EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

The 5: Potential trade-up options for Suns at No. 16

May 17, 2018, 7:21 AM | Updated: 1:31 pm
(AP photos)...
(AP photos)
(AP photos)

The Suns landing the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft is a monumental moment in the team’s rebuild, but it’s easy to forget the Suns have three other selections. Following that top selection, they pick next at No. 16.

Some necessary context here is that general manager Ryan McDonough has emphasized the desire to be aggressive and not so shy about using his assets this summer. That includes every Suns pick outside of first overall, a protected Milwaukee Bucks first-round pick next year, the 2021 Miami Heat unprotected first-round pick and a rather full roster that lacks much clarity beyond a few core pieces.

If there was ever a moment where the Suns would look to trade up like they did for Marquese Chriss two years ago, this would be the one.

A promising range of players sit in the mid-to-late lottery and on top of that, surely one or two of the consensus top-8 players will fall as well.

From an early look at post-lottery mock drafts, the three best contenders of the top names to potentially slip are Trae Young, Michael Porter Jr. and Wendell Carter Jr.

All it takes is one or two teams preferring a specific position or another prospect, and all of a sudden, those guys are within reach in the 7-11 range.

Keeping an eye on Young, Porter and Carter is a must in terms of a target to move up for, but instead of going further on those guys, let’s focus more on five names that are a near lock to be available in that range and would be a great pickup for the Suns.

Mikal Bridges, SF, Villanova, 21 years old

If we are strictly looking at the best player available and fit next to Devin Booker, Bridges is the guy.

At 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot wingspan, Bridges was an absolute nightmare for college perimeter players to deal with. He is by no means a lockdown on-ball defender but his instincts and length are more than enough to be an impact defender.

Offensively, actually, is where I think Bridges is being a bit slept on.

His 3-point shot, particularly his release and footwork, are also ready to go now, like his defense.

As you can see in some of the clips above, Bridges has a bit of scoring upside as well. Put him next to someone much more seasoned like Booker and could he be a secondary option? Potentially.

There’s no room on the roster for Bridges at the moment, but even serving as the third wing behind Booker and Josh Jackson could be extremely valuable. Play all three together, in some stretches, and you’ve got two great defenders, shooters and scorers in your perimeter group at all times.

Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State, 19 years old

That last point on Mikal is essentially the same argument for going to get the other Bridges. More of a do-it-all wing than a defensive specialist or sharpshooter, Bridges is one of the most explosive players in this draft class.

He can give you a bucket in the midrange off the dribble, finish with contact at the rim or make the right pass.

His biggest question mark as a freshman was his 3-point shot, but he shot 38.9 percent and 36.4 percent from deep in his two years with the Spartans, showing he can be consistent.

Bridges might not be great at anything, but he also works hard defensively and on the glass. You can never have too many wings with his skillset.

Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama, 19 years old

Sexton has his flaws. His shot selection and decision-making are erratic to earn serious trust as a point guard. He shoots 3-pointers like someone who is a marksman, but only hit 33 percent of them for the Crimson Tide.

With that in mind, the relentless nature of his play is an overwhelming positive. He has too much confidence to fail with the skill and vision to make the right reads. They aren’t always consistent, but his 3.6 assists per game are a bit misleading as to the type of facilitator he could be.

He gets to the basket at will, averaging a sky-high 7.6 free-throw attempts per game, and always competes defensively. His athleticism isn’t as great as it should be for a prospect of his type, which is why I see him more on the bubble of the top-10 than a lock in that range, but he is a hooper.

If Ayton is the call at the top spot, Sexton’s workrate and defensive pressure next to Booker could be the move.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky, 19 years old

Try not to black out and shut down when I propose this, but if the Suns want to see what they have with Brandon Knight and believe he could start for the next two years, Gilgeous-Alexander is a seamless fit in terms of where he could be drafted and his outlook.

Gilgeous-Alexander gets by on craft and savvy as a floor general, where he holds the traits you want out of your point guard. He’s not necessarily great at creating a lot of separation off the dribble, but he knows how to get to the rim and is terrific at making simple plays time after time.

Defensively, he has nearly a 7-foot wingspan and while his athleticism and quickness are a bit of a concern, he still projects as someone who could cover both guard positions.

Minus a reliable jumper, that’s where a Booker partnership would shine. Gilgeous-Alexander would play within himself while doing all the “point guard things” you could hope for and picking up tough defensive assignments.

Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma, 19 years old

OK, I know we came to an agreement with each other that Young is in that other group, but I really do believe he has a chance of falling within the Suns’ trade range.

He’s a ridiculously skilled offensive player, as this short ESPN video runs through all he can do. Elite is not a term that should be used lightly in draft evaluations, but he is an elite shooter and passer.

There was a scary drop-off in the second half of the season, but that was likely due to the incredible amount of defensive attention he received along with how much he was asked to do for the Sooners.

Defensively, it would be ugly alongside Booker, but the rewards offensively might make up for it.

As someone who has Young as a top-5 prospect, I had him going No. 8 in my own mock, so who knows where he could go on June 21? Orlando at six overall is the team to watch. Of the 11 mock drafts I came across after the lottery, Young was selected there seven times.

If McDonough is trying to be advantageous with picking his spots to be aggressive in this offseason, Young falling in the draft sure seems like a place to strike.

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