Suns fans were reminded of the abysmal 2013 NBA Draft lottery this season when Alex Len told Atlanta media his career would have been better if he had landed in a different city after two seasons at Maryland. They will be reminded of it yet again this June.
That’s because the 2020 NBA Draft is shaping up to be a lot like the 2013 class, though with perhaps a higher degree of overall talent at the top. There are potentially great players here, yes, but none has established himself as unequivocally worthy of a top-five or top-three pick.
So as the Suns work to complete a trade with the Detroit Pistons for 2017 No. 12 overall pick Luke Kennard, don’t be surprised. If general manager James Jones and his staff were not wooed by the promise of the players at No. 6 in the 2019 class, it’s no wonder they’re not impressed with who might be available in 2020.
Here’s a quick look-see at the top guys this season:
Cole Anthony, G, North Carolina: Just returned after missing a month with a knee injury. With no help around him, the point guard (and son of NBAer Greg Anthony) is shooting just 35 percent from the field and has more assists than turnovers this season.
Anthony Edwards, G, Georgia: Edwards is liable to go off on any given night, but has struggled to adapt his game into a team setting despite coach Tom Crean’s pleas for Edwards to move more without the ball and play defense. Edwards is the presumptive No. 1 pick for now, but is also making just 31 percent of his 7.5 threes per game. Woof.
LaMelo Ball, G, Ilawarra: Ball’s season in Australia’s National Basketball League was up and down, as expected. The brother of Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball is even better than Lonzo with the ball in his hands, and a more natural scorer. However, as with Lonzo, the jump shot is a major concern. LaMelo shot just 28 percent from deep on 86 attempts with Ilawarra. LaMelo also heavily dominates the ball, a habit he’s never had to kick as he’s gone from one international league to another to play for teams that orbit around him.
James Wiseman, C, Memphis: The big man played just three games before a suspension kicked in that prompted Wiseman to leave school. Wiseman did himself no favors to shirk the labels of low-motor and poor defensive awareness that will follow him to the draft.
You get the idea. Others have jumped up in their place, but that’s more by the necessity that, well, someone has to get drafted in each slot, even if their value is far lower than a typical top pick. Whereas last season when the Suns traded back to No. 11, they gave up the chance to take interesting, productive players like Jarrett Culver and Brandon Clarke, there look to be no such gems in this year’s class. It will be even more of a toss-up this June than last.
Plus, the Suns are slated to have a lower pick. The Suns are currently tied for 11th in the reverse standings, and you can bet they won’t be tanking at the end of the season. They should still surpass their 29.5 over/under, meaning their pick will be fairly low in a fairly weak class. No wonder they’re shopping it.
Elsewhere in the NBA, the same is true. It was no accident that the Clippers and Lakers kept their own 2020 first-round picks despite giving up king’s ransoms to acquire Paul George and Anthony Davis, respectively. The Nets moved their 2020 first in order to dump Allen Crabbe and clear cap space for Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Not only did these teams believe they would be championship contenders this year and want to leave open the possibility to flip their pick to upgrade the team, but they also likely knew this class would be weak, meaning they could give up their pick without regret.
While the Suns under Jones have been loose with their draft picks, trading the No. 32 pick to get off of T.J. Warren’s contract, another to dump Josh Jackson on the Grizzlies, and the No. 6 pick for No. 11 and Dario Saric, this year will be different. If the Suns truly do not think of this year’s draft as worth it, they’re in the majority. A player like Kennard is likely to be more valuable — and a better fit — than whoever they might draft at No. 10 or 11 in June.