The Phoenix Suns will have one of the top picks in the 2019 NBA Draft and have already been linked to one star prospect.
According to Sam Vecenie, there are several trusted insiders who believe that the Suns’ favorite player in the draft is the Murray State standout Ja Morant (via The Athletic):
“Sources around the NBA are buzzing that Morant is actually the player the Suns prefer to end up with. Particularly, [James] Jones is thought to be a fan of the dynamic lead guard. It’s not a surprise, given their need at the point guard position. But color me skeptical that the team would actually take him at No. 1. The financial windfall any team figures to experience by selecting [Zion] Williamson is real. He comes in ready-made not only as an elite level player, but also as a marketing tool that will bring fans out to games, create a large amount of merchandising sales, and likely even see commercial opportunities. It’s hard for me to see any owner passing that up, particularly when one is as meddlesome in basketball operations as [Robert] Sarver.”
It is nearly impossible to imagine a scenario in which any front office selects Morant over Williamson. Phoenix may prefer adding a guard to bolster their backcourt but when there is a generational talent on the board, that player is going to be the first one selected on draft night.
As recently explained by former NBA player Jalen Rose, not selecting the Duke superstar if he is available could cause an executive to lose their job.
But as noted by Vecenie, if Phoenix falls to the second overall pick, they’d likely come away from the draft very happy:
“Morant would be a great consolation prize for the Suns if they end up at No. 2. He’s an elite level athlete in terms of quickness, with unbelievable ability off of a live dribble. He’s a shot creator from any circumstance, both for himself and others. His ability to pass from every angle and run pick-and-roll with big men would mesh perfectly with [Deandre] Ayton, [Mikal] Bridges and [Devin] Booker. He’d also push Booker off the ball more often, allowing him to get more chances for open shots by running off of the ball. But the other aspect I’d mention about Morant is that he’s also terrific at playing away from the ball to start possessions, if the Suns wanted to use Booker as a primary handler at times. A lot of Murray State’s offense started with Morant coming up from the corner to the wing and initiating a secondary action. He’s also a better shooter off of the catch than he gets credit for. Basically, if the Suns end up with a top-two pick, they can’t go wrong.”
The two would be fairly lethal in transition as a young team getting up and down the court with speed. But as noted by Vecenie, the most interesting part of adding Morant would be his ability to score off the catch.
He averaged 1.13 points per possession on his catch-and-shoot opportunities, which ranked in the 72nd percentile among all college players. Phoenix ranked 28th in the league off the catch this year, per Synergy Sports.
Morant would give the organization one of the most feared young backcourt duos in the NBA.