It would be an understatement to say this season was a disappointment. By August there was genuine excitement for what the newly signed Goran Dragic could do on his return trip from Houston. Many had the Suns sitting in the early 20's of pre-season power rankings. But nobody knew what this team could do. How would Goran work with Marcin Gortat in the PnR? Would Dudley take his game to another level? Would the high risk signing of $6 million man Michael Beasley pay off?
Fast forward to now and things are pretty bad. Except, well, we have the most promising young GM in the league and a competent President of Basketball Operations to help him out. Ryan McDonough was brought in as a talent scout, and that is exactly what we expect to see from him. Something the Suns have failed to find- talent.
So what will pick 5 and pick 30 do to get the Suns back on track? This year's draft has been noted for its depth, but more importantly its lack of star talent. For the Suns, this is good news: the best player in the draft may drop to our pick at 5, or even 30. Here's how I see it all falling into place.
Top 10 with explanations
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Nerlens Noel
With the first pick in the 2013 NBA draft, The Cleveland Cavaliers select......Nerlens Noel. Really there shouldn't be any surprises here. Some have Otto Porter finding his way to the Cavs but I just don't see it. The team needs a star talent to pair with Kyrie. Otto Porter is a self-proclaimed 'glue-guy'- sure, great if you're a contending team, but not when you're trying to develop a strong talent pool. Noel has immense shot-blocking capabilities and is so raw no-one really knows what his ceiling is.
2. Orlando Magic: Trey Burke
Orlando did deceptively well this season. Not only did they acquire the highest lottery chance, they essentially received Harris and Lamb for J.J Redick. Their talent is on the up, yet they still lack majorly at the point. Burke would be a perfect fit to contend with Jameer Nelson for minutes- and most likely either take the starting job through his performances or an injury to Jameer. Last season he improved across the board on all key stats- showing there remains a great deal of potential for him to develop into a star talent in the league and lead the Magic to the playoffs. Expect him to dominate the pre-draft workouts and climb up the draft boards.
3. Washington Wizards: Ben McLemore
The Wiz drafted Beal last season so you're probably asking why the heck McLemore is here at pick 3? Beal and McLemore played together for the St. Louis Eagles in the AAU. McLemore's game isn't one that develops directly into that of the NBA, so there'd definitely be some time for him to settle in. Whilst Beal is getting the starting minutes, McLemore can provide valuable bench minutes as he figures out his own game. Personally, I don't see his game translating well to the NBA- he has too many things he does pretty well and only one NBA ready asset: his athleticism. Time will tell if he can put it together.
4. Charlotte Hornets: Anthony Bennett
Charlotte have two options: go with the safer pick of Porter or try and find some shooting, something they desperately lack. Bennett can play offensively, there is no doubting that. He does sit in the tweener range standing at 6'7", however his 7'1" wingspan more than makes up for this. He has said himself he would like to develop the game of a wing, which is a possibility seeing as he is currently a forward who gets all of his points playing a guard's game. Charlotte are begging for an offensive threat to ease the pressure on Kemba Walker. Bennett may end up being this, or he may go down the road of every other talent acquisition of the
Bobcats Hornets. Who knows, new name, new luck?
5. Phoenix Suns: C.J McCollum
WHAT. NOT OLADIPO? ARE YOU CRAZY? I love Dipo, he's an awesome, gritty player who has a niche for defense. However, the Suns lack both ends of the floor, not only defensively. C.J is the leading scorer in the country per 40 and is a natural basketballer. Posting a 35.2 PER puts him in the top 3 of the entire draft class (with the highest usage rate too). His ability to be an offensive threat would ease the pressure on Dragic which, ultimately would allow for him to play a more natural game. All is not lost on the defensive end either. He is a great rebounder and plays with a high intensity defensively. Where he lacks is with athletic ability, standing only 6'3" in shoes and not having great foot speed. Yet the ceiling is just too high with McCollum to ignore what McDragic backcourt could do to improve the Suns offense from a measly 28th ranking in offensive efficiency.
