June 15, 2024

Every NBA team has intriguing “what ifs?” and regrettable draft and trade decisions hidden in their history, and the Phoenix Suns are no different. Even now, many fans speculate that trading Chris Paul for Bradley Beal last summer, while understandable at the time, might eventually be seen as a misstep.

However, the same cannot be said for Kevin Durant. Despite being 35 and past his prime, he remains one of the top 20 players in the league. Then there’s Devin Booker, undoubtedly the Suns’ best draft pick of the century. In the long run, he may be regarded as the greatest player in the franchise’s history.

Clippers reportedly eyeing Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry as backup point guards -  NBC Sports

The Suns have whiffed on plenty of other draft night selections though, and the worst miss of all is currently lighting it up in the playoffs.

By now, it’s a widely known tale: the Suns had the chance to draft Luka Doncic in 2018, but they opted for Deandre Ayton, banking on his potential to transform the franchise. Teaming him up with Booker seemed logical, and the Suns even reached the 2021 NBA Finals with this duo alongside Paul and Mikal Bridges.

Bradley Beal rocky but gets the win in his Suns debut - Yahoo Sports

However, the decision to pass on Doncic, though justifiable then, was perplexing for a crucial reason. At that time, Igor Kokoskov, who had coached Doncic in Slovenia during their EuroBasket triumph in 2017, was at the helm, despite his shaky tenure as the Suns’ head coach.

Fast forward six years, and this decision looks worse for two main reasons. Firstly, Ayton is now with the Portland Trail Blazers, traded last summer for a package that seemed underwhelming at the time but has since performed admirably. With Ayton’s departure and Nurkic’s postseason struggles, the Suns might wonder where they’d stand had they picked Doncic.

Secondly, Doncic’s stellar performance this postseason highlights what could have been. His brilliance, coupled with the right teammates, showcases his ability to lead a team to victory. Leading in points, assists, and even defensive rebounds in the playoffs, Doncic’s impact is undeniable. Imagining him alongside Booker paints a picture of a potent Suns team with an extended championship window.

While this hypothetical Suns team might have missed out on acquiring Durant, the trio of Booker, Doncic, and Bridges would have been formidable. Yet, the Suns’ failure to select Doncic, who could have addressed their point guard issues, continues to haunt them, especially as they struggle against the Timberwolves, a team potentially led by Doncic’s Mavericks. All of this serves as a reminder of what could have been, all for the sake of a big man and his departed tenure.

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