The Phoenix Suns were supposed to be entering the 2014 offseason with multiple top-10 picks and an All-Star caliber point guard headlining any trade packages for a star. But what they actually have to offer is a lot less than that.
With the rumors of Kevin Love's availability swirling around it's like winter came early and everyone is desperately plucking their harvest to sell at the market a month earlier than planned.
Unfortunately for second-year GM Ryan McDonough, the Phoenix Suns assets are not yet ripe enough to fetch the highest asking price.
The Suns do have good assets, but those assets lack enough star-power to use as leverage in a trade. Suns assets include two high-upside players under 21, five or six more first round picks in the next two years, a potential pair of All-Stars in Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, and a handful of rotation-quality NBA players on good contracts.
That's a good haul. But not quite good enough, especially if the Suns now want to win big next year. To win big in 2014-15, the Suns will likely need to keep their best two assets - Dragic and Bledsoe - while trading the rest for that third star.
But outside of those two, the Suns trade assets lack any current star power. In the harvesting analogy, the Suns assets are still green. Under-ripe. Only one of those first round picks has a strong chance of being inside the top 10 (Lakers' in 2015).
This wasn't the plan a year ago.
A year ago, the basketball world expected the Suns' bevy of assets to be more top-heavy. We expected the 2014 treasure chest to include several top-10 Suns picks, more seasoning from the under-21 rookies Alex Len and Archie Goodwin and a conundrum at point guard that begged of a break up.
A year ago, Dragic and Bledsoe were supposed to audition for the "future Suns point guard" position, with the loser being shipped off in a trade for a star at another needed position.
A year ago, the Suns were supposed to lose a ton of games to have that top-10 pick in their back pocket.
A year ago, McDonough hinted that the selection of Alex Len was partially because a look at the 2014 Draft - while star-heavy - lacked many Center prospects. Joel Embiid was not seen as a Top-5 pick yet, and even a year later there are no other sure-fire lottery talented centers. Len was supposed to be good trade bait as a high-end center prospect.
A year ago, McDonough said that Archie Goodwin was talented enough to rank in the lottery of the 2014 Draft if he'd stayed in school and had a good rotation situation with Kentucky. Goodwin showed that talent in Summer League, leading the 7-1 Summer Suns in points.
But a year later, the Suns' top-end assets have diminished.
They knocked their own picks out of the top 10 by winning too much. And, they had little no chance to develop Len and Goodwin as planned.
Now the cherry on top is the Lakers' 2015 pick, which is only Top-5 protected for three seasons and then unprotected thereafter. No one knows what the Lakers will do next year, but they did re-sign Kobe Bryant to a two-year extension so the expectation is they will try to win. Maybe that fails, and they end up with a primo (but not top-5 pick). But maybe the Lakers string a few wins together and knock THAT pick out of the top as well.
In addition, what was supposed to be 6 first-round picks in 2014 and 2015 is now likely only 5, with the Timberwolves about to embark on more losing (after trading Love) and thus likely turning their protected first-round pick into a pair of second-rounders in 2017 and 2018.
What was supposed to be six first-round picks with three of them in the Top 10 may now be five first round picks, none better than 14.
Complicating matters further is that their ready-now trade asset - Goran Dragic or Eric Bledsoe, whoever lost the PG battle - may not even be on the table any more. The Slash Brothers proved to be lethal together, compiling a 23-11 record when starting alongside each other in a slashing, scoring and defending back court that shows promise for years to come.
These developments add up to a big kick in the gut to the Suns' hopes of trading for a coveted player like Kevin Love.
Armed with up to $20 million in cap space (including cap holds on Bledsoe and Tucker, but before they re-sign) the Suns will likely have to hope they can entice a free agent to come to Phoenix instead of trading for Love.
But if you're looking for Love, you've just got to hope that good is good enough.
The gang comes together to discuss the 2014 NBA Draft, Lottery, trades, prospects, and how to avoid coming out a loser on draft night this year... From Payne to Stauskas who is the best fit at No. 14?
Luck was not a Morrii as the Suns are going to draft 14th, 18th, 27th, and 50th as expected with no dramatic seismic shifts in their lottery fortunes. That is all a form of the function of being a very good team that was on the brink of the playoffs in the Western Conference (or home court advantage in the Eastern Conference) this past year. General Manager Ryan McDonough has all the assets in the world to make a splash, but at the same time, a very could team that could improve with the addition of 1-2 more talented young players. What is a GM to do?
