UPDATE: Miami Heat get two key rotation players back vs. Suns, Wayne Ellington ruled out

The Golden State Warriors, who general manager Ryan McDonough has openly mentioned a few times when discussing how they have studied title contenders. During the pre-draft process before they ended up selecting Josh Jackson, McDonough complimented Golden State on how they built their roster around versatile wings who can bring two-way elements.

Phoenix is desperately lacking where they want their vision to go towards with versatility on both ends of the floor. Jackson was the first domino to fall alongside their first second-round selection in Davon Reed.

Whiteside scores 24, Heat ease past Suns 125-103

They want to build a roster that mimics the Golden State, Houston, Boston type of archetypes when examining just how unique the Warriors roster is, five of their wings or ball handlers have wingspans exceeding 5 inches or greater from their height.

This Heat player is known for winning plays, but everybody wants to score

Compare that to Phoenix and they only have one in Reed who stands at 65 with a 7 wingspan. Meanwhile, Jackson stands at 68 with only an average 610 wingspan but makes up for it with his unique blend of two-way skills from playmaking and non-stop energy on the other end.

They’re in the top ten in the NBA in scoring (9th overall at 108.7 points per game). Defensively they could stand to improve, but they’ve got guys who are giving solid effort on that end. Walton has also revived Isaiah Thomas, who looked out of place in Cleveland. Coming off the bench for the Lakers, he’s looked more like the dynamic scorer he was in Boston and he’s been an integral part of their recent five-game win streak. As the primary scorer for the second unit, he’s getting to his spots and creating for himself and his teammates.

Expect this area to be addressed in a draft class littered with players who fit this profile on the perimeter. Not only is shooting it from deep important in todays NBA but so is defending it at a high level consistently.

Phoenixs Vice President of Basketball Operations, James Jones, also openly mentioned this in our hour-long discussion in January. This needs to be hit not only in the draft but from multiple angles via free agency and trades. If they want to compete next season and get ahead of the curve compared to other trying rosters, that would be a wise move.

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When diving outside of the lottery — where the Suns are currently slated to have picks 15 and 16 from Milwaukee and Miami — many prospects actually fit the billing of helping achieve this team-wide goal. Whether its the mid-late first or early second round (Suns are currently slated at No. 32), they could find some hidden gems if they mold these prospects correctly on where they need it most.

The Lakers should change their approach to free agency. Under the new regime of Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka, it’s safe to say that there will probably be no more free agent signings such as Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng. That’s step one. Step two, which Lakers fans might not want to hear, is to scale back a bit on the pursuit of someone like LeBron James and Paul George. Give this group an opportunity to grow and develop. They’re building something special in LA and their recent play is proof of that.

After teams continuously have torched the Suns for 100+ almost every game this season, that might be more prioritized compared to more scoring with the steps Devin Booker, T.J. Warren, and now Jackson has taken.

The Suns should also look to move some of their veterans on hefty contracts if they’re able to. Tyson Chandler still has another year left on his deal and could surely help a contending team in need of some additional muscle in the frontcourt. Brandon Knight, on the other hand, will be a bit more difficult to move. He’ll be coming off an ACL injury and, with the trade deadline arrival of Payton, he no longer appears to be the Suns point guard moving forward. He also has two more years left on his deal.

Video: Phoenix Suns vs Miami Heat – Full Game Highlights | March 5, 2018 | NBA Season 2017-18

Suns coach Jay Triano candid about heart-to-heart with Marquese Chriss

Below, I compiled a list of prospects in my top 40 that could raise some eyebrows in Phoenixs front office. After McDonoughs recent comments on Facebook Live about targeting more veteran prospects, there are above-average defensive stalwarts who could help flip the negative defensive culture this team has at the moment.

Video: Hassan Whiteside Full Highlights 2018.03.05 Miami Heat vs Suns – 24-14-3! | FreeDawkins

After filtering out some prospects based on what Phoenix needs (consistency from scoring and defense), here are 12 names to keep an eye on come June listed by the wingspan-to-height discrepancy.

