Jon Barry: If Suns get No. 1 pick in NBA Draft, trade it and draft Ja Morant
You’d be hard-pressed to find an NBA mock draft listing anyone other than Duke forward Zion Williamson as the No. 1 pick, but how the lottery balls pop could sway some projections.
The Phoenix Suns winning the lottery next Tuesday, for example, could lead a few mocks to consider Murray State guard Ja Morant as the top pick.
ESPN NBA analyst Jon Barry won’t go that far, but on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Doug & Wolf, he did suggest that the Suns should consider a non-Zion direction if they got the first pick.
“If they get the number one pick, I’d trade it and get Ja Morant,” Barry said. “That’s the need for the team. If you go back a couple years ago, they had more point guards than any team in the history of the NBA and now they have none. Devin Booker does not need to be worrying about running the point guard position like he had to the bulk of the year.”
Pushing against drafting Williamson is quite the rare opinion.
The 6-foot-6, 285-pound Blue Devil averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 1.8 blocks per game as a freshman. He’s one of the most unique prospects to come out of college since Anthony Davis was the clear-cut No. 1 pick in 2012.
Phoenix does need a power forward and could slot Williamson in alongside Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker.
In that case, floor spacing could be a potential problem. And distributing the touches could be difficult among the three aforementioned players. That’s one reason why a panel of ESPN writers suggested in a piece published on Tuesday that Williamson might not reach his potential on the Suns.
Morant makes logical sense in a vacuum.
He averaged 24.5 points, 10 assists and 1.8 steals as a sophomore in 2018-19, but at a dripping wet 170 pounds and with a few questions about his defense and immediate abilities to act as floor general, he might take a few years to right the ship in Phoenix. The Suns probably can’t afford to be extremely patient with their core after missing the playoffs every year since 2010.
“I understand that Zion is going to be, maybe a franchise-changing player. He really might be,” Barry said. “But if you get number one, you go to every team in the league and you say, ‘How bad do you want Zion?’ Not only could you move down and get Ja at number two possibly, you can get some other pieces and be relevant like immediately next year. You’ve got to explore that.”
Such a possibility depends on a lot: which teams land in the second and third draft slots, and which prospect they favor between Morant, point-forward R.J. Barrett or others at those picks among them.