The Phoenix Suns haven’t had a pick for a week before the 2022 NBA draft.
Whether they’re buying one with cash or making a deal to make room to acquire a cap is possible when multiple teams tuck multiple picks from late first round through second.
And with the Suns facing Deandre Ayton’s limited free agency where a higher pick could be a counterpart — or simply because they could opt for more aggressive moves to stay in the title shot — we should be prepared, possibly draft day -See movements of Phoenix.
With that said, here’s a look back at draft day history from Sun’s General Manager James Jones.
A win-now move
(AP Photo/Michael DeMocker)
July 29, 2021
Get Phoenix: Landry Shamet
Brooklyn received: Jevon Carter, No. 29 overall (North Carolina C Day’Ron Sharpe)
Hours before the first pick of the 2021 NBA draft, the Suns and Brooklyn Nets agreed on a deal that sent the 29th overall pick — more on that in a moment — and guard Jevon Carter in exchange for Phoenix’s Landry Shamet.
It made sense at the moment. After an NBA Finals appearance a month earlier, the Suns went into win-now mode, solidifying the roster behind Chris Paul and Devin Booker with a deadly shooter, an underrated defender and sometimes playmaker.
Shamet, 25, inked a four-year extension before lining up for the Suns, and his relationship with head coach Monty Williams signaled he fitted into the team’s culture. That remains true, and Shamet proved valuable as a capable defender, even clawing his way into the backup point guard slot while the team lost to the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference playoff series.
Despite this, he averaged 8.3 points per game in the regular season and just 4.3 points in 16 minutes in the playoffs. During the regular season, Shamet shot a career-worst 39.4% from the field and 36.8% from three, without adding much in terms of play on the ball.
He’s got the guarantee of his contract that could see him take a leap in 2022-23, but it’s obvious there are talent constraints in place, resulting in the hard worker and solid teammate being traded three times before his rookie contract even ended .
Meanwhile, Carter, a year older and on a much friendlier contract, appeared in 66 games between the Nets and the Milwaukee Bucks. He watched 11 playoff games for the Bucks, shooting 47.1% overall and 42.9% from three.
While the Suns’ first-rounder was fielded by Brooklyn at center Day’Ron Sharpe, who appeared in 32 games for the Nets, notable players available with the No. 29 pick and making playoff rotations included Herbert Jones ( Pelicans, 35th overall). ) and Ayo Dosunmu (Bulls, 38th overall).
Certainly, there’s still more time to determine if this was a good move by Phoenix. From the looks of it, the Suns missed an opportunity over the past year and beyond to add a cheaper and potentially more dynamic contributor.
(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
November 19, 2020
Phoenix moved in: Maryland F. Jalen Smith (No. 10)
Smith’s selection at the time looked odd. He was a stretchy big man but was projected as a center rather than the ball-moving forward the team had envisioned for the team to eventually play alongside Ayton.
Anyway, Smith was raw. He appeared in just 27 games as a rookie lottery pick and the team didn’t accept the third year of his contract after that tiny show of a player in need of development. Then the Suns traded him to the Indiana Pacers in February and reacquired Torrey Craig to add wing depth.
Smith averaged 13.4 points and 7.6 rebounds in 24.7 minutes per game for Indiana while shooting 53.1% overall and a decent 37.3% from three. He shouldn’t be called a bust even with the Suns’ reach just yet, but the draft night decision, the potential loss of Ayton this offseason, coupled with not committing to Smith’s future even before last year doesn’t just read as one, but a series of bad decisions from the front office.
Trade down to fill the pieces
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
June 20, 2019
Phoenix received: PF Dario Saric, No. 11 overall (North Carolina F Cam Johnson)
Minnesota received: No. 6 overall pick (Texas Tech F Jarrett Culver)
This trade was just part of a busy night, but can be viewed in a vacuum to explain Jones’ strengths and weaknesses to date.
The Suns were adept at identifying the right type of player. Saric and Johnson were smart, immediate rotational additions whose roles evolved as Phoenix’s confidence in Monty Williams grew during his first three seasons on the job.
Saric, starting in 2019-20, became the starting power forward but as the team upgraded around him, he transitioned into a more appropriate role as a back-up, alternate stretch center, leading a hugely successful bench unit in 2020-21.
Jones sold the sixth pick which saw Culver, a project not yet completed, picked in favor of a mature Johnson. Johnson, having an elite shooter with little else on his profile was considered a crazy reach on draft night. But Jones’ move, being panned, then paid off.
Johnson developed his physique into a hybrid forward and superior defender. He’s established himself as one of the top shooters in the league, even adding some secondary attacks to his game. Three years later, he’s up for a contract extension from his rookie deal this summer.
Playing the what-if game doesn’t put that decision-making in a bad light at all.
Tyler Herro is the top player in the lottery after top-five stars in Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and Darius Garland, but Herro wasn’t picked until No. 13, two picks after Phoenix took Johnson. It would be interesting to learn if the Suns would have retained the No. 6 if Garland, who had a successful five-game collegiate career before being injured, had fallen to that sixth pick. But that’s a double what-if scenario.
Deal the future for the present
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Phoenix received: C Aron Baynes, No. 24 pick (Virginia PG Ty Jerome)
Boston received: Milwaukee 2020 first round selection
This ended up being a mixed bag. Baynes was the expansive ball movement center that blossomed in Williams’ system behind Deandre Ayton.
He averaged 11.5 points per game, the only one of his nine NBA seasons to average 6.6 points per game. However, Baynes allowed the Suns to see what a five-out court might look like, and that aspect of the offense remains a topic of conversation as the Suns look to revamp central court with or without Ayton this summer.
Phoenix allowed Baynes to run with Saric the next season — because Baynes was ill with COVID-19 — and secured the backup center spot as the Suns made their 8-0 blister run at Disney World in the COVID-19 restart .
Jerome’s selection appears to be a flop. He was a throw-in in the acquisition of Chris Paul and had a strong 2020-21 season with the Thunder in 81 games, where his shooting odds and passing game made up for a lack of ball handling. But over the past year, the 24-year-old has seen his shot numbers drop from three to 37.8% and 29% respectively.
Among the NBA rotation players selected after Jerome: Jordan Poole (Warriors, 28th), Keldon Johnson (Spurs, 29th) and Kevin Porter Jr. (Cavaliers, 30th).
Sell sunk costs
(Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo via AP)
Phoenix received: cash payments
Indiana received: TJ Warren, No. 32 pick (KZ Okpala was rerouted to Miami on draft night for future second-round picks)
Not having to accept three top-32 picks, the Suns were poised to make a pick to terminate the contract of TJ Warren, who, despite proving to be a mortal goalscorer, failed to meet with the team and drafted him in 2014 after Phoenix was struggling with injuries.
He exploded to become the star of the NBA pandemic bubble next season but struggled with injuries to appear in just four games last year.
All in all, Jones managed the design in three very different ways. He turned the roster on its head in 2019 with a trio of deals, was set to pick Jalen Smith with 10th pick in 2020, and traded out of the late first round last year to acquire a proven NBA player before he knew who was on the board.
Success was a fluke, but one thing is certain: draft day can tell us a lot about any new direction the Suns will take this offseason.