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Recent NBA Draft History: Phoenix Suns

Dec. 7, 2015 - Chicago, IL, USA - Phoenix Suns forward Mirza Teletovic (35), left, celebrates after making the winning basket against the Chicago Bulls with less than one second left on the clock on Monday, Dec. 7, 2015, at the United Center in Chicago (Photo by Nuccio Dinuzzo/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire)
Nuccio Dinuzzo/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire

Rounding out the Pacific Division in this series is the Phoenix Suns, who’ve been stuck in Western Conference purgatory on the outside looking in of the playoff picture in recent years. It’s not a place you want to be — lacking the talent to compete for championships but having just enough of it to win games and finish around .500. The Suns have been very hit-or-miss in the last five years and have only landed one top five pick during that span, making it hard to grab top talent to build their team around. So what draft successes and failures have gotten Phoenix to this point in 2015?

In the 2011 draft, Phoenix had a pick in the lottery at 13th overall and selected power forward Markieff Morris, who’s been troublesome ever since his brother was traded away this past summer. The Suns also traded Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark in a three-team trade with the Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards for Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus, Marcin Gortat and Orlando’s 2011 first-round pick, which eventually landed the Chicago Bulls Nikola Mirotic.

The Suns traded away that first-rounder and promising young point guard Goran Dragic to Houston for Aaron Brooks, a trade that looks terrible in hindsight considering Brooks isn’t all that good and Dragic had his best seasons once returning to Phoenix. The Suns traded their lone second-rounder to the Bulls for Hakim Warrick, but Warrick couldn’t stay in the league after completing a full season for Phoenix.

Phoenix again had a late lottery pick in 2012, and they took point guard Kendall Marshall. Marshall showed some solid signs of production before ultimately being traded along with Marcin Gortat, Shannon Brown and Malcolm Lee to the Wizards for Emeka Okafor and a 2014 first-round pick — which they used on point guard Tyler Ennis, another prospect who was traded midseason. Phoenix traded away its second-rounder for Josh Childress, who subsequently signed a five-year contract. But after the Suns acquired an amnestied Luis Scola, the Suns used their own amnesty clause to release Childress.

Phoenix’s highest selection during this stretch was in 2013, when the team opted to go with center Alex Len with the fifth overall pick. Len had a lot of potential leaving Maryland, but he’s been injury prone throughout his young career so far. He’s shown some growth this year, however, notching five straight double-figure games as a starter when Tyson Chandler was out with an injury. Via the Steve Nash trade, the Suns had another first-round pick, which they used on Nemanja Nedovic, who was traded to the Warriors on draft night for the 29th pick in Archie Goodwin and combo guard Malcolm Lee. Goodwin is on the roster but hasn’t made an impact, and Lee was traded away as part of the Marshall deal.

In 2014, the Suns had yet another late lottery pick, and they used it on forward T.J. Warren. Warren was a scoring machine in college, and he’s starting to become a steady contributor in Phoenix. As mentioned before, the Suns took Ennis with their pick resulting from the Gortat deal, and that didn’t turn out well. The Suns had a third first-rounder after trading Luis Scola to the Pacers for Gerald Green and Miles Plumlee, and they used that 27th selection on Bogdan Bogdanovic, who remains overseas. Phoenix’s lone second rounder was spent on Alec Brown, a promising stretch 5 who spent his rookie year in the D-League before deciding to play in Spain this season.

The 2015 draft was a standard one for Phoenix, with just one first-round selection and another in the second. The Suns used their fourth late lottery choice in the last five years on sharpshooting swingman Devin Booker, who’s displayed his shooting ability early on despite inconsistent playing time. In the second round, Phoenix opted to select Andrew Harrison, a combo guard from Kentucky who was sent to the Memphis Grizzlies for power forward Jon Leuer. Leuer has slid into the starting lineup for the embattled Morris, so that was a successful use of the pick.

As you can see, it’s been tough sledding for the Suns while landing just outside the playoffs and near the end of the lottery. The team has had to make moves like trading for point guards Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe to acquire high-level talent, and that’s still left them on the outside looking in. It might take a year or two of tanking to ultimately bring Phoenix near contention level, but that’d mean shipping off all their talent and suffering in order to rebuild. Obviously a few of their moves have backfired, which surely hasn’t helped, and it’s likely going to be a few years before the Suns ever make their way into title contention.

Grade: C

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