hunter and Clarke will likely all be in play here.
However, you always go the best player available route and make it work later. That’s at least how I would operate an organization. Many fans might be clamoring for White here, but I believe his fit isn’t the best alongside Booker and Ayton. Also, taking Clarke at No. 6 I would consider a reach.
Culver checks too many boxes for the Suns to ignore. He can not only function as an immediate contributor in the second unit backing up Booker, but his high character background along with win-now traits oozing on both ends of the floor screams to me a future glue guy. Sound familiar? It should because Culver reminds me a little bit of Mikal Bridges, but more of an attacking offensive game instead of three-point marksmanship.
Physically, Culver reminds me a lot of Caris LeVert and Evan Turner. Both are secondary playmakers who can hold their own on the defensive end. The swing skill for Culver will be his shot, though. After shooting plus-40 percent from deep in non-conference action, his numbers plummeted afterwards.
If Booker can truly take the James Harden route as their pseudo point guard 3-5 years from now, Culver and Bridges in between their two scorers (Booker and Ayton) is the proper way to build a great two-way squad.
7. Bulls - Coby White, Ball Handler, North Carolina
Chicago gets the point guard they desire all along. If it wasn’t going to be Morant or Garland, White is the next best thing. A backcourt of White and Zach LaVine is instant buckets, but defense would become a major question mark.
However, with a young core consisting of LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., and White would be something to smile about in the Windy City.
8. Hawks - De’Andre Hunter, Wing, Virginia
Hunter didn’t even show up to Chicago. His agency is Wasserman Media Group, who have a habit of steering their clients to preferred destinations. Case in point with Josh Jackson to Phoenix in 2017.
With how the lottery fell for Atlanta, they are in prime position to add a player who can be a Day 1 contributor in Hunter. If Hunter hits his full potential, I believe he will be a consistent All-Star.
9. Wizards - Jaxson Hayes, Big, Texas
When was the last time Washington had a truly game-changing big man? Yeah, I can’t think of any either. Hayes joins the Wizards as the down low enforcer who could grow into much more alongside Bradley Beal. There is a Texas big man tree forming, and Hayes ironically reminds me an awful lot of Jarrett Allen.
10. Hawks - Sekou Doumboya, Wing, France
Atlanta passed up the opportunity to swing a grand slam drafting Giannis Antetokunmpo, as did many teams, but the Hawks reportedly were the ones most interested in him along with Milwaukee. I don’t think they risk doing it again with Doumboya.
A super modern lineup a few years from now featuring Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, Doumboya, Hunter, and John Collins could be wrecking absolute havoc.
11. Timberwolves - Brandon Clarke, Big, Gonzaga
This feels like the range of where Clarke could start to go off the board. Even though I’m a fan of Clarke’s game, as are many Suns pundits, No. 6 would indeed be a reach. He also needs to prove his worth as a stretch 4 on the next level. Spacing is paramount alongside Ayton, even if Clarke has all the chops to make up for it defensively. If Clarke wows with his shooting in workouts, though, then that’s a different story.
Pairing Clarke with Towns and Robert Covington in Minnesota’s frontcourt would be an interesting idea, so let’s roll with it.
12. Hornets - P.J. Washington, Big, Kentucky
Washington was a name I slept on far too much during the regular season where I watched plenty of prospects. The more I watched of Washington, the more I saw why his fit on the next level is going to be smooth. Unlike Clarke, Washington can stretch the floor consistently plus add in a switching element on defense where he can stick with forwards and guards.
There’s a chance he blows teams away in workouts and gets his name into the top 10. The buzz definitely seems to be growing behind this Kentucky Wildcat.
13. Heat - Nassir Little, Wing, North Carolina
Little was one of my most disappointing prospects in awhile. During the preseason, I had Little ranked top three on my big board. Progressively over time, he fell out of the top 10 due to his rough adjustment period at North Carolina.
If Little can get back to where he was in high school, he’s going to earn his way as an immediate impact player. Landing in Miami could be the best spot for him, too. Letting Little develop within Heat culture could pay massive dividends for both parties a few years down the line.
14. Celtics (via Kings) - Goga Bitadze, Big, Budućnost (Montenegro)
Waffling here between selecting Rui Hachimura or Bitadze for Boston, I ultimately chose their new Aron Baynes replacement. Bitadze is also another late riser in the draft process as he’s consistently put up quality numbers professionally this season while improving his all-around game.
Boston is a true wildcard in this draft. Armed with multiple first-round picks, they could get super aggressive or stay put. If they want to rebuild around Jayson Tatum long-term, finding a big man like Bitadze would make the game a lot easier for him.
Well, there we have it for Lottery Mock Draft 1.0. If the Suns end up making their pick on June 20, it will tell us a lot about how they view this important offseason.