Enough of me, let's get to what matters. The staff takes on the NBA Draft Lottery, here we go.
Thirtieth Topic: Play-Making
1. Breaking the Ice: Initial thoughts on the Phoenix Suns staying put at No. 14 Overall at the NBA Draft Lottery?
Jacob Padilla: My initial thought was, "OK." There may have been a chance, but in all reality there wasn't a chance. As Sean mentioned below, they may be locked into those draft spots, but that doesn't mean they'll be picking players with all four of them.
Kris Habbas: Just as the Cleveland Cavaliers seem to have a monopoly on the No. 1 Overall pick the Suns seem to have purchased stock in the 13th/14th picks over the same time frame. I'm a logical guy so this was where they were picking from to me from the time the season ended. Time for McDonough to get to work.
Mike Lisboa: I think there is about a 20% chance the Suns keep that 14th pick. They'll either move up or make a trade for an impact veteran. I won't speculate about the veteran, but there are opportunities to take the 8th pick from Sacramento, the 7th pick from the Lakers... or the 3rd pick from the 76ers. This might sound like crazy sauce, but if Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker go 1 and 2, leaving Joel Embiid at 3... maybe the Sixers look to move down with Nerlens Noel waiting in the wings.
Sean Sullivan: I don't think they stay put. I actually like their chances of moving up the the 7th spot in a trade with L.A., since the Lakers have so many holes to fill and could really use multiple picks. If not the Lakers, I think the Kings could also be a possibility at #8. The Suns are looking to pick up one impact player, and I think they will combine their picks in order to get their guy.
2. If you had a choice of trading the pick for an established (comparable value) player or just using it for the best available talent in the draft what would you like to see?
JP: The Sun need to be careful. They have cap space now, but that can go away in a hurry. It's tempting to go the route of the established veteran rather than patiently (or impatiently) waiting for rookies to develop into contributors, but that ignores the fact that a rookie contract is the best value in the NBA. The Suns need to be smart with their assets lest they trap themselves on the treadmill of good-but-not-good-enough. It all comes down to how good of a player the pick is being moved to acquire. I'd certainly consider it, but it has to be the right deal.
KH: If we are talking a straight swap then the options for a veteran player that will be able to impact winning significantly more than than a rookie are slim. Making a move to make a move is not the right choice here. Is there a Trevor Ariza or Arron Afflalo type that can be had for this pick? This pick plus another asset that is expendable? Drafting here gives the Suns a chance to scoop up a prospect that free-falls for some reason or a young piece to the puzzle.
ML: I'm not sure who the Suns could find in this kind of 1-to-1 scenario. I think the pick has more value as part of a package. If the choice is keep the pick or trade for a comparable player, I'd keep the pick. While the 14th pick can turn out as poorly as Earl Clark or as good as Markieff Morris or Robin Lopez, I'd gamble on the pick and take the cap space savings given the big money Phoenix is looking to spend on Eric Bledsoe and a player-to-be-named-later.
SS: I don't know who the Suns could realistically trade for outside of maybe a sign and trade for Hayward. Of course there is also Kevin Love, but I think the price to get him will be substantial and could cost us more than we are comfortable giving ... especially since we can't ensure he stays after the season. Those are the two players I could see us targeting though. Which would I prefer? That all depends on what it takes to get them here. I would certainly give up all of our picks this year for Love, and the Morrii ... but would that be enough?
3. Which prospect do you like enough to where getting them at No. 14 Overall would be a win?
KH: While popular names like Adreian Payne, Nik Stauskas, and Doug McDermott are going to be floated out more publicly, two other prospects to look at more intriguing to me. Elfrid Payton of Louisiana-Lafayette is a dynamic two-way point guard that has good size and length. He could be the first guard off the bench now and insurance for later on. The other is Zach LaVine from UCLA, hyper athletic combo guard with worlds of potential. Now that the Suns have a streamlined D-League affiliate there is a home for LaVine to develop for the next season and a half.
ML: Nik Stauskas. While the Suns do not have a glaring hole at the 2, they certainly lack depth there. The idea of bringing in another shooter with a real handle is tantalizing to pair with either half of the Slash Brothers on the second unit.
