Point guards and wings: that’s what the best options are limited to in the top-five of the 2017 NBA Draft. We’ve talked out whether the Phoenix Suns should go with a wing to join T.J. Warren, and now we wonder if they could pick a talented point guard not named Markelle Fultz (and probably Lonzo Ball) with the No. 4 pick.
Kellan Olson: The Suns had the worst luck of anyone on lottery night, but that still doesn’t rule out the chance they take a point guard with the way this class worked out.
We’ve both been adamant about not buying that Eric Bledsoe could continue playing at this level by the time the young core is ready to compete for a playoff spot. With two years left on his very affordable deal given how good he was last season, his trade value will never be higher.
This all adds up to a “point guard of the future” being a real possibility for the Suns’ first-round pick.
Kevin, let’s begin by eliminating this from the conversation. If Lonzo Ball somehow falls to No. 4, the Suns should sprint to the podium immediately and read his name themselves, right?
Kevin Zimmerman: Yep. There was a little too much weight put into LaVar Ball’s presence that overlooked the fact that Lonzo just might become the most dynamic player in this draft. Look, Ball has shooting touch and the feel to direct an offense. Even if he’s got a lot to prove about whether he has the shake to run pick-and-rolls, worst case is you give the ball to Devin Booker late in the shotclock.
You think his rebounding and bullet passes in transition will help the NBA’s second-highest paced team? You don’t think he’ll mesh with Marquese Chriss, T.J. Warren and Booker in transition?
Moving on, there are other point guards with All-Star level ceilings that will likely be selected after Ball. De’Aaron Fox and Dennis Smith: Who do you like more?
KO: I love Smith. For some reason, even in early June, he’s not catching on and is still ranked in the 8-10 spot. I think he’s a top-five prospect.
He’s the best overall offensive player in this class besides Fultz and that’s still with him figuring out how to be at his best running the show. His handle and athleticism should directly translate to the NBA.
I’m sold on the range and consistency of his jumper, but if someone isn’t, I can see why they would be lower on him.
His point guard polish and defense just being potential — it’s very high potential by the way, but it doesn’t seem like he wants to be great on that end — are the two main concerns on him outside of the jumper, and that’s where it gets so fascinating comparing him to Fox since that’s what Fox does well.
KZ: That’s what’s most interesting when it comes to Smith. Like Bledsoe, he’s more of a ball-dominating guard and less of a floor general who keeps the ball moving. However, if you see him as the type of player who can be molded into the latter, that is more personality-driven and hard for me to speculate on because of his ugly situation at N.C. State.
I’m in a gray area between Smith and Fox. Smith is the more ready, higher-upside pick, but I see Fox as a better long-term fit for the Suns if he gets his jumper straight and adds weight — as in, he could almost be brought along behind Bledsoe.
You’re a little more anti-Fox than me. I see him as a fantastic leader, defender and controller of the pace type of guard. Tell me what about his jumper bothers you (maybe you just don’t believe it can improve?) and what beyond that might be a concern.
KO: I’m just not buying it and NBA defenses will neutralize him because of it. I like the form and can see potential improvement, but 24 percent is 24 percent. Even if he’s around the 30-32 percent mark, 150 of the 169 players who qualified for the three-point percentage leaderboards this season are shooting at least 32.7 percent from deep.
It makes the reliance on the value he brings elsewhere that much important and when he weighed in at 170 pounds at the NBA Combine, it made me pause because being strong is exactly what he needs for what he’s projected to be great at (attacking and defense).
The amusing part of this is while we talk about Smith’s ceiling and upside, if Fox has a below average jumper and gains 15-20 pounds, he’s an All-Star point guard.
Fox is a much better fit stylistically and Smith is the better prospect. In a pure big board, I have the gap between them pretty sizable, but for the Suns, it’s close. I still give the edge to Smith.
I think the question to end it here, Kevin, is if either guy is worth selecting with Bledsoe on the roster. I say yes, but that’s only if they feel strongly about Fox or Smith, such as the way I feel about Smith. What say you?
KZ: This is where we note that neither of us are high on small forward Jayson Tatum.
If Josh Jackson goes in the top-three and the Suns don’t see Jonathan Isaac as more than a role player, I think Fox or Smith could be very, very good picks.
I think it’s fair to say you and I have different views about which of the two has the lower floors (I think it’s Smith), but as far as ceilings, either going fourth would make sense. And the more I’ve thought about it, Bledsoe will likely accept it and has shown he’ll continue playing high-level ball to ride it out with the Suns at least until he’s entering his contract year heading into the 2018-19 season.
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