After a decade in which the Suns have not drafted any impact players (with the jury still out on the current crop), an ESPN draft projection expects that to change in a big way the next few seasons as the organization continues its rebuild through draft picks and cap space.
Kevin Pelton’s draft value rankings covering the 2014 and 2015 drafts projects the Suns to get the most value out of these selections by a wide margin thanks to the plethora of picks they own and the team’s projected fall to the bottom of the league. Pelton estimates the Suns will receive 13.0 WARP in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons from these picks whereas second-place Philly is only expected to net 8.7 WARP.
The Suns have amassed more first-round picks than any other team in the league. In all likelihood they will have three first-round picks next year (Indiana and Minnesota owe them future first-rounders) and two in 2015 (when they get a pick from the Los Angeles Lakers via the Steve Nash trade). Of course, the most valuable of all are Phoenix’s own. SCHOENE projects the Suns as the league’s worst team in the tougher Western Conference, and estimates they head into the lottery in the No. 1 spot more than 60 percent of the time. While that doesn’t guarantee the No. 1 selection (the Suns land that an estimated 22 percent of the time), it would mean getting one of the four top prospects in 2014’s deep draft. Phoenix figures to spend one more season near the top of the lottery, and could have two 2015 lottery picks depending on how the Lakers fare in free agency next summer.
Even better for Phoenix’s future, the Suns aren’t done amassing draft picks for the next two years. With around $6 million in cap space and an asset like Marcin Gortat potentially available to trade, the Suns have the means to continue adding selections.
Of course, luck will play a huge part in the value the Suns eventually extract from the next two drafts. Even if the Suns are the league’s worst team, odds are they won’t pick first. Frankly, I’m not even sure Phoenix will be quite as bad as the models predicts if Dragic and Bledsoe mesh.
Regardless, these rankings make it clear that the Suns have finally committed to rebuilding through youth, and if they get lucky on future lottery nights those picks could change the franchise’s trajectory in a hurry.
Suns no longer at bottom of future power rankings
Although the Suns staved off the futility longer than expected, ESPN’s future power rankings have traditionally painted a grim picture of the Suns’ future.
Buoyed by the strength of their future draft value, the Suns are finally on the way back up in the latest rankings covering the next three NBA seasons, if ever so slightly with a ranking of No. 27.
Writes Chad Ford:
Well, it looks as though we were right when we said the Suns had hit rock bottom in May. The Suns move up two spots in this year’s rankings thanks in large part to how bullish we are about their draft prospects. They are on pace to have a very high pick in the next couple of drafts plus they own future first-round picks from the Pacers, Timberwolves and Lakers. That pushed them into the top spot in the draft category.
We also are a little more bullish on their roster thanks to the addition of point guard Eric Bledsoe and rookie big man Alex Len over the summer. Those two have the potential to be the cornerstones that the Suns begin to build around.
We also gave their management a small bump thanks to the hiring of Danny Ainge’s protégé, Ryan McDonough. If he can provide the same sort of talent evaluation he did in Boston, the Suns, for the first time in a while, might actually draft one or two players worth keeping around.
The Suns are still a long ways away from being a playoff contender, but for the first time in several years, the team is finally on the upswing.
The Suns topped the league with an 89.4 draft score, bettering Orlando’s 82.8. On the flip side, only the Sixers ranked worse in the category of current players.
I agree with Ford that the Suns have already hit rock bottom although I feel like that came last summer when the Suns started to make future-focused moves.
As McDonough and staff continue to build an exciting young team it will be interesting to watch the Suns’ ascent up these power rankings, especially if their drafts end up being as fruitful as projected.
Continuing with the ESPN theme, Larry Coon finished his piece on winners and losers of the new CBA by writing, “In short, the 2011 CBA shifted the advantage from the rich teams to the smart teams. With a leveled playing field, the teams with superior front offices are the real winners under the new agreement.”