Thomas is in an interesting situation. He’s going to have suitors, but the offers won’t be near as much as projected a year ago. His stock has slipped, but he’s shown he’s still a very productive player and a deadly scorer given the right situation. He’s not a bad player to have to mentor the Lakers young guards such as Ball and Josh Hart. The Lakers should look at bringing him back for the right price, but don’t break the bank for him.

Heat pummel hapless Suns, 125-103

Last week, Thomas collected his second consecutive Big East Defensive Player of the Year award and the lanky Bluejay has definitely deserved it. Standing at 63 with an outrageous 610 wingspan for a guard, Thomas has utilized his gifts to his full abilities through his first three seasons at Creighton.

One area that continues to impress me with Thomas is his shooting stroke. Hes a career 41.2% three-point shooter who has continued to pest guards around the country. Thomas continues to fly under the radar even after Doug McDermotts departure two seasons prior, but he shouldnt much longer.

The Lakers should also look to use their G-League team, the South Bay Lakers, when searching for talent. They did a good job finding David Nwaba last season, but they cut him over the summer to make room for Caldwell-Pope. Nwaba should still be a Laker. They just signed Travis Wear from South Bay which is a step in the right direction. When looking to fill out their roster this summer with end of the bench guys, they should keep looking at South Bay’s roster.

Combined with freakish measurables alongside a veteran mentality, Thomas very well could be on the Suns radar with the Miami pick or Milwaukee if that ends up conveying.

Video: Justise Winslow Cant Believe His Own Dunk On Marquese Chriss & Stares Him Down! Heat vs Suns

Justise Winslow caps off Heats win over Suns with an impressive late slam dunk

Thomas checks many of the boxes Phoenix seems to be valued on their board, and alongside Booker could become a dangerous secondary ball handler. In 30 games so far this season, Thomas has racked up 3 or more steals over 30% of the time hes out there.

So yeah, they will be looking to use those picks to trade up, like they did in 2016 in trading 13, 28, and a couple of other assets to take Chriss at #8 after taking Bender at #4 overall, or they will trade out – using those non-Top-5 picks to acquire veteran players to strengthen the NBA maturity of the roster.

If the Suns are looking for an immediate impact guard to add to their rotation who should earn 20+ minutes quickly, Thomas could be in their cards.

It just means the Suns will hear several peoples vision of what THEY would do with the Suns roster going forward, and allow the Suns to pick the person whos vision and pedigree they like the best. And maybe, just maybe, that coach will be worth more than the lowest paid coaches in the game.

On my board, Thomas has substantially risen over the past 6 weeks. Right now, he sits in my mid-first round.

That roster began the season with a pair of 42+ point losses in their first three games, and then capped off the pre-All-Star break ANOTHER pair of 40+ point losses, while keeping their firm lead on the leagues worst defense and nearly worst-offense in all the games in between.

Similar to Thomas, KBD has kept his head down and grinded to the point where new head coach Chris Holtmann has utilized him thus far to perfection. Bates-Diop has unique intangibles but has consistently struggled from the outside throughout his career at Ohio State.

The Suns went all in this year with the rebuild, keeping only Tyson Chandler (34 years old going on 40) and Jared Dudley (32 going on 62) and Troy Daniels (26) as rotation veterans around a dozen players 20-24 years old, making up the leagues youngest playing age roster.

If you are looking for a lottery prospect who grades out similar to this one is Kentuckys Kevin Knox. Both are lanky 3-and-D types who have struggled to add the 3 to it.

Who knows what 2018-19 will bring, but at least it sounds like we will see a new coach and more balanced, professional roster along with another pillar for the Timeline in terms of Ayton/Bagley/JJJ/Bamba around Devin Booker and Josh Jackson, and maybe even Elfrid Payton.

As it relates to Bates-Diop, hes been a late riser into the early 20s due to how hes improved his shot this season, averaging 35% from beyond the arc in conference play. With his 72 wingspan, theres some sneaky value of him as a small-ball rim protector in very spot moments.

