PHOENIX — The NBA Draft Lottery gives Phoenix the second-best odds to land the first overall draft pick with a 19.8-percent chance of picking No. 1. The Suns have a 55.8 percent chance to pick among the top three.
It leaves open the possibility of a lot of options.
If the Suns are in a position to take one of the consensus top two guards, Washington’s Markelle Fultz and UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, it raises a question – what do the Suns do with Eric Bledsoe?
“He was, I think, our best player this year, and I think you saw the impact he had when he wasn’t playing,” said general manager Ryan McDonough.
After management benched him for the final 15 games of the season, the Suns won twice. Bledsoe was 10 rebounds away from being the fifth player this season to average 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game. He averaged 4.8 rebounds per contest.
“When you’re talking about guys like LeBron James, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Giannis Antetokounmpo – for Bledsoe to be in that category, it’s pretty impressive,” McDonough said.
Coach Earl Watson was impressed with Bledsoe’s improvement this year, his seventh in the NBA, which he said is rare for players “at the stage of his career.” McDonough, however, disagrees. He pointed to Steve Nash as a prime example.
“At the point guard position, guys usually peak a little bit later,” McDonough said.
Watson said that Booker and Bledsoe complement each other well. He called Bledsoe aggressive and said Booker “flowed and picked his spots.”
McDonough likes the duo, too.
“The most likely scenario is to continue to build around (Bledsoe) and Devin and our young core and try to add in guys between 19-27 that fit in with that group,” he said.
If they stay true to this, Josh Jackson could be the obvious choice, if he is available. The Kansas wing is a strong two-way player who would slot into the small forward position.
However, after taking charge of the offense, Booker proved he could be aggressive like Bledsoe. In late March, he became only the sixth NBA player to score 70 points or more when he did it against the Boston Celtics.
Additionally, Bledsoe is seven years older than Booker. Rookie forwards Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender are still below the legal drinking age in Arizona. T.J. Warren, who showed potential late this year after the Suns traded P.J. Tucker, is 23.
Bledsoe might not fit into the future program, which McDonough said could be “good for 10 years.” Someone like Fultz or Ball might fit in better, assuming the lottery odds play out in the favor of the Suns.
Management seems to not know who they want; in fact, Watson and McDonough contradicted each other. McDonough said he’d pick the best available player. Position doesn’t matter.
“We have depth in both of those areas (guard and wing), especially the guard slots,” McDonough said. “But we’ll take the best available player and then if that guy’s as good as we think he can be, work the rest of the roster right around that.”
Suns forward Jared Dudley said he thinks Ball should go number one overall. Center Tyson Chandler wouldn’t say who he thinks is the best player, but said he doesn’t think Ball’s father, LaVar, is a bad influence.
“I grew up with guys like that, I grew up with an uncle like that, so it doesn’t bother me too much,” Chandler said. “His dad seems like he’s a street baller.”
If one of the playmaking guards goes to the Suns, Bledsoe could be traded, and the Suns could attempt to package him for a high-level wing or future draft pick.
Watson, on the other hand, wants a player with the best character.
“The talent’s going to always be there,” he said. “Now if you get a character with talent, that’s when you have a Bledsoe, that’s when you have a Devin Booker.”
Despite the compliment toward Bledsoe, this could also signal diminished appeal of Jackson, who got arrested on charges of property damage after being accused of kicking a female student’s car in February (although some mock drafts have moved him to the No. 1 pick since he announced he is entering the draft).
“Character wins championships,” Watson said. “Talent” – he paused – “just play games.”
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