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Suns GM McDonough talks trading up, down and Jaren Jackson Jr.


PHOENIX — In what appears to be the final workout the Suns will hold with media availability for a potential No. 1 overall pick, Michigan State center Jaren Jackson Jr. worked out for the Suns on Sunday.

Phoenix general manager Ryan McDonough spoke on Jackson, but he also discussed the teams’ potential trade options during the NBA Draft.

McDonough wouldn’t rule out any of the options, including trading down out of the No. 1 overall pick.

“It’s something we’ll look at for sure,” he said on Sunday.

“I think there’s a certain range,” McDonough said mentioning four, five or six as the potential lowest point they’d go down to. “It might depend on how aggressive the teams beneath us are.”

With that, came asking what it would take and McDonough said it isn’t going to be simply average first-round picks because they already have enough of those.

“In this draft maybe somebody blows us away, we’ll see,” he said.

Going the other way, the Suns are armed with assets and the Nos. 16 and 31 picks, which they could use as part of a package to trade up back into the lottery.

McDonough thinks it would be too challenging to get another top-five pick but could see the late lottery, even in the mid-lottery.

That, though, is going to come down to making their decision on who they will pick with the top selection. Once they know who that player is, per McDonough, that’s when the team will start to evaluate who they like the most at No. 16 and higher up in trade-up positions.

“It’s too early for us to make the call almost two weeks before the draft,” he said, citing the 2016 trade-up for Marquese Chriss as an “on the clock deal.”

The difficulty in the process after the Suns decide on a certain player they want to target is locating where they could go in the draft. That comes off what they are hearing around the league, which is a range they will feel more comfortable with the day before and the day of the draft.

“We have a lot of options, but for us, we’re starting at the top with one, figuring that out and then seeing how the rest falls,” he said on Saturday.

Speaking of figuring that out, Jackson is a player the Suns are looking at in the group at the top, along with Deandre Ayton, Mohamed Bamba, Marvin Bagley III and Luka Doncic.

Those last four names all have their hype, but McDonough was surprised by the lack of it around Jackson considering what he does on the court.

“I think not enough people are talking about him going higher than four, five, which I think is a real possibility,” he said. “He has a case to be up there with just about anybody.”

When it comes to versatility, Jackson might be the best of the group.

In 21.6 minutes per game for the Spartans, Jackson averaged 10.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game.

At 6-foot-11 and a 7-foot-5 wingspan, Jackson is a more than capable rim protector but also can switch and move his feet very well, something current NBA bigs are asked to do more than ever before.

Perhaps Jackson’s most underrated aspect is his shot, where he made 39.6 percent of his 2.7 three-point attempts.

McDonough noted a few times how impressed they were with Jackson’s shooting as an 18-year-old big.

When asked if his three-point shooting is the most ready among the top group of big men, Jackson replied with a simple “yes sir.”

McDonough agreed on that point and would call his rim protection elite.

“His shot blocking was off the charts,” he said.

Put that together and you’ve got an appetizing combination of shooting and interior defense. Those two aspects are why Jackson thinks simply his presence on the court would be beneficial for Phoenix specifically.

“Just me being out there gives them a lot of room to operate just because I’m a threat from outside,” he said. “When D-Book penetrates, he can kick it out to me and if they stay with me, then he has a lot more room.”

McDonough was also impressed by Jackson’s offensive ball skills, saying he’s more than just a floor spacer or finisher around the rim.

“He’s a really intriguing, young player,” McDonough said. “Obviously, like any 18- or 19-year-old he has certain things he needs to work on but there aren’t a lot of holes in his game.”

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