Empire of the Suns Mailbag: Booker’s next step, Doncic’s fit, 2018 draft

Sep 19, 2017, 7:13 AM | Updated: 4:47 pm
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) drives past Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kyle Singler during t...
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) drives past Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kyle Singler during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, April 7, 2017, in Phoenix. The Suns won 120-99. (AP Photo/Matt York)
(AP Photo/Matt York)
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Throughout the year, Empire of the Suns will take your Phoenix Suns questions via Twitter and answer them on podcasts and mailbags.

On this inaugural edition of the mailbag, Kevin and Kellan discuss the next step for Devin Booker’s growth, potential No. 1 overall pick Luka Doncic’s fit with the roster and the 2018 draft class.

Kellan Olson: For Booker in year three, it comes down to how much he can take the role he’s been given as the go-to offensive option and balance out the rest of his game with it. Given the rapid rise into that role Booker had in the last 70 percent of his first two seasons, there’s reason to believe his overall skills will blossom with time.

The one I’m honed in on is his point guard skill. Booker is terrific at navigating the floor with the ball for a two-guard and I think with a year under his belt as “the guy,” we will see more of his distribution this upcoming season. At his apex, I believe Booker is the type of player who can average 6-8 assists a game to go along with the scoring numbers. Look for him to increase his 3.4 assists a game this year to a mark much closer to five a game.

Kevin Zimmerman: I expect Booker will, at times, take on more play-making duties, but I also want to see how his role alongside Eric Bledsoe and Tyler Ulis evolves within the Suns’ offense. When we talk Booker’s efficiency, a point guard’s drive-and-kick game can do more to bring out open looks and easy buckets. When we talk Booker’s defense, getting rid of over-use on offense can help him not take plays off on the other end.

Phoenix’s offense, in general, must continue to improve, and I think that will go a long way in allowing Booker to become sound on defense and improve his shooting numbers.

KZ: I think that’s not a bad plan. And I wouldn’t be super surprised if the Suns test this out this season if matchups allow it considering they need to also play T.J. Warren alongside that duo. With Brandon Knight and Davon Reed hurt, Jackson will get some shooting guard minutes, and we’ll find out quickly how he works at that position.

Doncic fits in seamlessly and would probably even be considered the point guard in that three-man perimeter group, while Booker and possibly Jackson have enough skill to run some point if Bagley were the man. I’m of the opinion Bagley is being overhyped as a small forward prospect, but the point here is that if one of Doncic or Bagley falls to the Suns, you draft them without thinking twice about Booker and Jackson. At this point, Doncic and Bagley might end up being better players (ducks). I direct you to ESPN reporter Mike Schmitz’s recent story on Doncic to explain.

KO: We’ve talked about this on the podcast and I honestly believe it doesn’t matter with a player like Doncic. His combination of basketball IQ, vision and floor sense is so astronomically high for a player his age that you can just slip him into your team and then figure it out from there. What he does on the floor, including shooting the ball, helps everyone and that should be valued more than fit. It’s worth noting I’m someone who values fit more than most in the draft.

To answer your question, I believe Doncic trends up more towards the small forward and guard region of the spectrum while Bagley is a four or five. So, with Doncic, I believe you let him, Booker and Jackson as three above-average ball-handlers and creators for their position run the offense as your three perimeter guys. There are endless question marks for that hypothetical trio, but Doncic is worth it.

KZ: To answer your second question quickly, Collin Sexton, who will play his freshman year at Alabama, is probably viewed at this point as the only guard who gets drafted in the top-10 outside Doncic. I suppose the Suns would consider him with Bledsoe’s contract running up in the amount of time it’d take to ease him in, but one would hope the Suns will be drafting in the top-7, worst-case.

Assuming that much, one of sophomore Miles Bridges, freshman Mo Bamba, sophomore Robert Williams or freshman Jaren Jackson will be there. Bridges might fit the mold of a freak athlete who can play either forward slot, so he might not fit a need. But Bamba (Texas), Williams (Texas A&M) and Jackson (Michigan State) could all become Phoenix’s center of the future. Luckily, there are quite a few great lottery options for the Suns at that position.

KO: If this question is more guided toward the Miami pick than their own pick, there are two guys I really like in that range that would be a great compliment to Booker as role players (The Suns own the Heat’s 2018 first-round pick if it lands outside the top-7. The best guess before the season would put them in the 15-20 range).

De’Anthony Melton is more of a combo guard at USC but has some of the highest defensive upside in this class. For the Trojans last year, Melton was the only player in the nation to average at least 2.5 steals, 1.5 blocks, eight rebounds and five assists per 40 minutes, according to DraftExpress.

He’s a unique prospect because he’s a smart player on both ends, making the right reads defensively and as a passer, but he’s also very limited offensively. Add that to someone with explosive athleticism who makes energy plays and he’s a fascinating guy to keep an eye on in the Pac-12 this year.

SMU’s Shake Milton is the more traditional prospect. He has the size (6-foot-5) and wingspan (nearly 7-feet) to hold a high ceiling as a defender and he shot 42.3 percent from three on 5.5 attempts per game last season. If he can continue to shoot well and, more importantly, prove he could be a great defender, he might threaten for the lottery.

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Empire of the Suns Mailbag: Booker’s next step, Doncic’s fit, 2018 draft