Picking fourth won’t give the Phoenix Suns a chance at adding Markelle Fultz, the near-consensus best prospect in the 2017 NBA Draft class, nor the most transcendently unique talent in Lonzo Ball, who would bring his boisterous father with him.
But in this class, the next tier of players is arguably even from pick No. 3 to pick No. 10. So Phoenix drafting fourth still presents an opportunity to land a franchise-altering player.
There’s also the possibility the Suns move up or down the order — or even trade their pick for a star.
Here is a quick overview of which players — and trades — will be options for Phoenix at No. 4 based on a general consensus of the best players. Also included is a more subjective probability these players land with the Suns based on need, availability at fourth overall and (unavoidably) my own opinions of these players.
Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke
Probability: 30 percent
He’s an improved jumper away from making himself an intriguing pick and would push T.J. Warren to prove himself as the small forward of the future in Phoenix. But there are tons of question marks starting with defensive focus and ending with the wonder if he will become elite at anything, let alone his best skill of isolation scoring.
Josh Jackson, SF, Kansas
Probability: 20 percent
It wouldn’t be unfathomable for Jackson to fall to the Suns. His fit with the 76ers isn’t great, as Kellan Olson, among others, mentioned in his mock draft. Still, a team could trade up to pick him ahead of Phoenix. The majority of draft experts would say he’s the third-best prospect in this class.
Jonathan Isaac, PF, Florida State
Probability: 12 percent
He can defend any frontcourt position with a little more weight on him, which along with Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss would give Phoenix a young lineup that’s athletic enough to switch most screens and protect the rim, even if it is undersized by lacking a traditional center. If he gets a green light and perfects his three-point jumper, he’s a tantalizing fit with the Suns.
Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona
Probability: 10 percent
This is the offensive version of the Isaac pick. Listed as a power forward, Markkanen just might end up playing a lot of center, which would be fine for a Suns team with a questionable future at the position — Alex Len and Alan Williams are restricted free agents this offseason and Tyson Chandler is, well, getting up there in age. Markkanen playing with Chriss and Bender could work in theory if the other two can pull their weight on defense. Adding such a great big man shooter to play off Devin Booker and Eric Bledsoe would help everyone involved.
De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky
Probability: 10 percent
Drafting Fox would force the Suns to find a new home for Bledsoe or Tyler Ulis. He would provide a pesky defensive presence in the backcourt alongside Booker and like a bigger Ulis could dictate the offensive pace at a high level. He’s a leader and a winner, and if he could fix his jumper, all the better.
Dennis Smith Jr., PG, North Carolina State
Probability: 8 percent
Arguably, he’s got as high a ceiling as any player in the top-8, and the optimist would say that includes Fultz and Ball. It just feels weird he fell down draft boards for the reasons that didn’t hurt Fultz — too many defensive lapses and leading a losing team among them. Is drafting him worth showing Bledsoe the door?
Probability: 5 percent
There’s not much reason to risk it by trading down unless a team is getting doe-eyed over a prospect they just have to secure at fourth overall (this is where we make a joke about the Sacramento Kings, who happen to own the fifth and 10th picks). And yet, with so many point guards available that the Suns aren’t in dire need of, perhaps they could trade down, acquire another asset and still snag a player like Jonathan Isaac who could fit on their roster from Day 1. While this might seem like a good idea, that’s a hard thing to commit to with so much uncertainty on draft day.
Trading for a star
Probability: 3 percent
Just because two Chicago beat writers mentioned the Suns getting involved in a Jimmy Butler trade, we will do so as well. Unless Phoenix throws in Devin Booker for such a deal (the Bulls wouldn’t take Eric Bledsoe back as the main piece would they?), that won’t happen. This seems unlikely. So would trading for Paul George, the other superstar maybe, kind of on the market (to join Lonzo in Los Angeles).
Probability: 1 percent
Don’t expect the Celtics (first) or Lakers (second) to trade their pick to any team that doesn’t have a proven star to send back — or even at all. But at third overall, the Sixers remain a mystery. Several early mock drafts, including our own, foresee Philadelphia passing on Jackson, who is considered by many a top-3 prospect. That means there could be a bidding war for that selection, though the Suns probably have no reason to jump just a spot considering they’ll still have options at four.
Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky
Probability: 1 percent
He’s only here because he’ll probably go in the top-10 — just not to the Suns, who don’t have a need for a single-tooled perimeter scorer, even if he’s a darn good one. They already have Devin Booker.