Drafting Doncic makes more sense for the Phoenix Suns

BELGRADE, SERBIA - MAY 20: Luka Doncic, #7 of Real Madrid poses with Chamipons Trophy and MVP of the final Trophy 2018 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague F4 Champion Photo Session with Trophy at Stark Arena on May 20, 2018 in Belgrade, Serbia. (Photo by Rodolfo Molina/EB via Getty Images)
BELGRADE, SERBIA - MAY 20: Luka Doncic, #7 of Real Madrid poses with Chamipons Trophy and MVP of the final Trophy 2018 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague F4 Champion Photo Session with Trophy at Stark Arena on May 20, 2018 in Belgrade, Serbia. (Photo by Rodolfo Molina/EB via Getty Images) /

DeAndre Ayton might be the near consensus selection for first overall, however, drafting Luka Doncic first overall makes a lot more sense for the Phoenix Suns.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports is adamant that the Phoenix Suns will select DeAndre Ayton with the 1st overall draft pick. It is truly rare to see Gambo wrongly report inside information so fans should expect to watch Ayton walk up onto stage and put on a Phoenix Suns cap after Adam Silver calls his name.

This news has been met with glee by the majority of Suns fans who rightfully believe Ayton is and will be the best overall player in this draft.

But while Ayton is likely the best player in the draft, I still contend that he’s the wrong pick for the Suns.

I have advocated again and again that the Suns should trade down. However, if they do decide to keep the first overall selection, they should pass on Ayton and draft Luka Doncic on the basis the Doncic is the best fit while still being an elite prospect.

The Suns enter the offseason with two big holes to fill in their young core of players: point guard and center.

In today’s position-ambivalent NBA, what that really means is a primary ball handler/distributor and a rim protector who can get some easy post points. For any team to develop into championship-level form, they need to add young elite talent to both positions.

There is no doubt that drafting Ayton provides Phoenix with a player who can develop into a top-five talent in terms of shot blocking and post play. But as good as Ayton is, drafting him leaves a huge gap in the need for ball-handling and distribution.

The question though, is how do you fill that gap in the backcourt? Could the Suns luck into a talent like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander or Anfernee Simons being around at 16? Sure they could, but as much as I love SGA, I’m not convinced he’s ever going to be an elite distributor and I have larger doubts about Simons’ ability to even make it in the NBA.

Maybe the Suns could package together a mix of assets to select Trae Young or Collin Sexton, but I don’t believe either is a good fit with distributing the ball the way the Suns need.

There’s little likelihood that the Suns can find the right solution anywhere in this draft.

The draft in 2019 doesn’t look any more promising.It is unlikely that a point guard will be taken in the top-ten and perhaps not in the top-fifteen. The mess of Quentin Grimes, Kellan Grady, and Darius Garland might produce someone who goes full Trae Young and jumps it into the top-ten, but it seems unlikely.

The inability to draft a solution will lead Phoenix to free agency where they will find the options are equally as sparse.

The top-two point guards out there don’t make any sense for this team (Chris Paul and Isaiah Thomas). The next best guard after that is a guy named Elfrid Payton. He’s a nice role player, but he’s proven that he’s not what they need long-term.

Once you go past Payton you get in the ugly world of Rajon Rondo, Jeremy Lin, and Tony Parker.

This isn’t a market where you’re going to find the long-term solution.

Looking into 2019 doesn’t look much better for free agents either. The best available player is Ricky Rubio who is massively undervalued, but probably not the right fit. Kemba Walker and Milos Teodosic are fun to watch play, but these aren’t the kind of names we want to take the team to the promised land.

The point here is simple: over the next two years you can’t solve the point guard problem via free agency.

If you can’t find an elite point guard in free agency or the draft you’re just left to trades. The odds or getting Damian Lillard, John Wall, or Russell Westbrook (and seriously, who in their right mind would trade for Russell Westbrook) are close to zero. This all translates into simple math, the odds of the Suns getting an elite guard without drafting Doncic are excessively slim.

On the other end, let’s say the Suns do draft Doncic. Where can they find an elite big man? I’d argue the options are plentiful. In free agency this year you have DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan as well as a shot at restricted bigs on cash strapped teams like Clint Capela from Houston or Portland’s Jusif Nurkic.

Next year’s crop of free agents look even better.

Nikola Jokic is an unrestricted free agent as is Nikola Vucevic from the Magic. The pool of restricted centers even has names like Karl Anthony-Towns and Myles Turner.

Look into the draft and the Suns could potentially trade up for someone like Wendell Carter or Mohamad Bamba. They could also take a swing at Mitchell Robinson or Robert Williams. In 2019 there are elite centers like Bol Bol, Bruno Fernando, Nazreon Reid, and Daniel Gafford.

While none of the range of options at center is a sure-fire strategy, the range of options and opportunities is infinitely superior to what’s available at guard.

Next: The Phoenix Suns should target Jevon Carter in the second round

The Suns went into this draft not expecting the first overall pick and thinking that they’d have to max out an offer to Clint Capela. By drafting Doncic they can return to that original plan. A lineup of Luka Doncic, Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss, and Clint Capela looks vastly superior than a lineup of Brandon Knight, Devin Booker, T.J. Warren, Dragan Bender, and DeAndre Ayton.

There is nothing but good options for the Phoenix Suns going forward, but the best option for the team’s intermediate future is to draft Doncic and keep open the best range of options to become competitive.