• Chris Stewart

The Phoenix Suns and Their 2016 Draft Picks

*Photo via USA Today

The Phoenix Suns had a 14-31 record on January 23rd -- after defeating the Atlanta Hawks 98-95 on an Archie Goodwin buzzer beater at Phoenix’s Talking Stick Resort Arena. Since then, and during the time this was written, the Suns recently broke a 13 game losing streak and have a 15-44 record.

Eric Bledsoe (their best player) went down with a knee injury in December, and the season has been downhill ever since. The well-publicized antics of Markieff Morris (throwing a towel at the coach and choking a teammate), as well as injuries to Brandon Knight, Jon Leuer, Ronnie Price, and T.J. Warren (also out for the season) have added to a tumultuous year.

As the season moves forward into the second half, the Suns will set a new franchise record with their sixth straight playoff absence. While the month of March is a bit early for Suns fans to begin thinking about the NBA draft, gaining access to a franchise-type of player—through the draft---is a very realistic possibility to be excited about. Maybe, as realistic as ever before in franchise history.

Some believe it’s time to tear the roster down and start anew, while others believe key pieces lie in place to build around. I lean toward the latter view, and believe that drafting a potential star and adding two or three talented/established NBA players, will result in vast improvements next year for the Suns.

Just as last season though, the two best players on the roster are point guards (Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight). However, Bledsoe is a clear-cut point guard, while questions remain as to what Knight truly believes his natural position is. This is a serious question that the Suns and Knight must honestly answer by this season’s end.

*Photo via AZCentral

With Devin Booker proving that he has the ability to develop into a starting shooting guard (sooner than later), the Suns will have a decision to make regarding their backcourt logjam. Booker, Archie Goodwin, and Bogdan Bogdanovic are all clearly shooting guards also.

The Suns will also have center Alex Len entering into his fourth NBA season, and small forward T.J. Warren coming into his third. Unless a trade(s) is made, these seven players appear to be the young nucleus of the 2016-2017 Phoenix Suns.

Let’s look at the Suns 2016 draft choices, where they range, which players could be available then, and how those players will complement this nucleus. With the third worst record in the NBA -- the possibility of securing a top three overall pick in this upcoming draft (2016) is highly likely for Phoenix.

If the draft were today, the Phoenix Suns would have their own first round pick (a lottery pick somewhere between one and five) -- another first round pick (a lottery pick somewhere between 10 and 14) via the Washington Wizards – and the Cleveland Cavaliers first round pick, which should be 28th.

If the Suns do in fact secure the Wizards pick (top 9 protected), a possible scenario could be to package the Wizards/Cavs picks in a trade to move up in the lottery. If this becomes a nonviable option, the Suns could use the Cavs pick to select a draft-and-stash type of player to keep overseas for a season or two. They could also trade the pick for a future first rounder, or use it in a draft day trade that involves players.

Nevertheless, the Suns will definitely select somewhere between one and five in the lottery, and possibly toward the end of the lottery (between 10 and 14). There’s also a small chance they keep the 28th pick, which would add three very young players to their roster, but who might these players be?

I took a “Devil’s Advocate” approach, and ranked from Lowest to Highest PROJECTED talent. Let’s have faith. I’m trusting the Suns brass will draft another gem (regardless of projections), as they did last summer by stealing Devin Booker with the 13th pick. In other words, the pick doesn’t have to be Ben Simmons for the Suns to find THEIR guy.

Also keep in mind, many of these young and talented players might not fill a positional need for the Suns, but could be the best player available when the team drafts. Thus, making them a valuable piece for future trades. Does anyone remember Tyler Ennis?

Prospects (One to Five Range):

*Photo via USA Today

Jaylen Brown

A 6-7 freshman small forward from California University, Jaylen Brown could very well be on the board at picks three through five. He is 20 years old and very physically mature. Brown runs the floor well and has solid defensive ability. He has a combination of strength and speed and could push T.J Warren for minutes.