After ignoring logic three years ago and simply hiring the completely unqualified Earl Watson to coach the Suns without the benefit of a single other candidate interview, it looks like the Suns will at least have a formal coaching search when the season is over.

If McDonough is actually looking to add more seasoned prospects compared to hitting the one-and-done well again outside of their first pick thats likely to end up in the top three, Bates-Diop has the tools on both ends that could be molded into a unique rotational piece alongside Davon Reed in the second unit.

Heat Defeat Suns, Reach Seventh Place in Eastern Conference

I value KBD more than most, but if he somehow slipped to the early second round and Phoenix kept that selection they should run up the card for him to add to their versatility vision.

Yes, it would be folly to add three to five more 18-22 year olds to the already-youngest roster in the league. The Suns project to own 3 of the top 16 picks in the draft, plus a pair of second-round picks, one of which will be just outside the first round.

Bam Adebayo back for Heat but backcourt health still a concern

Walker IV has floated in and out of my late lottery all season, and the reason why is due to consistency floating back-and-forth. However, in conference play, Walker has started to find a rhythm as a scoring dynamo.

This doesnt mean the Suns will actually pay more than league minimum for their next coach, or that he or she (Becky Hammon, anyone?) will be any good, or that they even know how to coach a complex defense to college-age kids.

Walker is averaging 13.6 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1 steal while shooting 36% from deep. A lot of that has helped due to Jim Larranaga finally switching him into the starting lineup, but theres a lot of things to like when examining Walkers profile a little further.

None of Terry Porter (2008-2009), Alvin Gentry (2009-2012), Lindsey Hunter (2012), Jeff Hornacek (2013-2015), Earl Watson (2015-2017) or Jay Triano (2017-present) earned higher than the lowest salary among NBA coaches.

His stroke is silky smooth and hes capable of going off any night for the Hurricanes. As far as a pro comparison goes, I keep coming back towards J.R. Smith, but with a brighter defensive outlook.

Triano was the one who didn’t duck the truth early on this season: Chriss’ poor conditioning and added weight hampered him. Now, the Suns coach is attempting to keep Chriss accountable in dealing with his emotional style that often times leads him to sulk or lash out.

Preview: Suns at Heat, 5 pm, FOX Sports Arizona

For a team in desperate need of adding scoring and length, Walker definitely fits into this category.

Interim coach Jay Triano is candid about his relationship and his personal talks with Chriss because he believes the second-year pro “accepts and acknowledges” his flaws.

Milton has been battling the injury bug as of late, but hes one of my favorite sleeper prospects throughout this season. I just hope that San Antonio doesnt get their hands on him because if hes placed into a winning culture, he seems destined for immediate impact.

Marquese Chriss is often times his own worst enemy. The Phoenix Suns know that Chriss’ emotions often times run wild and take him out of playing effective basketball.

James Johnson scores 6 points in Heat win

Remember when Booker told me after practice a few months ago about his thoughts on Trae Youngs then historically hot start for Oklahoma? Well, when he told me about when they first met — at a Nike Elite camp on the West Coast — Booker and Milton were graded as the two best shooters.

They also still believe in the player they wanted so badly that, to draft him in 2016, they sent two first-round picks and the rights to Bogdan Bogdanovic to Sacramento.

Standing at 65 with a long-standing wingspan to help cover on defense, Milton could become an immediate impact off of Phoenixs bench if hes taken in the early second or with one of their picks in the mid-first.

“I think he’s come a long way,” Triano told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

Former Suns Executive Analyzes Struggles

Milton is a career 42.7% shooter from beyond the arc and has consistently thrived in high-pressure situations for the Mustangs.

As far as sleepers go, Milton is definitely one of my favorite prospects in the 20-40 range on my board.

