Multiple Picks Give Suns Multiple Options
by Matt Petersen

When the season ended, the Suns’ front office cited its stash of draft picks as one of the reasons for optimism moving forward.

That optimism has a more fixed value after Tuesday’s NBA Draft Lottery, which saw Phoenix’s own pick stay put at the 14 spot. It will join the 18th pick (from Washington) and 27th selection (from Indiana) as draft-day assets that can be used in any number of ways leading up to and/or on June 26.

Among them:

Use All Three Picks

The Suns boasted the second-least amount of NBA experience on its roster last season, a tribute to the wealth of young talent they’re currently developing.

It’s also the reason McDonough stated it was “unlikely” the team would boast three additional rookies next season.

Last year’s first-round picks Alex Len and Archie Goodwin will have another summer’s worth of growth (including summer league) under their belts. Management is clearly high on their potential (see the previous linked article) and intends on seeing it flourish moving forward.

Combine that with the other young talent on the roster (Eric Bledsoe, Miles Plumlee, the Morris twins), and it’s easy to see why McDonough doesn’t envision another three roster spots taken up by more untapped skill sets.

That being said, the door isn’t slammed shut on the using-all-three-picks option. There are other ways to bring along players in today’s NBA.

Playing overseas is one avenue McDonough has already proved ready to take. Last year’s second-round pick – power forward Alex Oriakhi – spent the 2013-14 campaign in France and Israel before transferring to the second option: the D-League.

The latter setting is a suddenly intriguing option for the Suns. A recent agreement netted D-League franchise Bakersfield as Phoenix’s direct and sole minor league affiliate. The Jam can be managed, monitored and coached as a mirror-image of its sole professional counterpart. In Bakerfield’s case, the Jam are now a minor-league extension of the Suns.

This enables Phoenix to develop young talent on their terms. There will be direct lines of communication in order to better facilitate the growth of prospects of particular interest. Meanwhile while the players will have a higher sense of security knowing there is a singular team and system in place to oversee their individual success.

Trade Picks to Move Up/Down

This could be a trending option come June 26, as seven teams have multiple picks in the first round (including Phoenix).

As a scout-first NBA executive, McDonough and his staff will no doubt do what they can to acquire a player they particularly covet. The trick is to find out which teams are open to trading down.

Sometimes the team initially drafting higher is confident they’ll acquire someone of value a few picks later, while the lower team fears the player they covet will be gone if they stand pat.

Such was the case with Goran Dragic. Phoenix was nervous waiting for him to drop to the 48th pick, so they traded that selection, a 2009 second-rounder and cash considerations to San Antonio in order to move up three spots (45th) and draft the Slovenian guard.

It’s a good thing they did. Detroit had every intention of taking him with the 46th pick.

Phoenix could go the other way and trade down if they feel they can snag similar/equal talent later on the draft board. Teams wanting to take advantage of this could offer the Suns an additional pick, young player or friendly contract in exchange for the higher draft selection.

Trade Picks for Player(s)

Direction means everything in the NBA. Phoenix is no longer on square one in the rebuilding process. Other teams stuck in neutral would like to be, but lack the draft assets and subsequent youth to make that important first step.

The Suns are in a position to offer those assets in exchange for an impact player that simply doesn’t fit with his team’s current direction. Draft picks offer hope - in the form of young talent locked into affordable rookie contracts – to the franchise giving up the impact player.

McDonough has been forthcoming about his willingness to acquire such talent via trade. His war chest of draft picks makes the Suns an appealing partner to do so.