Lots of questions for Suns post lockout, no easy answers

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As PBT works our way through our “what should your team do during the lockout” series, some answers are pretty easy. Dallas needs to bring back Tyson Chandler and remember where they put that bottle with the lightning in it.

Other teams are not so simple.

Like the Phoenix Suns. They are not due up in our series for a couple weeks yet — and we’ll have some suggestions on moves then — but in a recent conversation with Suns swingman Jared Dudley he laid out the challenges pretty clearly. Dudley is in Las Vegas getting ready for the Impact Competitive Training Series and the season (whenever it starts) but the future of his team was on his mind.

He said the big question the Suns need to ask is what direction they want to go with Steve Nash, the to be 37-year-old point guard and face of the franchise. Nash is entering the last year of his deal.

“And we all know with Steve, the question is are they going to re-sign him?” Dudley asked. “If Steve gets traded then we are in a rebuilding mode. Turn off the lights, we’re going to be down for a little bit….

“There has to be a time when he does leave, but right now… is he in his prime? No. Is he playing at an All-Star level still? Yes. So, they have to make a decision: Do we want to sign maybe a Nene or go after a big and a big time ring and try and make a push at it? If not, if they don’t want to do that, then they may decide to let Steve go and just cut our losses.”

Suns officials have denied they will trade Nash. In part because it would hurt the team at the gate and may not speed rebuilding. All things Dudley acknowledged.

“It would be very tough,” Dudley said. “The fans are Phoenix Suns fans, true, but Phoenix identifies with certain people. Back in the day is was (Charles) Barkley and Kevin Johnson. Then Jason Kidd. Then Steve Nash and Amar’e (Stoudemire) and now that Amar’e is gone the face is Steve Nash. You get rid of Steve, there is no face…

“It sounds good to trade the franchise player and try to get something back, but sometimes the stuff you get back isn’t that good and then you’re in for a long haul to try and get back up to the top.”

Lets say the Suns front office is true to its word and Nash isn’t going anywhere. Sorry Knicks fans, but play along with us for now. If the Suns are going to contend, what has to happen?

They need another big, Dudley said. Marcin Gortat and Robin Lopez have been solid, but the Suns need a big who is a threat on the pick-and-roll to pair with Nash, he said.

Then they have to sort out the wings.

“At the wings spot right now you have Grant Hill, me, (Mickael) Pietrus and Josh Childress. We’ve got to see if we can get it done,” Dudley said. “Is Grant at his age (able to contribute)? Am I a starter or a sixth man? Is Pietrus going to be with the Suns? Is he a starter? So we have to answer those questions, who is our starting two and three?”

That is a whole lot of questions. With no easy answers.

Rumor: Raptors trying to trade up in draft for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
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The Raptors have major problems in the playoffs annually.

Is a coaching change enough to fix them?

Toronto already fired Dwane Casey and promoted assistant Nick Nurse after a highly successful regular season. Perhaps, major roster turnover could follow.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander projects to be a late lottery pick. The Raptors have no selections in this draft. So, acquiring one high enough to pick the Kentucky point guard would take plenty.

Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are stars. Toronto’s bench is stocked with solid young players. O.G. Anunoby is very promising.

So, the Raptors have pieces to move. The only question how much they’d package for a draft pick.

Toronto already has Lowry, Fred VanVleet and Delon Wright at point guard. But Lowry is 32, and VanVleet will be a restricted free agent this summer. If they really believe in Gilgeous-Alexander, the Raptors should try to get him.

All that said, this is the time of year rumors – both credible and not – fly. So, it’s worth remaining skeptical while still considering the validity of what reputable reporters like Stein convey.

Luka Doncic, Donte DiVincenzo, Jerome Robinson among NBA draft invitees

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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Of course DeAndre Ayton will attend Thursday’s NBA draft. The Suns will likely draft him No. 1 overall.

But what about more marginal first-round prospects?

The NBA’s draft invite list is an important tool in judging their stock. The league wants to avoid players sitting in agony until their names are called. So, the NBA works to invite only the prospects most likely to get picked high in the draft.

The full list of invited players (which the league notes is subject to change):

Luka Doncic will go high in the draft, and though how high is still uncertain, his inclusion on this list says nothing about his stock. It just speaks to whether we’ll see him Thursday night. His attendance will depend at least on when Real Madrid’s season ends, though the NBA is apparently confident enough to list him.

Jerome Robinson has climbed draft boards since the season ended. He must be impressing in workouts and interviews.

Donte DiVincenzo is a bit of a surprise selection, as he’s not widely viewed as a first-round lock. Perhaps, the league is looking to capitalize on his popularity stemming from a breakout NCAA tournament championship game.

This will only reinforce the idea Chandler Hutchinson received a promise. Otherwise, he’s a surprise invitee.

Among the top players not attending: Kevin Huerter (Maryland), Jacob Evans (Cincinnati), Troy Brown (Oregon) and Josh Okogie (Georgia Tech). Though they could go higher than players listed here, that says something about Huerter’s Evans’, Browns’ and Okogie’s stock, too.

Report: Rudy Gay opting out of Spurs contract

AP Photo/Nick Wass
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Kawhi Leonard reportedly wants to leave the Spurs, but he’s at their whims.

This doesn’t mean Rudy Gay will depart San Antonio, but he’s taking control of his future.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

Gay’s option-year salary was $8,826,300.

I doubt Gay, who turns 32 this summer, will draw such a high starting salary on his next contract – though I certainly wouldn’t rule it out. He could likely get a multi-year deal with a higher total value.

Or he could chase a ring elsewhere.

Remember, Gay gave up money to leave the Kings last summer. No matter how much the Leonard situation should make us rethink the Spurs’ culture, San Antonio probably isn’t “basketball hell.” Still, the Spurs clearly don’t look as appealing as they once did, and Gay has shown how much he values team quality.

Gay is coming off a nice season, and San Antonio might try to re-sign him. Danny Green has a $10 million player option for next season, which will swing whether the Spurs have the flexibility for a bigger move this summer.

Report: LeBron James’ camp likes Collin Sexton

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
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In 2014, LeBron James tweeted his fondness for Connecticut point guard Shabazz Napier. The Heat traded up to get Napier in the draft, but LeBron left for the Cavaliers that summer, anyway.

Could history repeat itself, this time in Cleveland?

LeBron has already talked up Oklahoma point guard Trae Young, but maybe LeBron and his camp want the Cavs to take a different point guard – Alabama’s Collin Sexton – with the No. 8 pick.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com, via Jordan Zirm of ESPN Cleveland:

The Cavaliers should take the best prospect available. Worrying about what LeBron might want makes a mistake only more likely.

LeBron might stay in Cleveland, but as 2014 showed, it won’t be because of a draft pick. If he stays, it very well could be by opting into the final year of his contract. His player-option salary ($35,607,968) is slightly higher than his projected max salary as a free agent (about $35.35 million). If LeBron opts in, the best chance of keeping him long-term is building a better team around him.

That means taking the best prospect at No. 8 or trading the pick for someone who can help LeBron win now. If the top prospect is Sexton, that’s fine. But the Cavs are fare more likely to appease LeBron by getting the pick right in the long run rather than choosing the prospect he wants now.