Five takeaways: Heat pound defenseless Suns, move into seventh in the East

Diallo tested the draft waters last season before ever playing a game for Kentucky, and he flashed big-time athleticism. Posting an NBA Combine record in terms of vertical jump, Diallo has the mouth-watering physical tools but the question is will it translate to a productive player on the basketball court?

Miami ended up cooling back down from three point range in the second half, going only 3-17… but still laid another 64 points on the Suns by virtue of a veritable layup drill.

So far this season, Diallo is averaging 10.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.3 assists while shooting only 32% from three and 61% from the line. Thats not good and it portrays a player who will have trouble finding his shooting on the pro level.

At this point maybe the Suns are just demoralized and have a hard time giving the necessary effort on the defensive end of the court… I know Im demoralized watching them.

McDonough is known to roll the dice, so if Diallo is on the board in the second round why not take a gamble on this long Wildcat guard?

Talk about a prospect who has fallen by the wayside since high school. Duval started his career as a top-five pick but has now seen his stock fall to the second round, at least on my board.

T.J. Warren also chipped in 19 points and Marquese Chriss resembled a real basketball player for the second straight game in quite some time, but that was basically it.

Devin Booker

Much like Diallo, Duval cant shoot. Thats not good, especially for a Suns team that needs to not add more non-shooters.

Former fan favorite Goran Dragic had 17 points and five assists, and the Heat got big efforts off the bench from Kelly Olynyk, Justise Winslow and Dwyane Wade.

The appeal with Duval, though, is his blistering pace of play and whether his pro fit could be better outside of being a secondary piece at Duke alongside Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr.

But at least the Suns lottery odds improved… and another 19 year old player is the key to turning things around in no time flat. Yep, thats the ticket.

For Phoenix, he could be appealing because hes a seamless fit into their blistering pace of an offense. Duval would help push in transition, but hes an even worse shooter than Elfrid Payton.

If he falls to the early second round, Duval could turn into the BPA and I wouldnt blame Phoenix for capitalizing. However, you really need to feel comfortable in his defensive outlook before selecting him.

Hassan Whiteside, who finished with 24 points and 14 rebounds, scored 15 points in the third quarter as Miami maintained a comfortable lead.

Ive been pushing the Gilgeous-Alexander train since early in the season. As of late, Ive been wondering whether he should be placed in a similar tier to Alabamas Collin Sexton. Hes surely not as explosive as Sexton, but his defensive tools and playmaking have enough of an argument to place him above the slumping Crimson Tide guard if a scout thought so.

If the Suns select one prospect in the mid-first, Gilgeous-Alexander is one of my top targets. Hes a longer guard who would complement Booker well.

His form on the shot is questionable, but hes converting at a 39.5% clip on 3s while attempting about 1.5 on average. If he can hit the wide-open ones, that could open up more cutting lanes for the wings on the pro level.

For me, if Phoenix was able to walk out of draft night with a top three prospect plus Gilgeous-Alexander, youre setting yourself up well to fit that vision I have outlined.

He wasnt on my radar to start this season, but the debate is there for Gilgeous-Alexander to be the best pro prospect over his teammate Kevin Knox.

Heat move into No. 7 in Eastern Conference with rout of Suns

Like Thomas of Creighton, Hunter has burst onto the draft scene over the past few months. Hes been utilized in a defensive utility role for Tony Bennetts Virginia roster (Bennett is someone Im high on as a possible head coach for Phoenix).

Suns still fighting, but fall to lottery-bound Hawks late

Per 36 minutes, Hunter is averaging 16.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1.1 steals on 48.5/38/76.8 shooting splits.

This redshirt freshman has yet to start a game for the Cavaliers, but in his role he thrives. I dont know if this is an extreme comparison, but his build and disproportioned arms remind me of a San Diego State version of Kawhi Leonard.

Game Preview: Heat continue home stand vs Suns

Luckily for Kawhi, he landed with Pop in San Antonio while working on his shot to round out into a two-way monster. Im not saying Hunter is that, but that ceiling is sleeping somewhere I feel like.

