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NBA Draft: 3 big things for Suns fans to watch

Posted: 10:19 PM, Jun 20, 2018
Updated: 2018-06-21 05:33:07Z

Five weeks after they were awarded the first No. 1 overall draft pick in team history, the Phoenix Suns are set to alter the course of their franchise, for better or worse.

The 2018 NBA Draft will begin at 4 p.m. Arizona time Thursday -- and as of this writing, it will begin with the Suns making the first selection of the night.  That pick is extremely likely to be former Phoenix Hillcrest Prep and Arizona Wildcats star Deandre Ayton.

But that doesn't mean the evening won't include some drama for Suns fans anxious to see their team, which hasn't made the playoffs since 2010, finally turn a corner. Here are three key things to watch when the 2018 NBA Draft begins.

1. Would the Suns dare trade the No. 1 pick?

Suns GM Ryan McDonough has gone a bit back and forth RE: how open the team is to dealing the top pick. At one point, he told ESPN the Suns are  "certainly open"  to doing so, but he later said there's an  "overwhelming likelihood"  that the team will hold on to it.

But on Monday came an interesting development: In a matter of minutes, the Suns went from a massive underdog to  one of the favorites  by oddsmakers to acquire Spurs star forward Kawhi Leonard, who reportedly wants out of San Antonio. If the Suns were to make a trade for Leonard, it would seem likely that the No. 1 pick would be part of that deal. Previous speculation that the Suns might trade the top pick for Timberwolves forward Karl-Anthony Towns has died down in recent weeks.

So, while it still seems like the Suns will keep the No. 1 pick and select Ayton with it... you never know until the pick is actually made. Stay tuned.

2. Who will the Suns take with the No. 16 pick...

While draft experts agree the Suns will take Ayton at No. 1, they disagree wildly on who Phoenix will select with its 16th overall selection. Some of the most popular suggestions are UCLA point guard Aaron Holiday, Kentucky point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Texas Tech shooting guard Zhaire Smith.

The Suns could certainly use a point guard, especially if they decline to retain Elfrid Payton, whom they acquired in a trade with the Orlando Magic last season. Payton is set to become a restricted free agent, meaning the Suns will have the right to retain Payton by matching the terms of an offer from another team.

3. ...or will the Suns trade that pick to move up in the draft?

The Suns could also look to trade the No. 16 pick, along with a combination of their No. 31 pick, No. 59 pick, future draft picks and other assets, to move up in Thursday's draft and potentially acquire another top-level talent who could contribute right away.

On June 9, Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman  reported the Suns are interested in moving into the top 10 picks of the draft,  possibly to select Oklahoma point guard Trae Young who, like Ayton, was a consensus First-Team All-American selection in 2017-18. Will the Suns be able to pull such a deal off, and can they do so without giving up too much in return?