Number Three might be the place to be for the Phoenix Suns

Luka Doncic Phoenix Suns (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Luka Doncic Phoenix Suns (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /
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Luka Doncic Jayson Tatum (Photo By Christopher Evans/Digital First Media/Boston Herald via Getty Images)
Luka Doncic Jayson Tatum (Photo By Christopher Evans/Digital First Media/Boston Herald via Getty Images) /

What history tells us about recent #3 overall picks

These are the players who have been taken 5th overall since 2014 with their accompanied Win Share:

2014 – Joel Embiid (16.8 WS)

2015 – Jahlil Okafor (5.3)

2016 – Jaylen Brown (9.0)

2017 – Jayson Tatum (12.0)

2018 – Luka Doncic (4.9)

Like most picks and all pick spots, the third overall position is a crap shoot. How many times has a team thought uber-highly of a player, only to have that player fall flat on his face (*ahem*…Portland)?

That said, for at least one season, all five of these players have been really  good, four out of the five are still good players in the league to this day, and three out of these five players are stars.

I’ve got to be honest: if the Suns are drafting third overall, unless someone throws a ridiculous trade at Phoenix that forced them out of their spot (really, the only realistic player that I can think of that I’d eagerly give away the third overall pick for is D’Angelo Russell), I like the odds generally attached to the talent available to them at third overall.

Of course Embiid sat out his first two seasons because of his back injury from college, his injury being the primary reason he slipped to number three as he should have been the first overall pick (Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker were the first and second overall picks respectively), something that at this point will not happen with the Suns and Zion Williamson should Phoenix stay where they’re at.

"I need to side-bar entirely real quick: The Cleveland Cavaliers took Wiggins first overall and immediately traded him to Minnesota for Kevin Love so they could have a big-three with Kyrie Irving when LeBron James returned. Presumably, Minnesota asked for Cleveland to draft Wiggins since they knew well ahead of time that deal was going to happen, and even if they didn’t, let’s just say that – well aware of his injury – Cleveland chose Embiid instead and let him rest that whole first (and obviously second) year. If Nothing  else changes in the 2014-15 season and Minnesota both ends up with the first overall pick and drafts Karl-Anthony Towns as they did in reality…Imagine the Timberwolves today with Towns and Embiid playing together, both stretching the floor the way they do, while both dominating in the post and grabbing every single rebound that comes off the rim. Wow. And back to the Suns."

Jahlil Okafor is one of the biggest mysteries in NBA history. With no injuries to speak of, he went from having a fantastic rookie season in which he looked like he was going to be Joel Embiid before Embiid had a chance to become Joel Embiid, and then…poof…he disappeared.

Forget the position he plays for the moment since the Suns are obviously set at center already with Deandre Ayton, if Phoenix drafted a player at number three who had a Rookie of the Year-type season, made Phoenix look like the next up-and-coming team in the NBA, and then after one year completely disappeared, that would be devastating – and something they really cannot afford to happen.

Again, we have to try and think of these picks as player position-less and just look at the overall talent available, but who Jaylen Brown is in the NBA today is exactly who the Suns and their fans do not want. Not only is he a SG/SF, of which the Suns have too many already, but he is also – thus far – average.

Not great, but good.

Which just isn’t good enough.

Let’s say that the Suns draft a Jaylen Brown at point guard. No offense to the former Phoenix Sun at all, but that’d be like drafting Don Buse. A good  starting point guard, but nothing great. He facilitates, but not much else and with no particular skill-set that is memorable at all.

That said, if the Suns found a player with the talent level of either Jayson Tatum or Luka Doncic (and hey – I have no reason to believe that R.J. Barrett couldn’t  be a player of their caliber), the level of optimism surrounding the franchise would be off the charts.

Of course, we wouldn’t know it at the moment he was drafted as Barrett would be another guard/wing on a team with enough already. But if by the end of his rookie year people around the league saw that he was better than anyone expected (potentially because he is out of the vast shadow of Zion), this pick would turn out to be the very best the Suns could possibly hope for, all things considered.