Dragan Bender

A player who will likely be available at picks three or four, and who is currently the top Euroleague player. Dragan Bender (18 years old) – from Capljina, Bosnia -- has been compared to Kristaps Porzingis. He is a very skilled big man (7-1) and has an improving 3-point shot. It is still unclear whether he will declare himself eligible for the draft, or stay with his team (Maccabi Tel Aviv) for one more season. It would be difficult to draft-and-stash a top five pick, but if Bender is on the board, the Suns could acquire a special player for the future.

Kris Dunn

Yes – another point guard. Yet, a talented one indeed. Dunn is a 22-year old junior (Providence University) who could be coveted by other teams on draft day, which could draw the interest necessary for Phoenix to acquire a star player via trade. It’s unlikely, but Dunn could also be a piece to start anew at the point guard position.

Brandon Ingram

An 18-year old 6-9 small forward with a skinny frame. Some are beginning to project Ingram to go first overall. From Duke University, this young swingman could be a nice building block for a team. He looks to be an assured NBA scorer around the perimeter, and from three-point range. Who knows. Maybe he falls into the Suns lap.

Ben Simmons

This 19-year old Australian born SF/PF has received ample talk about being the next NBA superstar drafted. A freshman at LSU, my comparison is James Harden, with better passing ability. Simmons sees the floor extremely well, and is a very good passer. He’s 6-10 and can defend multiple positions. Simmons has a strong work ethic and a highly credited character.

Prospects (10-14 Range):

Skal Labissiere

A freshman power forward from the University of Kentucky. The 20-year old 6-11 Labissiere has great size, and has been compared to LaMarcus Aldridge. He is a smooth shooter with great elevation, and sees the floor well. He has a great work ethic, and very good shot blocking ability.

Timothe Luwawu

A 21-year old 6-7 southpaw shooting guard from France who could be on the board. This is a backcourt player with excellent size. However, he could be coveted by other teams. He is a very good athlete, with good speed, and a long wingspan.

Furkan Korkmaz

A 6-7 shooting guard from Turkey, Korkmaz (19 years old) has been described as “the dream of every coach”, due to his ability to score in multiple ways. He shoots it well from everywhere, and can create his own shot. His size could be an added commodity to the Suns backcourt, and he does not struggle with speed.

Henry Ellenson

A 19-year old 6-10 freshman from Marquette University, Ellenson (PF/C) competes hard and has a good feel for the game. He is a solid passer with clean shooting mechanics. He has the ability to knock down mid-range and 3-point shots.

Denzel Valentine

A senior from Michigan State University. Already 23 years of age, the 6-6 SG/SF Valentine is averaging 19.6 and 7.6 rebounds per game in 32.9 minutes under coach Tom Izzo. He is slated to be on the board between the middle to the end of the first round. Obviously, his size and skills are almost identical to Devin Booker’s. This might be a case of selecting the best player available.

Prospects (28th Pick-1st Round):

*Photo vis Getty Images

Deytona Davis

A 6-10 freshman power forward from Michigan State University who looks to be unready for the NBA. Nevertheless, Deytona Davis is currently averaging 7.3 points and 5.7 rebounds in 18.4 minutes of play in his freshman season, and is projected to be available at pick number 28 of the first round.

Thomas Bryant

A 6-10 18-year old freshman power forward from Indiana University. He is averaging 11.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game. Although, maturity is in order for such a young player, his NBA ceiling is high. The Suns also need a skilled true power forward.

Carls LeVert

A 6-7 senior shooting guard from the University of Michigan and 22 years old. LeVert’s game is one of the most versatile among his draft class. His length allows him to see over defenders and make plays for his teammates. He has a great first step, with an improving 3-point shot. Sliding over to the small forward position -- next to Devin Booker -- might look really good.

Demetrius Jackson

Jackson is a 23-year old 6-1 junior Point Guard from the University of Notre Dame. He has a 6-4 wingspan and an 8’0 reach. He is quick at getting to the basket, and his wingspan should help with his already defensive physicality.

Jonathan Jeanne

A 7-2 center from France who is 19 years of ages, Jeanne is a rim protector, great shot blocker, and an active off-the-ball defender. He has great athleticism, but is still very raw. He weighs just under 200 pounds. His draft stock appears to be on the rise, but some mocks still have him ranked toward the bottom of the first round.

Stats and Info courtesy of Bball Ref and CBS Sports

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