How far could the Suns move up in the draft?

GM Ryan McDonough said last week that it is 'unlikely' that the Suns will use all three of their first-round draft picks.

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When the Suns got together for the final time last week to clean out their lockers and reflect on a remarkable-but-not-quite-playoff-worthy season, first-year general manager Ryan McDonough was asked about the team’s personnel plans going forward.

While fans (and others, such as Dan Majerle) continue to speculate about a hypothetical trade for Timberwolves forward Kevin Love, there’s another possibility worth considering: Just how far could the Suns move up in the draft by packaging their other picks?

To be clear, this is not a debate over whether Draft Pick X would be more valuable to the team than Free Agent Y; rather, it’s simply a question of how high in the first round the team could get without giving up a current player, essentially maximizing their potential-superstar return on draft-pick investment.

While the NFL has a standard trade-value chart that has been used seemingly forever, the NBA doesn’t have anything comparable — other than this estimate, based off of draft-value studies at basketball-reference.com. Click through for the full chart, but a summary: The first pick is worth 100 points, the second is worth 83, the third is worth 74, and so on. As for the Suns’ selections, the 14th pick is worth 37 points, the 18th pick is worth 31 points and the 27th pick is worth 22 points.

So … if the Suns were to package the 14th and 18th selections, they would have a combined 68 points. The fourth pick in the draft is worth 67 points. Add in the 22 points from their final first-round pick and they’d have 90 points, which would, in theory, be enough to move up to the No. 2 selection overall.

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Now, this is obviously an estimation and doesn’t take into account a variety of real-world variables, including the willingness of teams at the top of the draft to trade down (gaining picks but missing out on the consensus elite talent) and the star power of the presumptive top picks, as the drop-off between tiers of talent might widen the gap between the value of each selection.

This year, even in what is widely regarded as one of the best drafts in recent years, the drop-off after the expected top four — Kansas center Joel Embiid, Duke forward Jabari Parker, Kansas wing Andrew Wiggins and Kentucky forward Julius Randle, in some order — is fairly substantial, meaning a team in the top four might not be willing to pass on one of those players just to pick up a couple of extra selections later in the round.

But if there is a top-four team looking to move down, the Suns could make a case, from a value standpoint, for a seemingly fair swap that would get them into elite-prospect range.