Rumor, innuendo, uncertainty surround Suns as draft nears
Rumors, uncertainty, misinformation prevail as Suns prepare for roster-reshaping draft.
By RANDY HILLFS Arizona
For NBA fans, excitement continues to escalate as the annual rite of summer known as Crazy Rumor Eradication Day (CRED) approaches.
Followers of the
Phoenix Suns are busy sifting through a load of gossip, because the local team has the fifth pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft. Match that with rampant uncertainty at the top of this draft, and the potential for the unexpected is severe.
But how much of the recent chatter is true?
Well, at this time of year, honor among sources can be dubious. Misinformation is power in the perceptions of those attempting to massage what can occur by inserting speculation into the news cycle.
The most interesting Suns-related crumb reveals that general manager Ryan McDonough and crew might convert their alleged fondness for 6-foot-6 Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams into a trade-down project that also lands a recent overall No. 2 selection.
Their reported trade partner would be Flip Saunders of the Minnesota Timberwolves, who – like pretty much every talent evaluator we’ve heard from – is crazy about Indiana shooting/defending guard Victor Oladipo.
“I think he’s the closest we have to a sure thing as a two-way prospect,” one Western Conference GM (who doesn’t have a pick anywhere near this range) said of Oladipo. “We know he can defend at this level and can become good enough on offense to, at least, be a star among role players.
Hey, we have a new category of player. Anyway, as this particular rumor goes, the Suns would give up the fifth overall selection because they really like MCW, even though point guard Goran Dragic is Phoenix’s best player. Yes, we’ve gone over the ins and outs of duplication at the franchise’s strongest position (assuming The Dragon won’t be on the move, of course).
In addition to embracing the T-wolves’ ninth overall pick, the Suns would receive their second pick in Round 1 (No. 26) and former Arizona star Derrick Williams, Minny’s pick at No. 2 overall in 2011.
At first recoil, we’re wondering if the Suns are intending to employ every 6-9 professional basketball player who doesn’t really fit the concept of small forward or power forward.
Then we consider that even if this has been seriously discussed, Oladipo could be a goner as early as No. 2 (Orlando Magic).
And, according to a league source, the Suns’ affection for Carter-Williams doesn’t eclipse that reserved for Oladipo and, perhaps, Kansas redshirt freshman guard Ben McLemore.
Unfortunately, if the Suns really want one of those two shooting guards, it’s possible both will be gone when Phoenix picks.
McLemore has gone from the second coming of Ray Allen to a gifted-but-unassertive prospect who didn’t exactly wow people during individual workouts for the Suns and Magic. But he reportedly has shown well since then.
It also should be pointed out that league-wide speculation has Maryland center Alex Len going first overall to Cleveland … unless the Cavaliers stick with Kentucky center Nerlens Noel and his rehabilitating knee. Or it could be Georgetown small forward Otto Porter, who had been considered a lock to not get past the Washington Wizards at No. 3.
But this week’s hot commodity for the Wiz has been UNLV freshman forward Anthony Bennett.
For quite a while, we’ve heard and read that Orlando – which needs a point guard – could pass on the draft prospects at No. 2 and trade shooting guard Arron Afflalo to the L.A. Clippers for point Eric Bledsoe. That would enable them to take a shooting guard (Oladipo or maybe McLemore), limiting Phoenix’s chances to land a two if they’re still picking for themselves at No. 5.
But the Suns might opt to go big with Noel, Len or Indiana’s Cody Zeller. If Noel gets past Cleveland, the same might be said of the Magic.
And even if they really do want Carter-Williams, they might have to take him at No. 5 because there’s not guarantee another team is interested enough in someone else to trade up.
OK, so anything can happen at the top on Thursday night.
What about McDonough’s interest in adding a pick somewhere near the middle of Round 1? Well, the
gossip involving center Marcin Gortat and his expiring contract as a trade chip hasn’t accelerated in the last couple of days. The quiet on that front doesn’t necessarily portend lack of interest or continued interest.
There is, however, something else to consider. While McDonough and the Suns are committed to stockpiling assets in a major rebuild (those could be picks in this or future drafts), please note that having a surplus of first-round players this year means the Suns would be obliged to reconcile their second contracts in the same summer down the road. That’s really tricky.
And if McDonough is as sharp in evaluating talent as the Suns believe and their fans hope, all of these players could turn out to be worth keeping, right?
Another Suns draft rumor puts 5-11 Baylor point guard Pierre Jackson on their possibility list at pick No. 30. That certainly would be interesting when paired with the Carter-Williams rumor. Jackson has missed the last week of workouts with a minor knee injury.
Just in case Suns fans are concerned about going the point guard route Thursday night, here’s another rumor that’s way more troublesome.
According to an NBA writer in New York, Phoenix may have interest in signing volume shooter (and misser) J.R. Smith during July’s free-agent derby.
Based on his playoff performance, the Suns should be able to hire Smith for the veteran minimum.