Could the Suns draft for need and not best available?

Mar 19, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard De'Aaron Fox (0) dunks against the Wichita State Shockers during the second half in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Joseph-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 19, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard De'Aaron Fox (0) dunks against the Wichita State Shockers during the second half in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Joseph-USA TODAY Sports /

The question of drafting on need versus on best player available is an oft debated one, although generally with a nearly unanimous answer from fans and general managers alike: Draft Best Available.

The topic of how a team should draft comes up every year in every draft in every sport, and yet the consensus is almost always to draft best available. However, if teams rated several players really close to one another, then in a tie or near-tie situation teams will be forced to look for need, which is exactly what Suns Assistant General Manager Pat Connelly said just this afternoon.

In regards to this particular draft, however, Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough has said, on more than one occasion, that the top of the draft is littered with talent and is more than just Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball.

So let’s look at who is available in the top ten and what an approximate rating of each player is. Just an FYI, I will use’s ranking as my example as I do not have the time nor the wherewithal to rank college players myself. rates players on a 120 point system based on 12 individual categories which each carry a max current rating of 10.

GMarkelle Fultz100
FJosh Jackson100
GLonzo Ball99
GDe’Aaron Fox98
FJonathan Issac98
GDennis Smith97
CAzch Collins95
FJayson Tatum94
GFrank Ntilikina94
GMalik Monk93

Obviously this is just one site’s ranking of players, and not only could the Phoenix Suns have the player’s rankings organized in a completely different manner, but they also take into account off the court stuff and most specifically their one-on-one interviews, when determining what an overall ranking of a player will be.

But for the sake of argument, let’s say that this is the rating that the Suns have the top ten players set.

You might notice one little quirk that is minor in application, but can be entirely major in application:

De’Aaron Fox and Johnathan Issac are tied in their ranking.

What if on June 22, when the Suns are on the clock, Fultz, Ball, and Jackson are all off the table? And what if through their player workouts and interviews, both Fox and Issac wow’d enough that neither set themselves apart from the other from the perspective of personality, meaning that neither were nixed or dropped on down the list because of a wrong, or bad, answer.

Ryan McDonough and his staff will have a very interesting decision to make when deciding who to take, that might actually lead to the drafting of a player based on need, and not based on best available.

Now let’s really  dig a bit deep than that:

Not only has Ryan McDonough said over and over that there are talents worth staying at number four for, but he was saying that well before the team even knew where they would be picking in the draft order. Then today (May 30), Asst. GM Connelly said that that they would consider position of need if there is a tie (entirely logical), certainly implying that there could be a ‘tie’ at certain points in the draft – which according to, there very well could be one even as high as number four. Plus, if you sidle back into the twitter-verse archives, you will hear that on May 17, Ryan McDonough discussed the core of the Suns, and left out two key names: Eric Bledsoe and Alex Len.

Although McDonough covers himself with the statement that there could be another name or two that he is leaving out, not mentioning either Alex Len or Eric Bledsoe speaks volumes.

The possibility of Alex Len not being a part of the future is no surprise to anyone. A career 6.9 point and 6.2 rebound center, through free agency Len is probably about to enter the range of about $10M per year or up for the next four years, which, to steal from an old poker parlance, is probably “too rich for [their] blood.” With Tyson Chandler still on the roster (presuming that he is not traded at some point this offseason) and the fantastic emergence of Alan Williams, the Suns could get away without Len in their future and might allow him to walk if another team offers him a contract that does not feel worth matching based on his career statistical output.

Although the Alex Len scenario would not play out until after the draft itself, there is a chance that McDonough could be planning on Len not coming back and is looking to find Len’s replacement in the draft – look no further than’s 98-rated, Johnathan Issac.

Most surprisingly (or at least most eyebrow-raisingly) is the absence of Eric Bledsoe’s name in that statement. Of course, he could be one of those “one or two” that were not mentioned but still in McDonough’s thoughts. Yet at the same time the Phoenix Suns have a very young core overall with a number of players that are under the age of 24, and Eric Bledsoe – who will be 29 in December with two more years of $12M each on his contract – is a steal in terms of his own production, and could be a tradable asset that could bring a serious return to the Suns.

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Unlike Alex Len whose free agency situation will not be resolved until after the draft, Eric Bledsoe could potentially be traded prior to the draft, if not on draft day itself. And even if this isn’t the case, Ryan McDonough could already potentially have a team or two in mind that he could work with to get a trade done, in which case’s other 98-rated player, point guard De’Angelo Fox, could also be the player eye’d most intensely by McDonough and his staff. And not because he would be the best player available, but because he would be the team’s point guard of the future.

Also, lest we ignore this possibility, but by trading Eric Bledsoe on draft day, the Suns wouldn’t necessarily be shooting for a team in the top three where that top three pick would be a part of the return on the Bledsoe trade. That possibility might actually be an impossibility. However, the Suns could move him for a package that includes a pick in the top-15, although following their own pick at number four, they could look to select De’Aaron Fox at four, and then go for another position of need (possibly center) with that later pick.

All-in-all, if Josh Jackson is off the board when the Suns are finally on the clock, by all accounts, the next three players available (including NC State’s Dennis Smith who I did not take into consideration here because by all accounts he has not leapt into top four conversation) are all very close in their ratings. This means that not only thate the Suns may not have the opportunity to select best available, but coupled with extraneous circumstances, could after all select for need.

The question is – which position will the Suns need to fill most?