The Athletic’s Vecenie shows how Suns can hit NBA Draft hard with trade-downs

Jun 24, 2024, 7:15 PM

Ajay Mitchell...

Ajay Mitchell #13 of the University of California at Santa Barbara Gauchos looks on during a practice session ahead of the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Ball Arena on March 16, 2023 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Seven rostered players at the moment leave the Phoenix Suns with plenty of signing to do this offseason. A few player options could bump that number up two or three, but then it’s on to filling about a third of the 2024 opening-day roster with a combination of draft picks and veteran minimum signings.

If Phoenix likes the draft talent that will be lingering in the late first round and early second round of the draft, a trade down from the 22nd slot in the draft could give them multiple picks.

The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie in his mock draft released Monday proposed one double-tradedown situation where Phoenix nets three rookies for the 2024-25 roster, plus a future second-round pick. That’s even if Marquette point guard Tyler Kolek is still on the board at No. 22.

Ultimately, the Suns draft UC Santa Barbara point guard Ajay Mitchell (34th overall), UCLA big man Adem Bona (38th) and Arizona wing Pelle Larsson (40th).

Vecenie has Phoenix trading out of 22nd for the No. 25 and No. 38 picks.

Phoenix’s goal, assuming a player it loves isn’t on the board at No. 22, should be to accumulate as many pick assets as possible. Do not be surprised to see them try to trade down and pick up additional picks to re-stock their cupboard. In the next six drafts (including this one), the Suns are only able to trade No. 22 this year and their 2028 second-round pick. Even just for more maneuverability, the Suns need to find ways to add more picks.

With the 25th pick, Vecenie’s mock has the Suns again trading down, adding Nos. 34, 40 and a future second-rounder. Phoenix foregoes another mock favorite: Duke center Kyle Filipowski.

Vecenie is dealing with recent precedents to project the value that could come of the trades.

The Suns could then try to push one or two of those picks in the second round out into future draft capital again from teams looking to move into the top 40, of which there are expected to be plenty on Thursday. They could end this process with five or six second-rounders if they play their cards right and find the right partners.

If this all seems complicated, it is, but it has happened recently. Boston executed this strategy last season, trading down multiple times from No. 25 and receiving what amounted to five second-rounders in the process. That process included trading the No. 25 pick for No. 31 and two future seconds; essentially, the same price point as this hypothetical deal. Given Phoenix’s asset situation, this is the smartest strategy for the Suns to employ Wednesday.

When the Suns are finally up against No. 34, Vecenie sees them drafting Mitchell, a mid-major riser who has been covered in Arizona Sports’ 22 for 22 series by Kellan Olson.

Mitchell averaged 20 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists this past year, using his methodical pace to shoot 50% overall and 39% from three.

Vecenie then has Phoenix nabbing UCLA undersized center Bona, a rim-running shot-blocker, at 38 overall and Arizona’s Larsson at 40.

Bona coming into the 2023-24 season was viewed as one of the best defensive prospects in college basketball, but his relatively underwhelming progress as a sophomore hurt his stock.

He still averaged 12.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game, shooting 59% and showing progress as a foul shooter (57.3% as a freshman to 69.6% as a sophomore).

Larsson improved steadily through four years in college, building his stock as a two-way role player. He was efficient (51.9% shooting and 42.6% from three) as well as dynamic as a scorer (12.8 points per game) and playmaker (3.7 assists).

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The Athletic’s Vecenie shows how Suns can hit NBA Draft hard with trade-downs