The NBA Draft on Thursday could provide some sort of insight into how the Phoenix Suns will attack this offseason starting with Deandre Ayton’s restricted free agency and beyond, and ESPN’s Jonathan Givony on Tuesday dropped a mock draft with a doozy of a nugget on a few levels.
Givony reports that there are rumblings the Suns could be trying to trade into the top-10 of the draft — and that the move could help the salary cap situation if the team were to retain center Deandre Ayton. Under the New Orleans Pelicans’ No. 8 overall selection in the mock draft, Givony included this:
The Phoenix Suns are said to be one of the teams potentially looking at trade scenarios here, possibly including a player like Cameron Johnson in order to free up salary cap flexibility to keep Deandre Ayton. New Orleans has four surefire starters and a plethora of young talent at every position that gives it tremendous depth and role players to plug virtually any hole.
That tidbit is one of few reports this offseason that includes evidence Phoenix will try to retain Ayton, who is seeking a max contract that he didn’t receive from the Suns via an extension last offseason.
Johnson is up for that extension off his rookie deal this summer, and moving him as a key piece in a trade would certainly help the Suns cut costs down the road as he could be asking for a salary close to $20 million annually after the 2022-23 season. Even swapping that salary for a top-10 rookie contract would save better than $10 million each year before even considering luxury taxes that Phoenix likely will be wading into starting this coming year.
Trading Johnson, one of the best shooters in the league, for a rookie in top-10 range would help the Suns bring back rotation-caliber talent.
Givony has G League Ignite combo guard Dyson Daniels going eighth overall, and the 19-year-old, as our Kellan Olson wrote, would be able to develop behind Devin Booker and Chris Paul.
Daniels’ combination of size and passing ability as a ball-handler is alluring. I keep bringing up how big he is because he’s nearly 6-foot-8 for a guard. That matters now more than ever with how freakishly athletic the everyday NBA player is, and if Daniels is never going to be a lead initiator, he still could be a playmaking wing.
Other players who could be available at No. 8 in this hard-to-nail-down lottery include Arizona wing Bennedict Mathurin, Wisconsin guard Johnny Davis, Duke forward A.J. Griffin, Kansas wing Ochai Agbaji and Baylor forward Jeremy Sochan.
Those are just a few players who could be available at No. 8.
More than guessing as to who could be of interest to the Suns, it’s important to point out that a trade with New Orleans would make a lot of sense for Phoenix. As Givony notes — and as Suns fans probably know from the first round of the playoffs — the Pelicans aren’t especially needing a rookie contributor to take that next step as a team.
Making a deal with a squad led by former Suns assistant Willie Green, who knows the Suns roster well, would be an easy starting point to get a deal done that would benefit both squads.