On May 14, the NBA Draft Lottery will inform the Phoenix Suns with where they are drafting in June. What if the worst happened, and they select 7th overall?
The Phoenix Suns need help.
They need a power forward.
They need a point guard.
They need another star.
And the 2019 NBA Draft has one of each position of weakness and each with star quality, but neither of whom will be available past the second overall pick (most likely – there is a chance that Ja Morant slips to 3, although it is very circumstantial).
So what if the 7.1% odds afforded to the Phoenix Suns to drop all the way to 7th in the draft, the farthest they can fall, meaning that four teams passed them in the lottery (and let’s face it, we all kind of expect something like that to happen, right)?
Is this the absolute end of the world for Suns fans?
Well, yeah. It really would be, and deservedly so – although recent history tells us that it shouldn’t necessarily be.
In the last five drafts, the players selected, with their accumulated Win Share, are as follows:
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2014 – Julius Randle (17.8 WS)
2015 – Emmanuel Mudiay (-1.2)
2016 – Jamal Murray (12.0)
2017 – Lauri Markkanen (6.1)
2018 – Wendell Carter Jr. (1.9)
As luck would have it, at least three of the past five selections at number 7 overall have been difference makers, the kinds of players the Phoenix Suns would love to add to their roster.
Julius Randle is a solid starting power forward in the league, improving every season he has been in the league, his 3-point shooting took a tremendous leap to 34.4% this past seasons, and he might actually even be a target of the Suns’ this summer.
Mudiay has been a complete bust, but Jamal Murray has been a revelation. The centerpiece of the Denver Nuggets and a tremendous scorer, Phoenix’s miss on him (they took Dragan Bender at 4) has arguably been their biggest draft missed opportunity of the last decade.
Lauri Markkanen, formerly of the University of Arizona, is the kind of stretch-4 that the Suns thought they were getting in Bender, and a very good player. Like Randle, I would expect that he might be a target of Phoenix’s if the opportunity arises, and his addition (or at least the addition of a player of his skill-set) coupled with a veteran point guard would help the Suns take a serious leap this coming season.
Wendell Carter had a solid, albeit injury-plagued rookie season, and has the ability to be a solid center in the NBA for a long time. Forget position for a moment, if the Suns were forced to select 7th and found a player of Carter’s caliber, they would be very happy with that piece moving forward (especially since he just missed averaging a double-double (10.3p/7.0r), and is still only 19-years-old).
So while there is absolutely zero guarantee that there will be Murray/Markkanen-level talent available at the number 7 spot, four of the last five drafts has produced a talented player – if not a star-bound one – marking at least the possibility of Phoenix finding a player that will help them take that next step.
Some of the top mock drafts has the following players being selected 7th overall:
NBC Sports: (C) Jaxson Hayes – Texas
NBADraft.Net: (SG) Jarrett Culver – Texas Tech
NBADraftRoom: (SF) DeAndre Hunter – Virginia
Tankathon: (PF/SF) Sekou Doumbouya – International
In regards to potentially trading the pick, the only time the 7th overall selection has been moved in the last five years was in 2017 when the Minnesota Timberwolves traded the pick to the Chicago Bulls (obviously Markkanen was taken) in a blockbuster deal that landed the ‘Wolves Jimmy Butler.
The trade was as follows:
The Timberwolves, in a somewhat similar position to the Phoenix Suns of today, decided it was time to take a large leap and acquire a superstar (coupled with a brand new head coach) to help take their young roster into the playoffs (they went from 31 wins in 2016-17 to 47 wins and a 4-1 loss in the first round to the Houston Rockets in 2017-18).
The ‘Wolves acquired the disgruntled Butler for nothing more than a first round pick swap and two young players from their accumulated glut – precisely the kind of move the Phoenix Suns would love to pull off if they fell to 7 (so long as that disgruntled star does not become a cancer to the locker room).
If James Jones found himself selecting 7th, it certainly would be a tremendous change of fate if he could flip that pick and, say, Josh Jackson and T.J. Warren, in a similar move to Minnesota and Butler (although, just looking at the top potential stars on the move, only Anthony Davis is under contract, and while they could hypothetically swing a sign-and-trade for Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Kemba Walker, or Kyrie Irving, my suspicion is that aside from Kemba Walker, there is likely no interest from at least one side with each of those players).
The past five years of draft history at the number 7 spot has shown that there are options available to the Phoenix Suns for the acquisition of talent either by standing pat or by making a deal.
While slipping down four slots would obviously be one of the biggest kick-in-the-guts Suns fans could ever receive, if the worst did happen, there still might be a solid opportunity for improvement.