It wouldn’t be surprising if by the end of the 2023 NBA Draft we’re making jokes about Phoenix Suns owner Mat Ishbia’s new best friend, cash considerations.
Ishbia has been liberal in spending money to assemble a big three of Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal.
Getting to 15 players on the roster and potentially two more bodies on two-way contracts will cost him money with taxes hitting his bank account hard.
Saving relatively small amounts of money and starting to build some sustainability on the back end of the roster could happen through the draft. Because trading Durant and Beal will make the locker nearly barren, Ishbia may be forced to buy into the draft, this year or down the road.
Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro reported Tuesday that Phoenix expects to have its own pick at 52nd overall or a Washington-owned pick at 57th in Thursday’s draft, depending on the final Beal-for-Chris Paul deal.
But if a prospect the Suns like is expected to go higher and there’s reason to either trade the second rounder or spend cash, here are the spots and teams that might be willing to part with a pick or more. Deandre Ayton’s trade potential plays into a few of the teams on this list.
Potential trade partners for the Suns in the 2023 NBA Draft
— Choices 2, 27, 34, 39, 41
It could be a summer of massive makeover for a Hornets team transitioning majority ownership from Michael Jordan. In Phoenix, we’ve seen lately how ownership changes can set off a chain reaction that trickles down to the roster. Charlotte has nine players on fully guaranteed deals, plus tradable veterans like Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier on fairly large but relatively tradable contracts.
The Hornets are reportedly leaning toward selecting wing Brandon Miller over guard Scoot Henderson with the No. 2 pick, but everything is on the table from there.
Mine Empire of the Suns co-host Kellan Olson pitched — before the Bradley Beal trade — a Charlotte-Phoenix mock deal with Deandre Ayton, which returns Rozier, Cody Martin and the No. 34 pick. That would be a better-than-expected return for Ayton, whose stock has fallen, but it fits a Hornets rebuild with new head coach Kenny Atkinson.
For less value, you can replace Hayward with Rozier. Hayward is aging and has an injury history, but will be off the books after this season. His defense and spot-up numbers would be big concerns.
Barring big Ayton offers, one would think the Hornets are trying to package a couple of their picks to trade. There might be room to perhaps sell off one of their second-rounders.
— Choices 25, 45, 56
The Grizzlies have 13 fully guaranteed players and continue to pile on. They have fully embraced using their later picks to build something of a development program.
There’s not an obvious Ayton trade here, but more so just a team that can take outright money if it gets pat-worthy in the second round and doesn’t have a roster spot.
— Choices 6, 11, 36
The seeds have been sown for a good team to grow here, starting with Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner. An Ayton trade might signal that Orlando is getting serious, but it already has the underrated Wendell Carter Jr. in the center and on a much cheaper deal.
It’s hard to pin down how this team will perform with two lottery picks.
That number 36 might be on the table if the multiple partially guaranteed contracts on the books for guys like Markelle Fultz, Jonathan Isaac and Bol Bol are indeed picked up.
— Choices 7, 26, 40, 55
You may recall that the Pacers signed Ayton to a max contract offer last summer during restricted free agency, which helped put the Suns in this conundrum.
Indiana has 12 players for next season, an abundance at guard and a pair of highly negotiable contracts in center Myles Turner and shooting guard Buddy Hield.
They just traded two later picks for a 2024 pick from the Denver Nuggets and the No. 40 overall pick. Indiana still has more room to move up, down, in or out.
san antonio tracks
— Choices 1, 33, 44
This is just a guess, but the Spurs, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Jake Fischerwill seek out a free-agent center this offseason to give pending first-round pick Victor Wembanyama the physical amount of playing the 5 as a rookie.
Acquiring Ayton would give San Antonio a push in the winning direction, keep the offensive spotlight far enough away from the 2018 first-round pick and fit the long-term build.
The Spurs are one of the few teams that, by releasing some cap space to its free agents, would be able to trade Ayton in space if they wanted to. The question from there is just what the Suns could squeeze out of the Spurs in that scenario. Drafts can be part of it.
— Choices 9, 16, 28
Brian Windhorst’s “Now Why Would They Do That?” meme was sparked by this Jazz team trading away Royce O’Neale last summer. Well, it signaled a rebuild, but that project is far from finished.
Danny Ainge operates in the shadows, but we heard from Gambadoro that the Jazz had the least some interest in an Ayton sign-and-trade. That would apparently be just one piece of a potential flurry of moves if the Jazz want to begin chasing the postseason.
As with the Pacers, hinting at an Ayton trade here assumes a lot, including Utah not being completely put off by Ayton’s recent season. More than that, it matters that Walker Kessler looked fine as a rim-roller as a rookie and is probably already a top-three pure shot-blocker.
Collin Sexton, Jordan Clarkson (player option), Kelly Olynyk and Rudy Gay (player option) could be bigger-money rotation pieces the Suns could consider taking back if we imagine this still makes sense for some reason.
2023 NBA Draft full order
1. Saint Anthony
11. Orlando (from Chicago)
12. Oklahoma City
14. New Orleans
16. Utah (from Minnesota)
17. Los Angeles Lakers
19. Golden State
20. Houston (from LA Clippers)
21. Brooklyn (from Phoenix)
23. Portland (from New York)
26. Indiana (from Cleveland)
27. Charlotte (from Denver via New York and Oklahoma City)
28. Utah (from Philadelphia via Brooklyn)
29. Indiana (from Boston)
30. LA Clippers (from Milwaukee via Houston)
32. Indiana (from Houston)
33. Saint Anthony
34. Charlotte (from Charlotte via Philadelphia and Atlanta)
35. Boston (from Portland via Atlanta, LA Clippers, Detroit and Cleveland)
37. Oklahoma City (from Washington via New Orleans)
38. Sacramento (from Indiana)
39. Charlotte (from Utah via New York)
40. Denver (from Dallas via Oklahoma City)
41. Charlotte (from Oklahoma City via New York and Boston)
42. Washington (from Chicago via the Los Angeles Lakers and Washington)
43. Portland (from Atlanta)
44. Saint Anthony (from Toronto)
45. Memphis (from Minnesota)
46. Atlanta (from New Orleans)
47. Los Angeles Lakers
48. LA Clippers
49. Cleveland (from Golden State via Utah and New Orleans)
50. Oklahoma City (from Miami via Boston, Memphis and Dallas)
53. Minnesota (from New York via Charlotte)
55. Indiana (from Cleveland via Milwaukee and Detroit)
—Chicago (from Denver via Cleveland; lost by Chicago)
— Philadelphia (lost)
57. Washington (from Boston via Charlotte)
There are 58 instead of 60 picks in the 2023 NBA Draft because the Chicago Bulls and Philadelphia 76ers were penalized for violating free-agency rules.