Step 1: Trade down for Brandon Clarke
Outside of Chris Paul, the only other trades that might make sense for the Suns would be Goran Dragic, Jeff Teague and a three-team deal involving the Washington Wizards that could entice New Orleans into giving up Lonzo Ball. However, since those options seem unlikely, Phoenix’s best course of action in the draft would be trading down from the No. 6 overall pick.
This, of course, is assuming Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver is already off the board, which he more than likely will be. Culver’s smooth game, ball-handling and defense on the wing would be a major asset to fielding a more versatile Suns lineup, but he’ll probably go fourth if the Pelicans keep their pick, or fifth if the Cleveland Cavaliers keep theirs.
In this scenario, Darius Garland’s star upside as a scorer might give Phoenix some pause, but his fit alongside Devin Booker as an undersized guard, along with the fact that he missed all but five games last season due to a meniscus tear, should scare the Suns away. Coby White has that “it” factor for some, but is a similarly troubling fit given his lack of playmaking ability.
Rather than force it at No. 6, the Suns should trade down with the Atlanta Hawks to the No. 8 or No. 10 spot, hopefully snagging their 35th overall pick in the process. At this spot, taking Gonzaga’s Brandon Clarke would be a no-brainer.
Averaging 16.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.2 blocks, 1.9 assists and 1.2 steals per game last season, Clarke is one of this year’s most gifted and overlooked prospects. He’s a defensive monster who finished with more blocks than missed shots last season, and if he adds a perimeter shot to his game, his potential as a 4 or small-ball 5 in this league will be tantalizing.
Clarke is such a unique prospect it might actually hurt his draft stock, as The Stepien‘s Cole Zwicker explains, but the Suns need help at the 4 and backup 5 position. If they can trade down to No. 8, take Brandon Clarke, use their own pick at No. 32 on Grant Williams and then use pick No. 35 on someone like Dylan Windler, Terence Davis or Matisse Thybulle? That’d make for a wildly successful if understated draft.
In doing so, the Suns would acquire two cheap, young, cost-controlled players in the second round that wouldn’t kill them on the cap sheet, and would drop from a projected first-year salary of the No. 6 overall pick ($4.8 million) to the No. 8 pick ($4 million) or No. 10 pick ($3.5 million).