The Phoenix Suns are the second-best team in the Western Conference right now, holding a 36-15 record thanks to two All-Stars Devin Booker and Chris Paul. Phoenix did a tremendous job drafting Booker in the 2015 Draft with the No. 13 Pick, and trading for Chris Paul last summer. Phoenix are a team that will cause problems in the West, and their roster management is a reason why.
But Phoenix have not always made the right moves. In fact, they have made a couple of disastrous moves that prevented them from competing for a long time. Before the acquisition of Chris Paul this season, Phoenix has missed the playoffs for 10 straight seasons. While this year’s horrid streak will end, these 5 draft mistakes by the Suns’ management team are the main reason why it has been a decade since the team has played in the postseason.
5. 2016 NBA Draft
Dragan Bender (No. 4 Pick) over Jamal Murray (No. 7 Pick)
The Phoenix Suns saw what the Golden State Warriors were doing, and felt a stretch-shooter would assist the team down the line. Bender was highly rated in the draft because he stood 7’0” tall and weighed 225 lbs yet had a deadeye jumper before he came into the league.
But that was a mistake on the part of the Suns because Bender is currently not in the NBA and has career averages of 5.4 PPG and 3.9 RPG on 32.3% shooting from three. Of course, Jamal Murray is a much better player. The Nuggets star is averaging 21.3 PPG on 41.2% shooting from three this season and holds a career average of 16.3 PPG. Murray is a star for a team that made the Western Conference Finals last year, so Phoenix got this one way wrong.
4. 2018 NBA Draft
Deandre Ayton (No. 1 Pick) over Luka Doncic (No. 3 Pick)
The Suns are a great team this season, holding the 2nd seed in the Western Conference, and a large reason for that is the play of 3rd-year center Deandre Ayton. Ayton is averaging 14.5 PPG and 10.8 RPG this season and is an All-Star in the making. But as great as Ayton is, he is not Luka Doncic.
For some reason, Doncic fell 3rd in the NBA Draft to the Dallas Mavericks who actually swapped picks with the Hawks. Doncic is averaging 25.6 PPG, 8.4 RPG, and 7.6 APG for his career and is already an MVP candidate. Ayton is a very good player, but a trio of Devin Booker and Chris Paul alongside Luka Doncic places Phoenix as the favorites in the West.
3. 2017 NBA Draft
Josh Jackson (No. 4 Pick) over Donovan Mitchell (No. 13 Pick)
The 2017 Draft saw Phoenix grab athletic and versatile forward Josh Jackson over a few talented players. Josh Jackson was a promising prospect because he stands 6’8” and weighs 207 lbs. He is very athletic and had the potential to be a lockdown defender as well. As a result, Phoenix jumped at him.
But Jackson has been a role player over his 4 years in the league, averaging only 24.4 MPG and 12.1 PPG. While these are decent numbers for a 4th overall pick who is only 24 years old, the Suns could have had Jayson Tatum and Donovan Mitchell. Donovan Mitchell is averaging 25.6 PPG for the best team in the NBA this season and is a franchise player. Phoenix could have had Mitchell and Booker lead the franchise going forward but blew it in 2017.
2. 2013 NBA Draft
Alex Len (No. 5 Pick) over Giannis Antetokounmpo (No. 15 Pick)
The 2013 NBA Draft was a massive disaster in the history of the Phoenix Suns. They had a 6’11” forward with an incredible wingspan in the draft but went for a below-the-rim center in Alex Len. Alex Len is a serviceable role player who is averaging 19.3 MPG so far in his career, but there is no doubt he is not The Greek Freak.
Giannis is a 2-time MVP, one of the best players in the world, and most likely the face of the NBA over the next couple of years. Giannis only averaged 6.8 PPG in his rookie season, but a player with his physical gifts will always be a dominant player. Only 3 years later, he won Most Improved Player and became an All-Star as well. Giannis alongside Booker would create the most talented young duo in the world, but Phoenix missed that chance.
1. 2011 NBA Draft
Markieff Morris (No. 13 Pick) over Kawhi Leonard (No. 15 Pick)
Kawhi Leonard was one of the best things to ever happen to the San Antonio Spurs after he fell in their laps at an incredible 15th pick. Leonard won an NBA title with the Spurs in 2014 and also won Finals MVP, and many thought he would be the next great superstar for the franchise. Of course, Leonard forced his way out of San Antonio and was traded to the Raptors where he won his 2nd NBA title.
Clearly, Leonard is one of the greatest 2-way players of all time. But Phoenix missed their chance at drafting a Finals MVP superstar and opted for Markieff Morris instead. Morris is a serviceable role payer who has played important minutes for 5 different teams over his career, but Kawhi Leonard would have probably led Phoenix to multiple playoff runs as their superstar.