2018 NBA Draft trade rumors: Suns could explore Kawhi Leonard deal using their No. 1 pick

By most accounts, the Phoenix Suns are prepared to select Arizona big man Deandre Ayton with the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft on Thursday -- that is, if they make the pick at all.

With the recent reports that Kawhi Leonard wants to leave the San Antonio Spurs, the Suns are apparently throwing their hat in the ring, and could use the No. 1 pick in a potential deal. From The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor:

Several league sources told me they anticipate Suns general manager Ryan McDonough to probe a Leonard deal using the no. 1 pick. Phoenix explored Irving trades last summer but was reluctant to deal Josh Jackson, whom they selected with the fourth overall pick. Leonard is better than Irving, so perhaps it's time for the Suns to strike now, when they're armed with assets and an opportunity to trade for a transcendent player. There's also a sense from league sources that the Suns presumed selection of Arizona big man Deandre Ayton at no. 1 isn't a guarantee because of the outside possibility that they'll get a good enough deal to trade down or out of the draft entirely. Now that Leonard reportedly wants out, anything is possible.

Winning the lottery was a big deal for the Suns, who have never selected first in the history of the franchise, but there isn't a surefire top pick like Anthony Davis or LeBron James out there. Ayton is the consensus top player, but there are questions about his defensive ability and his fit in the modern NBA given the recent massive shift toward smaller lineups and defensive switching.

The Suns have won fewer than 25 games in each of the past three seasons and haven't made the playoffs since 2010, so acquiring Leonard would considerably accelerate their journey back to relevance. Pairing Leonard with rising star Devin Booker would give Phoenix a solid one-two punch under new head coach Igor Kokoskov, and could do wonders for the team's ability to bring in free agents this offseason.

The Suns would likely have to attach another young player like Josh Jackson or Dragan Bender in the deal, and the Spurs would likely have to take on Tyson Chandler, Jared Dudley or Brandon Knight to make the salaries match up. Plus there's always the chance that Leonard simply refuses to play for Phoenix, given his reported desire to go to Los Angeles.

It's probably a long shot, but it makes sense for the Suns to explore all options with the No. 1 pick heading into Thursday's draft.

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