NBA Draft And The Phoenix Suns: Risers, Fallers, and Promises

Mar 25, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; Kansas Jayhawks guard Tyshawn Taylor (10) shoots as North Carolina Tar Heels forward Harrison Barnes (40), forward Tyler Zeller (right) and forward John Henson (rear) defend during the second half of the finals of the midwest region of the 2012 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Edward Jones Dome. Kansas won 80-67. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE

The 2012 NBA Draft appears to be as fluid as a river at this point. Many teams are looking to move their picks, either up, down or completely out of the draft. Teams in the top half of the first round see a lot of talent but also a lot of parity. With the new CBA and punitive luxury tax penalties on the horizon, teams in the bottom half of the first round are reportedly willing to get out of those 4-year guaranteed commitments. So far, everyone's a seller but few rumors include an actual buyer.

In the lottery alone, two teams have two picks apiece (Portland and New Orleans). The Charlotte Bobcats are feeling the sting of being one slot too low for a sure-first NBA superstar, and are shopping the #2 pick to the highest bidder. The problem is that the talent in the 2-6 slots, while all over the court in terms of positions represented, is roughly equal.

C Andre Drummond, PF Thomas Robinson, SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF Harrison Barnes and SG Bradley Beal are great talents but not surefire all-stars. Even slightly lesser talented guys like Jeremy Lamb are in the mix with them. So it's no wonder teams are willing to move around.

Take a look at all the talk, and see how it could affect the Phoenix Suns' draft plans...

Picks being made available for trade, via the rumor mill:

  • Charlotte willing to shop the #2 pick for veteran NBA star talent, or at least move down for more picks
  • Cleveland, which already picked a PG and PF last year in the top 4, are reportedly shopping the #4 pick (to Portland for the #6 and #11?) to move down a touch. New Orleans is open to trading the #10 pick to anyone who can absorb a bad contract in return (NOT the Suns - they are still over the cap until after July 1).
  • Portland is willing to discuss moving the #6 and #11 if they can get a higher first-round pick (Cleveland or Charlotte)
  • Toronto is willing to part with the #8 pick for dynamic, veteran small forward (ie. Rudy Gay)
  • New Orleans is willing to part with the #10 pick for a trade package that includes ridding themselves of a bad contract (again, the Suns cannot help them before/during the draft)
That's 6 of the first 11 picks already up for grabs, and it's only June 10. Yet the Suns just went on record last week promising to stay at the #13 draft position.

Then this weekend, despite all the teams looking to move their picks, separate rumors popped up that Dion Waiters and Austin Rivers had been made draft promises to be taken somewhere in the first 14 picks. Waiters' promise was so strong that he reportedly cancelled all future workouts with prospective teams.

For both players, speculation remains that the Suns - very openly in need of a scoring guard who can get his own shot against any competition - made one of those promises.

What does all this mean to the Suns?

Well, this is the time when draftniks in scouting departments become the loudest voices in the room. They make projections using analytic and eyeballs, and swear up and down to their boss that 'prospect X' is a better NBA player than 'prospect Y'.

The NBA scouting combine gave us even more to chew on. When you're on the fence about two similar players, you usually err on the side of size and take the bigger player.

Big men measured out extremely well, prompting talk that outside-the-lottery guys like Myers Leonard and John Henson might be rising into the lottery. Add in unexpected promises to outside-the-lottery Dion Waiters and lottery-bubble-guy Austin Rivers, a pair of high scoring guards, and you've got the makings of at least one talented, consensus top-12 player falling inexplicably on draft night.

Who is likely to fall? Guys without hype, who were picked all along in the top 10 or top 15 but lack a skill that makes scouts question their NBA star viability.

Most likely to fall to the Suns' 13th pick range:
  1. Kendall Marshall - he's always been somewhere in the teens, I know, but there were whispers of top 10 as recently as a couple weeks ago. Marshall is the best passing PG to come out of college in many years. Yet when it comes to measurables, Marshall comes up short in the athleticism and defense categories, and he can't make an open midrange jump shot or get to the rim. His upside is Andre Miller, and downside is Jose Calderon. Yet if he adds a great jumpshot and figures out team defense, he looks a lot like Steve Nash. That's a pretty darn good player. Yet he's likely to fall on draft night.
  2. Jeremy Lamb - long considered the second-best of the shooting guard lot, behind Beal, all of a sudden Lamb looks like he might fall. Promises to lower-projected talents in Waiters and Rivers make you wonder how 4 shooting guards can possibly be picked in the first 12 picks of a big-man heavy draft. Lamb's problem is that he looks like he's just floating along too often and settles for contested jumpers, but his defense and shooting touch are the best of the lot behind Beal.
  3. Perry Jones III - one of the most athletically talented guys in the draft, Jones is carrying the "lazy" label, a la Earl Clark of a few years ago. Jones has multi-time all-star talent, but a lower-tier personality. I don't see the Suns taking Jones, simply because they just had Clark.
  4. Harrison Barnes - sounds like blasphemy, but Barnes played worse than expected last season and despite his perfect build and skillset to be a star at small forward in the NBA, he is old news and scouts have now had a year to pick him apart and dig out his warts.
  5. Tyler Zeller - when was the last time a highly-skilled C like this dropped in the draft? Unfortunately for Zeller, he's known more for his offense than anything else and he's not as athletically skilled as his brethren. Leonard has a bigger buzz right now, as does other competition. But wouldn't he look good as a cheaper backup to Gortat than Lopez will be next year (or in place of Lopez, if he leaves)?
  6. Terrence Ross - He was always a bubble pick in the Suns range, but his recent measurements and workouts have had him reportedly climbing. But if Waiters and Rivers were already promised lottery spots, Ross has suddenly dropped to fifth on the shooting guard list behind Beal, Lamb and those two. It is almost certain that Ross (a Nick Young, Eddie Jones type of player) will be available. No way 5 shooting guards are taken in the top 13 picks, and no way Ross gets drafted ahead of Lamb. The question is whether the Suns prefer aggressive attackers who can be your go-to offensive guy (Waiters/Rivers) or jump shooters who work hard on defense (Lamb/Ross).
Seeing as how the draft is so fluid, and guys come and go in the spotlight, it's pretty certain at least one of the above will unexpectedly be available to the Suns at #13 along with their prize shooting guard of choice.

Do you still honor your promise and/or fill your biggest need over a guy who is dropping unexpectedly?

Which of them would you choose?
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