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Grading the Phoenix Suns Draft Day

The Phoenix Suns had four picks in this year's NBA draft. How did they make use of each pick? In this article, we grade the Phoenix Suns draft day.

The NBA draft is the culmination of all the hard work that young basketball players put in. It is the most memorable moment for any young basketball player aspiring to be the best player in the world. But for the teams that pick them, it is the day where they can start to rebuild in order to chase the coveted prize, the NBA championship. Dreams came true in Brooklyn last night, but how did the Phoenix Suns draft day turn out? Were the Suns able to seize the opportunity and take that next big step in their rebuilding process? Or did they miss out on the biggest stars of this year’s class?

Grading the Phoenix Suns Draft Day

Coming into the draft, the Suns had four draft picks, three of which were in the first round, including two in the lottery. They had the fourth overall pick, after finishing with the fourth worst record in the 2015-2016 season. They also owned Washington’s thirteenth pick from the trade which involved disgruntled power forward Markieff Morris. Additionally, they owned the Cavaliers’ 28th pick, which they acquired in the Isaiah Thomas trade with Boston last season. Finally, they owned their only second round pick, which was the 34th overall pick of the 2016 Draft.

The Suns came into the draft needing a power forward of the future, a guy who could play alongside their young core of Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Devin Booker, T.J. Warren, and Alex Len. Though there were many options for the spot, the battle came down to 18-year-old Croatian Dragan Bender and the University of Washington‘s Marquese Chriss. With their fourth pick, one of those guys would surely be drafted.

Fourth Pick: Dragan Bender

This is not a surprise for most NBA fans, as Bender is the premier draft prospect outside of the top two. The 7’1″ Croatian is the youngest player in this year’s draft and is considered by many to be the second best power forward in the draft, after Ben Simmons. Bender averaged just over five points per game in Israel, where he played for one of the most decorated clubs in Maccabi Tel Aviv. That number is only that low because Bender played just a little over 10 minutes per game last season, since the club values playing veterans over developing young players.

As a player, Bender is extremely versatile. At his size, he can knock down three-pointers; he shot over 36 percent from beyond the arc last season in Israel. He has also shown his skills when it comes to ball handling and passing, a valuable asset going forward with the direction in which the league is moving.

Suns GM Ryan McDonough was very pleased with Bender. He said that Bender had a “Magic feel for the game…” in their press conference after the draft.

All in all, I personally think that the Suns nailed the pick and they’re swinging for the fences here.

Grade: 4/5

13th and 28th Pick: Traded for 8th pick Marquese Chriss

The Suns were undecided on whether or not they should take Marquese Chriss with the fourth pick. After days of debate within the front office, they finally decided to take Bender fourth overall.

But that didn’t stop McDonough and his crew from taking Chriss. In an unexpected move, the Suns traded the 13th pick (Georgios Papagiannis), the 28th pick (Skal Labissiere), and 2014 first round pick Bogdan Bogdanovic to the Sacramento Kings for the eighth overall pick. The Kings then proceeded to draft Chriss, the other power forward who the Suns were looking at, with the knowledge that he’d be moved to Phoenix, .

Chriss is a 6’9″ power forward out of Washington. He’s one of the best athletes in this draft when it comes to playing above the rim. He is also a very capable defender, as he averaged 1.6 blocks per game in college. Although he needs to stay away from foul trouble, he will surely learn from veterans like Tyson Chandler and Ronnie Price. Most Suns fans wanted Chriss, and they got what they wished for. Suns head coach Earl Watson raved about this kid’s athleticism and versatility in their press conference, saying, “he [Marquese Chriss] is very unique, he’s a guy that can play above the square [above the rim], literally…”

The Phoenix Suns draft day became sweeter with Marquese Chriss, and most fans are extremely pleased with this turn of events. The Suns win this trade and it’s not even close.

Grade: 4.5/5

34th Pick: Tyler Ulis 

Ah yes, the NBA draft can’t happen without the Phoenix Suns taking a Kentucky Wildcats guard. With this pick, the Suns now have five guards who played for John Calipari at Kentucky. Tyler Ulis joins Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Archie Goodwin, and Devin Booker in the desert as the fifth member of their ever-growing Kentucky nation. During the press conference, McDonough jokingly said that “it’s been a while since we got a Kentucky guard.”

Ulis is one of the most electrifying point guards in this year’s draft. He averaged 17.3 points and 7.0 assists per game in his second season at Kentucky. He won SEC Player of the Year and SEC Defensive Player of the Year last season, proving that height isn’t everything in basketball. Ulis is expected to be the third string point guard for Phoenix, behind Bledsoe and Price, but that might be a blessing in disguise, as Ulis may get more chances to play with Booker, his college teammate.

The only concern here is that Ulis might have been drafted just to keep Booker happy. Personally, I love Ulis, and I think he has a place in this league.

Grade: 3/5

The Phoenix Suns draft day was a success for Ryan McDonough and the entire Suns front offic. They filled the hole in their roster with two of the best power forward prospects this year, and they got a point guard who can really play the game. They also gave Archie Goodwin another year to prove that he is worth keeping. Watson put it best when he said that “he [Ryan McDonough] and his staff got it done…they got it done.”

The Suns will need to figure out how to play both Chriss and Bender enough minutes, but that’s a problem that any rebuilding team is happy to have. The fans are so happy that they’re calling their GM’s doings a “McMiracle”, as they should.

What’s next for the Suns and their young core? The season can’t come soon enough.

Final Grade: 3.8/5


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