Suns’ strong drafting not unique among competition in West
The Phoenix Suns and general manager Ryan McDonough have done well in the past three iterations of the NBA Draft.
Devin Booker, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender and Josh Jackson are all under the age of 21 and a foursome other teams should be closely monitoring as they develop.
While it’s the Golden State Warriors and LeBron James at the top of the NBA picture followed by everyone else, the Suns have positioned themselves well to be the next team on the rise at the start of the new decade.
In a broad sense, this would make you believe the Suns are one of the teams to beat when closing your eyes and transporting yourself into the year 2020 and beyond.
Despite the solid work on the rebuild so far, that’s not necessarily the clear-cut case out West due to some other fine displays of team-building.
Signature faces of the franchise under the age of 27 like Booker are more frequent than you’d expect. The New Orleans Pelicans have Anthony Davis, the Utah Jazz have Rudy Gobert, the Denver Nuggets have Nikola Jokic, the Portland Trail Blazers have Damian Lillard, the San Antonio Spurs have Kawhi Leonard and the Minnesota Timberwolves have Karl-Anthony Towns.
After Thursday’s draft, however, a couple more teams potentially added a piece of that caliber out West and in the Suns’ own division.
The Los Angeles Lakers selected Lonzo Ball second overall, the Sacramento Kings picked De’Aaron Fox fifth overall and the Dallas Mavericks drafted Dennis Smith Jr. ninth overall. All three point guards have All-Star potential and will be battling Booker for the title of best guard out West for years to come once the younger players rise to their proper prominence.
The draft was also a representation of those three teams and others getting wiser.
The Kings have had their whiffs in the draft this decade with the likes of Jimmer Fredette, Nik Stauskas, Ben McLemore and Thomas Robinson, making their young depth laughable when compared to teams like Phoenix.
Now, though, Sacramento has traded back in the draft past two years, adding up to a total of four first-round picks.
They knew DeMarcus Cousins wasn’t lasting much longer in Sacramento so they took two potential replacements in 2016 from the Chriss trade in Skal Labissiere and Georgios Papagiannis to go along with Willie Cauley-Stein from 2015.
With big man Zach Collins the best player on the board at No. 10 in this year’s draft, they traded back again to pick up selections at Nos. 15 and 20. They need spacing for all their bigs, so Justin Jackson out of North Carolina was a solid pick at 15 as a developed shooter. Because of all those young bodies down low, they could afford to take a gamble on a big and made Harry Giles out of Duke one of the best value picks in the draft at 20.
Add in Buddy Hield from the Cousins trade to go along with Fox and the Kings have legitimate pieces, all from just the past two years.
In Dallas, the team was the most barren in the league when it came to young talent. In the past year, however, they’ve added 25-year-old Harrison Barnes off a big deal in free agency and stole 26-year-old Seth Curry and 23-year-old Nerlens Noel to add good, complimentary pieces.
With the selection of Smith, the team has their cornerstone player to go alongside Barnes if the point guard’s high upside can come through and they are expected to be as aggressive as always in free agency.
Still, when looking ahead and factoring in current level of play, age, potential and depth, the Suns trounce nearly all these teams in the Western Conference.
Denver has to be on top at the moment, with Jokic, Gary Harris, Jamal Murray and Juan Hernangomez all showing promise directly contributing in major ways to a 40-win team last season while all being under 23.
There are even more players behind them like Malik Beasley, Emmanuel Mudiay, Trey Lyles and Tyler Lydon that still have their own potential to show as first-round picks.
The Lakers also may be able to challenge if Ball and Brandon Ingram, the last two No. 2 overall selections, reach their highest of ceilings.
The Suns’ aforementioned foursome and other noteworthy pieces like T.J. Warren, Derrick Jones Jr., Alan Williams, Tyler Ulis and recent second-round pick Davon Reed is tough to beat and is why fans will remain excited while the team grows and learns winning ways.