SS: Adreian Payne would be my pick right now. His ability to score inside and out, his length (7'4" wingspan), his defense and rebounding, and his character all match perfectly with what we need in Phoenix. I think he is undervalued, and will rise in the Mocks before the draft ... He would be a steal at 14.
JP: Like Sean, I really like how Adreian Payne would fit on this team. He's a bit of a mix between Channing Frye and Markieff Morris with more athleticism. I know everyone loves Archie Goodwin, and I do too, but Gary Harris would be tempting if he's there as well.
4. Who is the one prospect that if they fell, realistically, that would be the homerun pick-up for the Suns?
ML: I don't see any home runs falling to the Suns. I'll pile on the Aaron Gordon/Doug McDermott bandwagon. I think it's more likely that all the sure-fire big guns are off the board by 14.
SS: My favorite would be Aaron Gordon, but I don't see any chance of him falling to the Suns at #14 ... It won't happen. But a player like Adreian Payne who I think is mocked much lower than his true value would be a homerun at #14. He has a skill set that fits like a glove with the Suns' system. Others I like are Zach LaVine, and Nik Stauskas
JP: Again, I agree with Sean on Aaron Gordon. He'd bring the high level athleticism and defensive ability that would really help the Suns take the next step. He's probably not falling, though. I'd also love to get Doug McDermott, but that's probably not happening either any more after he tested out so well athletically.
KH: While at this point I think the "anti-hype machine" has cooled down and people are remembering how good he is, it is unlikely he falls, but Marcus Smart is that guy. He is the same insurance as Payton (see above) and could play with either Bledsoe or Dragic long-term. Two-way combo guard that has to tool his shooting, but can just about everything else at a high level.
5. What do the Suns have to do to avoid coming out on the short end of the 2014 NBA Draft?
SS: I trade up if at all possible. There are some great prospects who may go in the late lottery and mid to late first round, but the talent pool in the 5-10 range where the Suns could possibly move into will be even better, where players like Noah Vonleh, Aaron Gordon, Dante Exum, and James Young could all be targets would make this draft that much better. Still, if the Suns do stay put, players like Adreian Payne, Zach LaVine, Rodney Hood, and Nik Stauskas are all players who could end up being steals depending on where they are picked...so the Suns could still manage to hit some homeruns even if they don't make any moves at all
JP: Don't sell the picks, for one. Don't draft any busts, for another. Other than that, they should come out fine. It's difficult to "come up short" when you have so many picks.
KH: If they move up with a package it has to be into the Top 8 or it is not worth the move. This is an right prospect draft and what they can get between 9-14 are relatively similar in talent and ceiling. So if Charlotte, Denver, Philly, Orlando, or Minnesota come a calling wanting No. 14 + an asset then dial tone should be the only appropriate response.
ML: I would say don't mortgage the future for a 1-year rental. If the Suns move multiple first round picks for a player who can hit the free agent market next year, then that's the shortest possible end of the stick. With 3 first rounders, I think Ryan McDonough and company are bound to hit on on at least one of them... right?
BONUS: Was it just me or do you already miss Adam Silver at the podium for the NBA Draft Lottery? This year's second round of the NBA Draft is going to be a bummer...
JP: Who is going to announce the picks? I don't even know who replaced him when Silver took over as commissioner.
KH: (Stealing from Mike here) I did miss the Mr. McMahon style Stern delivery on the microphone like he did at the 2013 NBA Draft. The Silver comes up and gets roars of cheers. Now? Well it will take a year or two for the new car smell to wear off of Silver and for us to remember that Mark tatum is the new NBA Deputy Commissioner. Will Silver be the new McMahon? Mike Adamle? Ric Flair? Mick Foley? Okay, I will stop embarrassing myself now...
ML: It didn't even occur to me who was announcing the picks for the draft lottery. I was just kind of excited at the prospect of the Suns stealing a top 3 pick and Minnesota's pick. I will kind of miss Stern's WWE villain delivery of the names and the draft though.
SS: My excitement for the draft will be determined solely on the players available, and the moves being made (or lack thereof). I'm hoping for some action from our front office, and I think they'll deliver.
Bright Siders, what do you think?