EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Vecenie’s 6.0 NBA mock draft finds the Suns with No. 2 pick, LaMelo Ball

Jul 15, 2020, 10:03 AM | Updated: 10:04 am
LaMelo Ball of the Hawks in action during the round 9 NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers an...
LaMelo Ball of the Hawks in action during the round 9 NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Illawarra Hawks at Spark Arena on November 30, 2019 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)
(Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

Here is how Phoenix Suns fans can get a little bit of excitement for what’s generally viewed as a dull NBA Draft class in 2020.

It’s a reminder that the lottery odds changes implemented last year could favor a team that, technically, still has a shot at making the playoffs.

The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie released his 6.0 mock draft on Wednesday, and you don’t have to scroll far to find the Suns. He has them landing the No. 2 pick — after running a lottery simulation courtesy of Tankathon.com — and taking point guard LaMelo Ball.

The Suns have two franchise cornerstones in Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. I’m a pretty enormous fan of both and think they have a good chance to really lead Phoenix back to the playoffs on their own within the next few seasons. If I were with Phoenix and we got lucky enough to move up on draft night, I’d want to take a home run swing on someone who could really take the team into the next stratosphere in terms of upside. Ball’s ability in pick-and-roll would really help create easier shots for Ayton, and would allow Booker to play more off ball and get free as a scorer.

Vecenie adds that Ball is a notable replacement for point guard Ricky Rubio, who has two more years on his contract after 2019-20 concludes. Phoenix would have enough time to develop Ball at a reasonable pace if it picked the 18-year-old.

There are quite a few layers to this specific scenario before we get to Vecenie’s opinion of Ball.

— Ball is Vecenie’s top prospect but falls to No. 2 because Georgia scoring guard Anthony Edwards goes to the Minnesota Timberwolves to tip off the mock. Vecenie adds that Edwards is the closest to the consensus top prospect in the class. To his point here, the order of prospects off the board will largely be determined by the order of teams picking.

— The Golden State Warriors have the best odds with the worst record in the pre-coronavirus 2019-20 season. But again, odds aren’t as great as they might seem. The Warriors in this simulation got leapfrogged by four teams, and the Warriors only have a 52% chance of not falling all the way to fifth in the draft order.

— Phoenix’s odds, then, aren’t terrible even though they’re, at present, 10th-best. They have a 13.9% shot at jumping into a top-four pick and 3% shot at landing the No. 1 selection.

Now that we’ve run through those reminders, let’s get to Ball. The younger brother of New Orleans Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball spent last season in Australia. He’s 6-foot-7 with natural feel, an over-sized point guard with great distributing abilities that would compliment Booker and Ayton well.

Ball has more shake than Lonzo and is a creative finisher. The task for Phoenix would start with building his frame so that he can contribute early on and let him develop into a true lead guard by stamping out his chucking habits as a shooter. He hit just 28% from three in Australia.

Still, Vecenie likes the package of talent. Like Arizona Sports‘ Kellan Olson, Vecenie has him as the top prospect in the 2020 class.

His live-dribble passing ability is superb, among the best I’ve scouted within the last seven drafts. He gets separation, creates angles, pressures and draws defenders with his ability to probe in the paint, and then can hit the open man from any angle with either hand. He’s also an excellent decision-maker as a passer, rarely turning it over. He was up near a 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio this past season for Illawarra, despite playing in a professional league as an 18-year-old.

The Suns have favored ready-to-go contributors under general manager James Jones, and a selection of Ball would arguably stray from that. But if you trust coach Monty Williams’ leadership, there should be optimism he can mold an erratic, naturally gifted player like Ball.

Basketball hasn’t restarted yet, and considering the lottery positioning, it’s hard to talk about the Suns targeting the top point guard prospect at this point. But this one simulation in favor of Phoenix reminds us that it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

Regardless of which team we’re talking about, the lottery, which is scheduled for Aug. 25, holds more importance this year. It will determine the order at the top.

The volatile domino effect will impact the Suns even if they don’t move into the top-four.

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Vecenie’s 6.0 NBA mock draft finds the Suns with No. 2 pick, LaMelo Ball