Hunter strikes me as a high ceiling, high floor prospect who probably is rated higher than most national writers. The Stepien is a site who has joined in on Hunter, and they are usually great at picking up on those trends before anyone else.

It would not surprise me at all if Hunter ends up as a lottery pick on my final big board but hes stormed up into my early 20s at the moment. Who knows, maybe Hunter and Bennett end up as a package deal to Phoenix.

Like Gilgeous-Alexander, Ive been higher on Shamet than most throughout this season. His advanced stats prove that hes a proven offensive commodity who can space the floor and shoot from all three levels. For a guard, specifically a longer point, thats a great weapon to use.

Report: Suns to interview Jay Triano, college coaches in the summer

Shamet has a career 2.67 assist/turnover ratio, which is great. Its dipped as Wichita State went into the American Athletic Conference, but Shamets offense hasnt slipped. However, his defense has. Thats the concerning part of his game, which has caused a late slip but if hes around in the early second round, Phoenix should run up the card if they still need to draft a point guard.

The Shockers guard also fits the criteria of a win-now prospect at age 21 who would not need much more developing to contribute. Outside of wherever their lottery pick lands, its time for the Suns to utilize their others on proven prospects.

Heres my top idea if the Bucks pick conveys: package both of their mid-firsts and move up for Mikal. From everything McDonough and Jones have said, Bridges screams to me a prospect who ranks very high on their board.

Across the draft community, Bridges ranks anywhere from 7-10, but on a Suns-only board, he very well could be higher. His fit would be ideal alongside their trio of wings already. Bridges would fill a defensive sparkplug role in Phoenix, re-energizing a building with another top-flight defender alongside Jackson.

Its easy to say, but if you continue to add these types of players, that mentality should shift after that gelling process.

Ive covered Bridges all throughout the season on Lottery Big Board 1.0 and 2.0, specifically analyzing his elite versatile profile at length, but lets check out his Big East numbers below.

Bridges is posting 18.2 points, 5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.4 steals, and 0.9 blocks on 51.3/40.2/87.9 shooting splits.

The former national champion is well-deserving of being apart of the fray as far as this elite crop of prospects in the top seven goes. He sits right outside of it, but the Suns could have the perfect ingredients to move up and acquire this two-way stud.

Unfortunately, we have been unable to see Melton this entire season due to USC sitting him out for precaution of an FBI investigation. However, in his freshman season for the Trojans, Melton was the only player in the country to average 15 points, 9 rebounds, 5 steals, and 1 block per 40 minutes.

Thats an insane stat line, and Meltons unique physical profile might give him a leg up on other prospects in line to be possible Suns in this draft range I have discussed.

Compared to a point guard like Payton, Melton knows how to use his length on defense to bother opponents often.

For people who have been unable to watch Melton, go check out his freshman highlights and full games in head coach Andy Enfields system at USC. When he bursts onto the scene at this years combine and makes late lottery noise, dont be surprised.

The younger brother of Jrue Holiday, Aaron has made a name for himself to be a unique role player on the next level. If developed further, he could turn into a long-term starter for a team down the road as their point.

During his junior season at UCLA, Holiday escaped the Lonzo Ball fiasco unscathed to significantly improve his stock. Right now, he sits in the late first round for me after being in the mid-second only a few months prior.

Holiday has been consistent from three throughout his college career and is posting a career-high 43.9% on 5.8 attempts on average.

With a unique blend of playmaking and defensive tools, Holiday could be a late riser on many boards. From a Phoenix perspective, he could form a unique, underrated tandem if they re-signed Payton to a long-term deal this summer once he hits restricted free agency.

I hope you all enjoyed this, and if you missed any of my draft pieces you can check them out below to view how my updates have been going.

As March Madness is now only a week away, draft coverage will be ramping up. In whats shaping up to be the most important offseason for the Suns in the McDonough era, its time to see action rather than constant chatter.

Addressing their obvious team need of adding more length on the perimeter could be flipped into a strength if they utilize the draft to their advantage this summer.

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