Dropping back Two: The Phoenix Suns at Number 5

Phoenix Suns Deandre Ayton Luka Doncic (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns Deandre Ayton Luka Doncic (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

With the NBA Draft Lottery is fast approaching (May 14), what does history tell us about the 5th overall spot in the draft, if that’s where the Phoenix Suns land?

After another awful season by the Phoenix Suns, in which they ended up with the franchise’s second-ever under-20 win season, even if “only” two (as opposed to three or four) teams leap-frogged them in the lottery, it would be a very big disappointment.

That said, it has happened to them before, and there is no reason to believe that it can’t happen to them again.

Historically, while #5 isn’t always the worst, it is definitely one of the biggest crap shoots in sports there is.

Sure, the team picking fifth can walk out saying “we got the fifth best player in the draft” (and even say, “and ‘so-and-so’ was even higher on our draft board”), but, especially in the NBA, there is rarely  five hugely talented players available, so it’s hardly ever a spot a team wants to be in.

That said, the last two seasons, a star was picked fifth overall.

(Then again, the last time the Phoenix Suns were fifth? Alex Len. Oy…)

Over the previous five drafts, the players selected fifth, with their accumulated Win Share, are as follows:

Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns /

Phoenix Suns

2014 – Dante Exum (2.7 WS)

2015 – Mario Hezonja (2.4)

2016 – Kris Dunn (1.6)

2017 – De’Aaron Fox (5.0)

2018 – Trey Young (3.3)

Apparently #5 is a great spot to be to find a point guard – which is exactly what the Phoenix Suns need most  heading into next season!

Many thought that Dante Exum could be a steal when taken at five by the Utah Jazz and was a starter for exactly half of his rookie year, of which he actually played in all 82 games.

If the Suns do draft at number five but are able to walk away with a projected “steal,” that would be fantastic. Unfortunately we may never know though if Exum truly was the steal the Jazz hoped they had, as his bones appear to be made of peanut brittle, a situation that is both entirely unforeseen and cannot be held against Utah.

The only non-point guard taken fifth in the last five years, I do not foresee any chance in the world that the Suns walk away with a player like Mario at #5 as he is both a non-point guard and a shot-in-the-dark Euro project. Not only has Phoenix already done that twice in the last seven years with the aforementioned Len and again with Dragan Bender, but for a team desperate to take the next step, even if the guy does project to be a really good player down the line, it is a much safer bet to take an already well-rounded player.

(By the way: Devin Booker was selected eight picks later.)

The three most recent picks are all good (if not great)  and if the Suns left this draft with a Kris Dunn, De-Aaron Fox, or Trey Young-type player, they will be ecstatic.

That said, the differences between the three are stark and fans will have a preference.

Dunn is a starting point guard, but not a great one. He took a couple of years to find his footing, and if the Suns do not end up drafting a point guard, he could be a player they might seek in trade. So while they will likely hope to leave the draft with a starter at some position, Dunn wasn’t quite ready when drafted, a common occurrence, and a situation that would be disappointing although not the worst as they could still find a veteran on a short-term deal that will both help the team, and the rookie point guard grow.

Fox and Young are both stars  already. Leaving the draft with a star would be out of this world if Phoenix was stuck at #5. Do you prefer one or the other? I love Fox’s size and defensive ability, but Young really can shoot like Stephen Curry. While there isn’t likely anyone of either of their caliber five spots in in this draft, if someone surprised the NBA world and took a huge stride over the offseason, they’d likely have “Rookie of the Year” written all over them, and the Suns might be staring at the playoffs come May 2020.

A few of the top Mock Drafts have the following players going at #5:

NBCSports: (SF) De’Andre Hunter – Virginia

NBADraft.Net: (SF) De’Andre Hunter – Virginia

NBADraftRoom: (C) Jaxon Hayes – Texas

Tankathon: (SF) Cam Reddish – Duke

While these are not “Big Board” listings and are their actual draft selections based on the current draft order, if the best available player at five is either a small forward or a center, everyone’s  initial thought will be “Trade! Now!”

(And trade up, if possible.)

And last year we actually did have a trade up involving the number five pick:

Depending on who is at number three, a pick similar to this could happen for the Phoenix Suns this year (and even up to second overall as well – although admittedly, not number one).

There is a chance that the team drafting second wouldn’t want Ja Morant and either wants to trade out of the pick for someone else and a future pick or select someone else entirely which slips Ja to three and that team would prefer quantity in selections as well or just does not want the PG either.

Although seemingly complicated, it is not, and is the key to the whole thing: If Phoenix slips to five (or even four), there are teams currently behind them who might not want Ja Morant, even if he is generally accepted as the second best player in the draft.

Of the lottery teams, Cleveland has Collin Sexton; Chicago has Kris Dunn; Atlanta has Trey Young; Washington has John Wall (forever, hehe); New Orleans has Jrue Holiday; Memphis has Mike Conley; the Lakers have Lonzo Ball; and Charlotte will probably re-sign Kemba Walker.

Essentially, if any two of those teams leap-frog Phoenix (or even just one, so long as that team ends up at #2), the Suns could potentially offer a similar trade to the one Atlanta and Dallas consummated last season, likely to also include the top-five protection on their own 2020 first round pick (they will have Milwaukee’s pick anyway, guaranteed, as it is only top-seven protected).

Phoenix would then leave the draft with Ja Morant even if they slipped back to five via the Lottery, and the offseason can still move on as planned with very little lost for a major upgrade at point guard.

This would be awful, but: The Phoenix Suns and the #6 pick. light. Related Story

While the history of past drafts is no guide for the present, recent history has not always been kind to those teams selected fifth overall.

Slipping back two spots would be bad for Phoenix, but if the right team moves up to number two, or the right two teams move up to two and three, then there could be a legitimate trade option available to them, allowing the Suns to still leave the draft with the best point guard available.