Considering the possibility the Suns make an NBA Draft-day trade
The Phoenix Suns hold the Nos. 1, 16, 31 and 59 picks in the 2018 NBA Draft.
It’s unlikely they will want even three rookies making the roster next season, making the first three of those picks potential trade bait. With a few young players on the roster, plus a nice collection of future picks to go along with the 2018 selection, general manager Ryan McDonough has the ability to move up and down the draft at a few spots.
What are the chances McDonough makes a move on draft day? We’ll discuss how the Suns might act on draft night with the expectation that they want to make moves to speed up their current timeline.
Kevin Zimmerman: I’m imagining McDonough jamming out to T-Pain’s “Up, down” when he gets to the lyric, “I ain’t got no problem spending all of my money,” and getting an itchy trigger finger. Let’s start at the top of the draft, where the speculation has led to discussion about the Suns dealing that No. 1 pick for Kawhi Leonard and Karl-Anthony Towns. That would certainly be a way to spend all of the money.
For one, I don’t think either of those players gets moved this summer. And in a draft with two players that could be very good very soon, I think there is zero reason to trade the top pick.
Kellan, what are your thoughts on the likelihood of moving No. 1 for a young star or even trading down?
Kellan Olson: Let’s start by saying that the No. 1 overall pick, Josh Jackson and Devin Booker as the foundation of a core is undoubtedly at least a playoff team at its apex, potentially more. With that in mind, the Suns have made it abundantly clear they want to have at least a double-digit win turnaround from this season’s 21 and Booker shares the same aspirations.
Phoenix can’t win over 35 games without a big trade or free agent signing, and as we’ve endlessly discussed in this space since McDonough arrived, he’s been chasing that young or in his prime star. Despite how strongly I feel about both Luka Doncic and Deandre Ayton’s outlooks as prospects, there’s no such thing as a “guarantee” or “can’t miss” prospect.
If an All-NBA caliber guy in his prime or approaching his prime is available for that pick, go get him. If Leonard wants to stay and re-sign with Phoenix, go get him. If Towns is available, go get him.
I’m not worried about the Suns spending $50-60 million on Booker and one of those guys.
As far as trading down, I think it’s lunacy unless you know for a fact the Sacramento Kings are taking one of the two top prospects the Suns value less and you can squeeze out extra assets. Just get the guy.
Where do you stand on all this?
Zimmerman: OK, if I play along and one of those two players are available, there’s no doubt you go with the established player over the No. 1 pick. I know Suns fans love Ayton and could be scared from the Brandon Knight trade, but the fact is that a realistic positive for Ayton looks, well, just like Towns. And that’s years down the road. If Towns on the table, you try to work out a reasonable trade that includes more than the pick and pay the man.
Speaking of being realistic, I’m betting the Suns hang onto the top overall pick.
But the No. 16 pick? I think there are many options here, and I’m not sure what a mid-first is worth in terms of acquiring a starting-caliber veterans to improve the team now. Could it be a swing-piece in a bigger package that includes a current Suns player or a future first? That’s more likely.
I’m guessing the Suns will consider shifting up or down attempting to reach up in the draft if a prospect falls or move down to snap up, say, another future first-round draft pick.
Give me a scenario where Phoenix sees a reason to package No. 16 and perhaps the No. 31 pick and/or a role player (I am sorry you’re being brought into this, Troy Daniels) to leap into the top-12. The Clippers do have two back-to-back picks at 12 and 13, so maybe they’re an option.
Olson: Stick with me here.
Per Brian Windhorst of ESPN, his sentiment is the Cleveland Cavaliers think LeBron James is leaving. They don’t know, but they think.
With that in mind, the players they have signed through next year that are under 25 years old are Cedi Osman and Ante Zizic. Oh, and they don’t have another first-round pick until 2020 and no second-round pick until 2021.
How does T.J. Warren, Nos. 16, 31 and the protected first-round pick from the Milwaukee Bucks for the eighth overall pick sound? If that’s too little or one side doesn’t want Warren in the deal, the Suns have more picks to offer they don’t need with such a young roster.
At that spot, there’s going to be a game-changing prospect available.
Could Trae Young be available at that spot to be Ayton’s point guard as we burn the notion of defense to the ground? How about Michael Porter Jr. as a stretch four for either Doncic or Ayton? If the Suns go Doncic, there’s no better player to pair with him in terms of skill symmetry than Wendell Carter Jr. What about getting rid of Warren and adding a more modern two-way wing instead, like Mikal or Miles Bridges?
That’s the spot I like, but the bottom line is the Suns have more than enough assets to move up and in the 7-12 range, where there’s going to be a name worth moving up for.
Any spot stand out to you? Or, do you even think trading down from No. 16 is a move worth considering (*gasp*)?
Zimmerman: Honestly, I have a feeling that one of the Bridges’, who are outside what we think are the top-eight players, could fall to 10 or 11, where a lesser package could help Phoenix move up.
I also think sliding up to a Clippers pick wouldn’t cost as much — but then you’re dealing with a player like Kentucky point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who could theoretically slide to 16.
I could see a trade-down only for two reasons. There are NBA vets involved in a deal or the Suns just want to acquire a future pick and grab a draft-and-stash/project player like Elie Okobo or Dzanan Musa. Okobo said he wants to come over next year but could maybe spend some time in Prescott Valley until he’s ready to contribute.
Musa staying overseas would keep a bit of salary off the cap while giving them a future player or trade chip.
At the end of the day, the Suns could get a relatively talented player at 31, so I think 16 is the most likely to be moved.
The Suns said they’re going to be aggressive, and draft day could be the start of seeing their ultimate plan. If they’re shedding salaries, especially of rookie-sized deals, my eyebrows are going to raise heading into free agency.
Do you agree with any of the above? And what do you expect from a wider picture of things?
Olson: Where we should wrap up here is how hard it is to pull off these deals, especially in such a tight window like the day of the draft.
But, McDonough has done this before in trading up for Marquese Chriss and has even more assets with expectations for a comeback year. Let’s not forget about his contract expiring two summers from now, either.
And we can also look beyond a move that is solely focused on the draft. They could use one of those two picks to get rid of Tyson Chandler, Jared Dudley or Warren’s contract too if they want more wiggle room for free agency. They could also use one (or both) of those two picks to trade for an experienced NBA player that will be a strong accent for the likes of Booker, Jackson and the top pick.
If Phoenix is on the board at No. 16 and they aren’t enamored with any of the names, that’s absolutely an option they will consider.