The underrated importance of the Phoenix Suns’ second round draft pick

YPSILANTI, MI - DECEMBER 18: Emoni Bates #21 of the Eastern Michigan Eagles takes a foul shot during a college basketball game against the Detroit Mercy Titans at the George Gervin GameAbove Center on December 18, 2022 in Ypsilanti, Michigan. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
YPSILANTI, MI - DECEMBER 18: Emoni Bates #21 of the Eastern Michigan Eagles takes a foul shot during a college basketball game against the Detroit Mercy Titans at the George Gervin GameAbove Center on December 18, 2022 in Ypsilanti, Michigan. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

It has flown under the radar as a result of the Phoenix Suns being in win now mode, but they actually have a second round draft pick in this year’s NBA Draft. The organization will be up at 52nd, and while that is not a place where they are likely to find a star, it is hugely important.

This pick represents a chance for the Suns to add a young, and equally crucial cheap, player to a roster that already has five players making over $30 million next season. It is no secret that depth has been a huge issue for the ball club currently, and any chance to add a youngster needs to be taken seriously.

With only two first round picks still belonging to them over the course of the next five years at least, the need to hit on their second rounders is paramount. So often these picks are thrown about in trades or else not taken seriously by front offices, as well as fans of a team.

It is practically impossible to predict who the Suns will take so far down the draft, but what we can examine is the kind of player they should go for.

Right off the bat it would appear a forward is the route to go here. Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson were sent to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Kevin Durant, and the wing depth of the team was exposed painfully immediately following the deal.

By the time the Suns are up, there are bound to be those players who attended college for three or four years, and who are more ready to come in and help immediately. Getting a 22-year-old who is much more filled out than a teenager to add some beef to a second unit should be music to the ears of the Suns’ front office.

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Luckily for the franchise, this is the exact spot where you’re going to find a player like that. An individual already several years older than some stars in the league is going to turn most other teams off. Not the Suns though, who have plenty of star power and not enough workhorses putting in a shift each and every night.

A forward isn’t the only direction the Suns can go here. This pick represents a unique opportunity to draft a point guard to learn from one of the best floor generals of all time in Chris Paul. Cam Payne has probably exceeded expectations at times for the team, but his ability is a known quantity and he is not going to get any better.

The potential to add a more mature guard out of college, to act as Paul’s understudy would act as a stopgap for the team for the period between Paul’s eventual departure, and finding another high calibre guard to take over. This plan only makes sense if Paul is going to stick around for at least one more season though, and that is far from a guarantee.

There is something else the Suns could do, although it would be a much bigger risk. Why not swing for the bleachers, and make the kind of pick that could backfire? After all, if you’re not going to take a chance on a player late in the second round, then you never will. Emoni Bates is somebody who may still be on the board at this stage, something which was unthinkable not so long ago.

If not Bates, then there are other players with high upside who may have had injuries, problems with attitude or off the court issues which could torpedo any chance of success in the league. But the payoff would be massive for an organization like the Suns who simply need to find young and cheap players to bolster their star power.

That third option does seem unlikely, but the Suns can take inspiration from the two likely NBA Finalists this year for ways to get better. The Denver Nuggets famously drafted Nikola Jokic in the second round during a Taco Ball commercial — and they say that the Nuggets aren’t compelling enough to talk about.

The other likely finalists in the Heat, have a ridiculous nine players on their roster who went undrafted. Four of them, Gabe Vincent, Duncan Robinson, Max Strus and Caleb Martin, have been major contributors on their postseason run. So even if the Suns botch the pick, if they are smart about it they will still get a chance to add some players who can one day help the group.

The need to find the right head coach sooner rather than later is another important factor, as they can then set about trying to find the right player with this pick. To talk about it in this much detail may seem ridiculous, especially with Durant and Devin Booker going to take this team as far as it will ultimately go.

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But the Suns need young and healthy bodies to help a group that had the fourth worst defensive rating in the playoffs this year at 118.3. This despite the abilities of Durant on that end, and the supposed inside presence of Ayton. We have also seen how good regular season teams can get picked off early in the postseason, so the need for them to solidify their spot in the West is critical.

We don’t need to kid ourselves into thinking this pick is a game-changer for the franchise, or that they should be looking for ways to add more second round picks to nab hidden talent. But with how much of the team’s future was sent away in favor of the win now Durant move, a second round pick of their own hasn’t been this important to the Suns in a long time.