ESPN’s Pelton: Suns’ choice at No. 1 will influence offseason decisions

May 17, 2018, 7:51 PM | Updated: May 21, 2018, 1:40 pm
(AP photos)...
(AP photos)
(AP photos)

The Phoenix Suns cannot overthink their selection at No. 1 overall in the NBA Draft.

They should take whoever they believe is the best player. With that in mind, there is much more of an impact to the team’s offseason plan based on who they pick.

That’s what ESPN’s Kevin Pelton wrote about and what he discussed on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Burns & Gambo.

“The key is that this choice that they make at No. 1 will influence what they do the rest of this summer, in terms of free agency in particular, and potentially the trade market to fill out the roster,” he said.

In a situation where the Suns take Arizona center Deandre Ayton, the focus would be on defense.

“How good Ayton is is gonna be determined largely by how much he can improve defensively because clearly, that’s not the strength of his game at this point,” Pelton said.

If Ayton is the guy down low, point guard will now be the biggest priority for Phoenix to address, Pelton writes.

Adding Ayton to a group that includes promising shooting guard Devin Booker, lottery representative Josh Jackson (last year’s No. 4 pick) and 2016 lottery picks Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss would give the Suns young talent at four of the five positions, leaving point guard Phoenix’s biggest weakness.

That includes making a decision about restricted free agent Elfird Payton, and if they were to pass on him, the trade market could be the next move.

The trade market could be an interesting option for Phoenix if the team is willing to take on long-term salary. Chandler, making $13.6 million in the final season of his contract, could be attractive to teams in need of a veteran center. The Suns also have veteran forward Jared Dudley ($9.5 million) on an expiring deal, which would allow them to add an expensive (and overpaid) player who can help the team more than Chandler and Dudley.

The Atlanta Hawks would surely want some of the Suns’ store of future picks, and Atlanta point guard Dennis Schroder would be a possible target if Phoenix believes he can coexist with Bender and Jackson on the perimeter. At 24, Schroder would work with the timeline of the Suns’ young talent.

With Doncic, it’s a bit more complicated than Ayton simply filling a need at a position, but head coach Igor Kokoskov would be familiar with a potential system modeled around Utah’s in 2016-17.

Although Doncic doesn’t fit a need for the Suns in the same way as Ayton, adding him to Booker and Jackson would make for an intriguing perimeter trio. None projects as a primary ball handler, but all are capable with the ball in their hands, giving Kokoskov the opportunity to utilize a system similar to the one the Utah Jazz ran with Kokoskov as an assistant prior to this season. With relatively limited playmakers at the point, the Jazz relied heavily on wings Gordon Hayward and Rodney Hood to create out of pick-and-roll opportunities.

“I think between the three of those you could get the playmaking you would need,” Pelton said of that potential Suns trio.

The concern then becomes defense, but Pelton isn’t ready to make any grand declarations there.

“That’s one of the things where we’re going to see how it translates,” Pelton said of Doncic’s defense.

“One thing he hasn’t had to deal with is a great deal of athleticism. The great wing athletes, players of that size, they’re in the NBA.”

To fill out the frontcourt in a scenario in which the Suns select Doncic, Pelton looks at the market in free agency. He highlights potential targets like the Houston Rockets’ Clint Capela, the Los Angeles Lakers’ Julius Randle and Montrezl Harrell from the Los Angeles Clippers.

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ESPN’s Pelton: Suns’ choice at No. 1 will influence offseason decisions