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Diving deep into potential trade-up spots for Suns in NBA Draft

Phoenix Suns new head coach Igor Kokoskov, right, arrives with general manager Ryan McDonough to speak to the media Monday, May 14, 2018, in Phoenix. Kokoskov will oversee a vastly improved team after they compiled the worst record in the NBA last season. (AP Photo/Matt York)

The Phoenix Suns want to be aggressive this offseason.

One of the ways they can do that is trading up in the NBA Draft. It’s a highly suggested option by the casual fan but rarely happens. In this specific case, however, the Suns own all of their first-round picks, second-round picks and a future first from each of Milwaukee and Miami.

If they love a certain prospect and want to move up from their No. 16 spot, there’s no harm in attaching picks to it and moving up to get their guy. Their roster is young enough as it is, so it’s easier to get rid of those extra assets.

We’ve already covered the potential top prospects who could be available in their trade-up range, so let’s examine those spots a bit closer, starting at No. 7 and working our way to 13th.

98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s John Gambadoro said Tuesday this looks like the area the Suns could move to and that all these teams would be interested in trading back. That should not be a surprise given how much of a luxury extra picks are, no matter how many you already have.

Keep in mind that the Suns have the luxury that they could overwhelm any of these teams with a big offer and not be gutted asset-wise afterward, but it’s important to understand their teams’ situations before throwing around those offers.

No. 7: Chicago Bulls

Chicago is a tough sell.

The young foundation of their team is at least one piece away from really building something, but they at least have the likes of Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine and whatever comes of players like Kris Dunn, Jerian Grant and Bobby Portis.

They need another prospect on Markkanen’s level. In fact, they need one better, but they won’t get that in a trade. They need to stick in this spot and draft someone like Wendell Carter Jr., Mikal Bridges or Miles Bridges to be the third piece for those two top names.

Besides, in an offer where they acquire multiple picks, they already are up again in this draft at No. 22 and own all of their first-round picks in the future.

No. 8: Cleveland Cavaliers

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

This is where it gets interesting and, in my opinion, is the spot where there is the best potential match for a team that should be heavily looking into trading down.

If the Cavaliers operate under the assumption on draft night that LeBron James is gone, they have to start their rebuild immediately. You know what the problem with that is? When your only players signed through next season under the age of 25 are Cedi Osman and Ante Zizic.

They are also in a bad spot with draft picks. Cleveland is sending their 2019 first-round pick to Atlanta if it lands between 11-30 and owns no second-round picks until 2021.

An instant-impact rookie in this spot would help contribute with Kevin Love, George Hill, Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, Jordan Clarkson and Kyle Korver, but none of those players hold serious long-term standing and have their contracts expiring by 2020. The key here is even if James’ contract is off the books, Cleveland is handcuffed by those salaries and Love is the only one you can make an argument for getting a serious return on in a trade.

The smart move for Cleveland would be to trade back with this pick and acquire an additional two to three picks, if possible. They need to take as many swings as they can instead of potentially having only one legitimate young piece on the roster until the 2020 NBA Draft.

The Suns could offer Nos. 16 and 31, in addition to the likes of Milwaukee’s protected first next year, some protected picks from their own first-round pick storage or other players on the roster. In my opinion, Miami’s unprotected 2021 first-round pick should not be on the table unless there’s a big, big name involved. Who knows how good or bad the Heat will be in three years.

I’m not sure how Cleveland can logically turn down an extra first-round pick (or two) and the opening selection of the second round in exchange for moving down eight spots given their situation. That, of course, just depends on how the Cavaliers are treating this offseason.

On the flip side, they might just want to grab the best available prospect or the most appealing prospect to LeBron because he’s LeBron. Sometimes when you do that, though, you wind up with Shabazz Napier and LeBron leaves anyway.

No. 9: New York Knicks

The Knicks are tricky.

They own at least one first- and second-round pick every year down the line, and more importantly, all of their own first-round picks.

Kristaps Porzingis is talented enough to take a core of Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee, Enes Kanter, Frank Ntilikina and Emmanuel Mudiay somewhere in the realm of 35-45 wins in the East.

The problem is, Porzingis tore his ACL in February and could miss all of next season, and he and Ntilikina are the only two real young pieces of their future. Do the Knicks sit back, tank next year and pick up a couple of extra young bodies to add with Porzingis and Ntilikina?

I don’t think that makes a whole lot of sense. Instead, holding at No. 9 and grabbing one of the Bridges to serve as the wing between those two guys makes more.

No. 10: Philadelphia 76ers

We will make this short.

The Sixers have not traded any of their future picks and they own two firsts and three seconds this year, two firsts and two seconds in 2019 and one first and three seconds in 2020.

They have more than enough young talent and cap space, so there’s not much the Suns could offer them to make them consider trading down.

No. 11: Charlotte Hornets

(AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Oh, how to describe the Hornets.

They have money tied up in veterans Nic Batum and Marvin Williams while former first-round picks Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Cody Zeller have kinda-sorta-but-not-really worked out and are also signed through at least 2020.

Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb are on expiring deals. The young core has no real leader in the pack, as Kidd-Gilchrist and Zeller are “fine” for what they are and the team’s most recent top selections, Malik Monk and Frank Kaminsky, lack star appeal unless Monk has a bounce-back sophomore campaign.

The Hornets own all their firsts and won’t have a second in 2020 or 2021.

For my money, they are in a best player available situation. Then again, they have a new general manager in Mitch Kupchak, who might want to blow up most of the roster and make it young. The Suns could help add more picks there.

Nos. 12 and 13:  Los Angeles Clippers

This is the point in the draft where pick No. 10 or 11 is up and the Suns start to get nervous their guy isn’t going to fall to 16th or they see someone slipping they highly desire and really want to move.

The pick situation for Los Angeles is fine. They have two in the lottery this year, no first next year, but own the rest of their picks and have extra seconds coming in 2019 and 2020.

Also, with Jawun Evans, Sindarius Thornwell and Sam Dekker already occupying the edge of the rotation as young up-and-comers, I’m not sure if the Clippers would be interested in something like Nos. 16 and 31 for an offer.

It seems like it would have to be something to really catch their attention, like a first next year or a player from the roster.

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