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Suns GM McDonough: LaVar Ball would not prevent team from drafting Lonzo

UCLA guard Lonzo Ball, right, walks away after hugging his father, LaVar, following the team's NCAA college basketball game against Washington State, Saturday, March 4, 2017, in Los Angeles. UCLA won 77-68. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Tuesday evening, the Phoenix Suns will learn where they will be picking in the 2017 NBA Draft.

Having finished with the second-worst record in all of basketball this past season, they will either pick first, second, third, fourth or fifth.

Winners of just 24 games in 2016-17, the Suns have a 19.9 percent chance of landing first and a 55.8 percent chance of earning a top-3 selection.

That would be fine.

“I’ve been in the league since 2003, and I think this is in the top two or three drafts in that time period,” Suns GM Ryan McDonough told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago Thursday. “Obviously the first one, in ’03, was historically good with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony and on and on.

“This is up there right behind that, and who knows how these guys will turn out.”

Noting their likely draft slot, McDonough added he is confident his team will land “a really good player no matter where we end up.”

“Obviously we’ll have more options if we end up in the top two or three than at four or five, but either way we feel very comfortable with where we’re picking,” he said.

While no one can truly be certain which players will be chosen and when, there seems to be a consensus that the top of this draft will see Washington’s Markelle Fultz, UCLA’s Lonzo Ball and Kansas’ Josh Jackson be the first players off the board. Looking at the Suns’ roster, Jackson — a small forward — would seem like the best fit, though Fultz and Ball are viewed as generational-type point guard talents.

Noting again that nothing is certain with regards to who teams prefer, the thought for now seems to be that Fultz, who averaged 23.2 points, 5.9 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game as a freshman, will be the first pick.

Assuming that is the case, and the ping pong balls grant the Suns the second overall choice, they would then be left with some decisions. They could go with Jackson, a 6-foot-8 wing who fits the current roster and could become a very good NBA player, and it would not necessarily be a bad decision.

Or, they could take a chance on Ball, who has amazing talent but a very outspoken (and controversial) father. Of all the prospects in this draft, few offer as much potential as Ball. But there’s baggage.

For McDonough, it seems like the chance to acquire a 6-foot-6 point guard who averaged 14.6 points, 7.6 assists and six rebounds per game as a freshman in the Pac-12 is an enticing option, controversial father or not.

“We evaluate the player, first and foremost,” he said. “Every player comes from a different family situation; it seems like LaVar has been extremely involved in Lonzo’s career, and obviously he’s a polarizing guy, but I think on the court, in terms of Lonzo’s development, it seems like it’s helped Lonzo.

“So as we try and weigh in all the factors, certainly having a parent who’s very involved and cares a lot, we don’t view that as a bad thing. It’s a little bit different than certain situations, but it’s certainly not something that we would disqualify Lonzo for or really factor heavily in our decision.”

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