In a draft devoid of that next great superstar, it's not the end of the world to pick 5th. The 5th pick has less pressure to excel than the top 1 or 2, for both the team and the player, and yet might have the same or better upside.
"The guy who goes there might not be much different, or any different, than guys who go in the top three," Phoenix Suns General Manager McDonough said after the Suns learned they would pick 5th.
"We're excited about it," he continued. "We're going to get a good player. There are at least five players. I think there are more than five good players in this draft."
McDonough said they would likely be able to get all the top guys to come to Phoenix, and that they would focus most effort on 8-10 guys for that #5 pick.
Yet it's the later pick, currently slotted at #30, that holds the key to this draft.
We can hope that the Suns brain trust, led by serious young man Ryan McDonough, will identify the best players in the draft. One or more of them will be off the board by the 5th pick, and certainly by the 30th. But that doesn't mean the Suns can't or won't pull one over on their brethren. Every draft has winners and losers. It would be nice if the Suns were in the "winnners" bracket for once.
"I think in every draft there are a few star players," McDonough said at the post-lottery press conference on May 21 at US Airways Center. "And they don't always go according to form. It's not always one, two, three, in that order. There are some good players here. I don't know if there is a franchise changer, but I'm confident we'll get somebody really good who is able to help the Suns next year."
McDonough identified guys like Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley in prior drafts as gems. He reportedly even had Rondo as #1 or #2 overall in 2006. McDonough has spent eight seasons drafting 19th or lower. He's used to working that much harder to find gems.
Drafting 5th is different, I think, and possibly easier. When you're drafting 5th, you're picking from the already-known cream of the crop, and the pressure to pick a known quantity is high but the downside is less worrisome. Most of the top-5 picks are successful in the NBA.
It's that later pick that has a bigger bust potential, but also requires the best scouting to get a difference-maker that no one else expected to be so good. Rondo. Bradley.
McDonough has pieces in hand to get the guy he wants later in the draft. The Suns have the #30 pick and some nicely-priced veterans to trade to a playoff contender for their mid-round pick if he really identifies a diamond in the rough. The Suns also have the cap space to absorb more salary than they send out, up to $10 million more.
Maybe you take the known quantity at #5 (Oladipo, Bennett, McLemore) and then trade up for the gem no one's taking high, like the Celtics did when they acquired the #21 pick. Early rumor has it that some picks are for sale (Dallas, for one) to save money for free agency. Several teams have two first round picks and may not want both young players on their roster with guaranteed multi-year contracts.
My money says the Suns stay at #5, take the best available known quantity, and then get creative with their second pick currently slotted at #30.
A perfect scenario has Phoenix drafting a player like Oladipo or Bennett or Len at #5, and then taking "the next Rondo" with their second pick in a trade-up scenario.
ESPN's Chad Ford has the Suns taking Oladipo at 5 and Reggie Bullock at 30.
SI.com's Chris Mannix has the Suns taking Bennett at 5 and C.J. Leslie at 30.
NBADraftInsider's Kris Habbas has the Suns taking two international prospects at 5 and 30: Rudy Gobert and Livio Jean-Charles. Check out the link and Kris' site for explanation as to why...