Not…the worst: If the Phoenix Suns are #4 Overall

Kristaps Porzingis Aaron Gordon Phoenix Suns (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)
Kristaps Porzingis Aaron Gordon Phoenix Suns (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The NBA Draft Lottery is on May 14, and there is an 11.9% chance the Phoenix Suns drop back one spot to #4. What does history say are their options?

While the Phoenix Suns would prefer to at least move up one spot, there is a more than decent chance that they slide back once to #4 overall, if one team behind them happens to move up into the top-three.

From the fourth spot up to number one, the Suns share the exact same odds as their top-three partners, the New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers.

But while New York would need to have three teams leap ahead of them to find themselves selecting #4 overall this June, Phoenix needs but one currently sitting between four and 14 to see themselves slide down the draft board.

Obviously no draft is the same in regards to the talent and the needs of those who are selecting at a given position, so while we would all love to know that if the Suns are slotted fourth overall that they’ll be able to land the next Kristaps Porzingis, they might also find themselves selecting the next Dragan Bender.

Or not – we’ll get to that in a second.

These are the last five players to be taken with the fourth overall pick and their accumulated Win Share to date:

Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns /

Phoenix Suns

2014 – Aaron Gordon (18.0 WS)

2015 – Kristaps Porzingis (12.1)

2016 – Dragan Bender (0.2)

2017 – Josh Jackson (-2.4)

2018 – Jaren Jackson Jr. (3.3)

The Phoenix Suns have already had the fourth overall pick in two of the last five drafts so there is some unfortunate comfortability with that spot.

What’s worse is that their two selections have the two worst Win Shares of the last five – and by a mile.

The production of the first two selections in Gordon and Porzingis are exactly what the Suns had hoped to have received when selecting the following two years. Both are stretch-4’s (Gordon has developed into one although Porzingis stepped onto the court as an elite stretch in 2015); Porzingis plays both ends of the floor very well while Gordon is hyper-athletic, an Amar’e Stoudemire-type dunker; and both have very high ceilings that neither have yet to reach.

Although Phoenix does need a power forward in the worst way, and a stretch-4 would be amazing with Deandre Ayton manning the post, just looking at their production as the mark of a good draft pick, if the Suns fall to four and yet still walk out of the draft with a player – at any position – who both produces offensively like those two do and can become a core piece to play with and compliment Ayton and Devin Booker, this draft will end up being a huge success, even if the player taken is neither named Zion Williamson or Ja Morant.

Of course, if the Phoenix Suns walk away with another Dragan Bender, the draft – and the season before it – will have been a huge  waste of time.

And even if they land a Josh Jackson (who appears  to be better than his abysmal -2.4 WS), they’ll have missed the mark.

That said, the last two times the Suns have landed the fourth pick overall they have walked away with the two players they wanted (and in the case of 2016, they even snagged another top-10 pick in Marquese Chriss – the biggest bust of them all).

But with a desperate need to improve this offseason and take a large step forward in the standings next season, the player taken cannot  be a long-term development project, which both Bender and Jackson have shown to be.

At the moment, Bender’s time is already done in Phoenix, and if things fall a certain way (more on that momentarily), Josh Jackson may be wearing another team’s uniforms this fall as well.

Last year the Suns took Ayton with the first overall pick, but many people argued that Jaren Jackson Jr. was actually the best big man in the draft. Only time will tell, but he did show to be much closer to the level of Gordon and Porzingis, and miles ahead of Bender and Jackson.

An impact player in his own right (Ayton had a 5.8 WS last season by comparison), regardless of position, like the drafts of 2014 and ’15, if Phoenix walked away from this one with someone who was able to step in right away and make a difference, and  still has a ton of upside, the draft will have been a success.

A couple of the top Mock Drafts have the following players going fourth overall:

NBC Sports: (SF) Cam Reddish – Duke (SF/PF) Rui Hachimura – Gonzaga

NBADraftRoom: (SG) Jarrett Culver – Texas Tech

Tankathon: (SG) Jarrett Culver – Texas Tech

Obviously the Suns have a glut of wings and are in no need of another shooting guard considering that they have a top-five (if not higher) SG in the league.

So what if they believed that whoever they could be selecting at number four might never be better than who they already have on the roster and really want to trade out to make something happen (although trading out entirely might prove to be an impossibility)?

There has not been a trade involving the fourth overall pick in the last five years so it is very difficult to give a recent example of what such a move might cost.

In fact, you have to go all the way back to 2004 for the last time a trade involving the fourth overall pick has been consummated – although fortunately, a similar trade to that one would make a lot of sense for the Suns this year.

(The Bobcats also agreed to take Predrag Drobnjak from the Clippers in the Expansion Draft, so for equality’s sake, maybe they can throw in a future Second Round pick, top-50 protected, or something to that effect.)

I have already illustrated how a trade like this could work for the Suns in 2019, a situation that really would not be out of the realm of possibility.

While Ja Morant is widely considered the second best player in the draft, he still plays a position that many teams already have and thus have no need for another one.

Take the Atlanta Hawks, for instance. Let’s say that they move up to the number two spot (they have a 10.5% chance of doing so). That pushes Phoenix to four but also means that the Hawks, who just took Trae Young last season, have no need for Ja Morant.

Enter Phoenix with the now fourth overall pick, the 32nd overall pick (which let’s face it, is totally unneeded as well), and a plethora of wings that they can add in to sweeten the deal if needed.

Atlanta already technically moved back two spots last year after taking Luka Doncic third overall, could they do so again in 2019?

For this move to happen, it would take a team who already has an established (youth too would be preferable) point guard, and as I illustrated yesterday, there are numerous options available.

Must Read. Dropping Back Two: The Phoenix Suns at Number 5. light

Recent history has been kind to teams with the fourth overall pick – unless that team is the Phoenix Suns – so selecting fourth this year could have it’s benefits should the Suns be forced to draft there once again.

Slipping back a spot is not unheard of and while it would hurt, it still leaves Phoenix in a good position to either move up or down, or select the best available player and move others on the roster to make room for the rookie.

This wouldn’t be the worst.