The pool of players who wouldn't be bad picks at #5 (in order of preference after McCollum):
- Victor Oladipo
- Alex Len
- Trey Burke
- Otto Porter
6. New Orleans Pelicans: Alex Len
Len fits perfectly at the Hornets. Unlike Davis, he is a true 7-footer with a very polished game for a 19 year-old. He has set the benchmark for himself too: predicting he will be the best player out of the draft in 10 years. Don't put it past him, everything is there: timing, athletic ability, touch around the rim. Stress fractures are a scary business however, especially in big men.
7. ;Sacramento Kings: Otto Porter
The Kings would be ecstatic with Porter falling this low. He would get heavy minutes and plays the game the Kings crave. His defense will be valued by the second worst team defensively (the Kings actually ranked 13th offensively last season). Otto also brings maturity to the team, which unfortunately isn't a strong-point of a team lead by DeMarcus Cousins.
8. Detroit Pistons: Victor Oladipo
High character ☑, strong work ethic ☑, great defender ☑. Joe Dumars would be in heaven if he could secure Oladipo at #8. Right now, Oladipo's offensive game is unpolished to say the least. However he shot the ball with great efficiency from inside and out so there remains plenty of room to become a bigger threat. Low risk pick, especially considering his size and defense translate very well to the NBA.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: Shabazz Muhammad
Well, Brandon Roy didn't work out so the Wolves have a void on the wing. Bazz fills the need with his offensive game, something that was highlighted when Kevin Love went in for surgery, putting a greater load on Ricky Rubio, Andrei Kirilenko and Nikola Pekovic to perform offensively. Once projected as a top 5 prospect solely based on this scoring ability, however his lack of athleticism and questionable team-play have sent his stocks into free-fall.
10. Portland Trailblazers: Cody Zeller
Cody Zeller comes in as a bit of a darkhorse in this draft. After testing well at the combine, scouts still struggle to know how highly to rate him. At the moment he sits mid-lotto, but that will only go up in the weeks to come granted he stays healthy. As a true 7 footer, he provides depth in the front court to a team who gave Jared Jeffries 9 MPG last season. Yeah, they need to improve there. Zeller's well rounded game in the post and high IQ would serve him well alongside a player like LeMarcus Aldridge
The rest of the first round
11. Philadelphia 76ers: Rudy Gobert
12. Oklahoma City Thunder: Mason Plumlee
13. Dallas Mavericks: Dennis Schroder
14. Utah Jazz: Michael Carter-Williams
15. Milwaukee Bucks: Sergey Karasev
16. Boston Celtics: Kelly Olynyk
17. Atlanta Hawks: Steven Adams
18. Atlanta Hawks: Dario Saric
19. Cleveland Cavaliers: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
20. Chicago Bulls: Gorgui Dieng
21. Utah Jazz: Giannis Adetokunbo
22. Brooklyn Nets: Jeff Withey
23. Indiana Pacers: Allen Crabbe
24. New York Knicks: Jamaal Franklin
26. Minnesota Timberwolves: Shane Larkin
27. Denver Nuggets: Ray McCallum
28. San Antonio Spurs: Ricky Ledo
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Tim Hardaway Jr.
30. Phoenix Suns: Mouhammadou Jaiteh
The international prospects in this year's draft are flying under the radar. Mam Jaiteh brings a great work ethic, something high on McDonough's list. His excellent motor in combination with his 6'11" frame with a 7'4" wingspan leave him with a huge upside, especially considering he is only 18. Mam is still exceptionally raw and would be a longer term prospect, so the Suns shouldn't be expecting any production in the early days.
Other strong options at pick 30:
- Ricky Ledo
- Archie Goodwin
- Reggie Bullock
The Suns at pick 57
57. Phoenix Suns: B.J Young
B.J Young is another low flyer in this class. His shortcomings come in his intensity, however there is nothing to suggest this can't change. While he didn't test in the athletic component of the Draft Combine, which would have undoubtedly boosted his stocks, it is widely known the Young is a serious athlete. He is one of the best transition scorers in the class and gets to the rim with ease. As the Suns are in desperate need of a slasher, Young may provide some handy bench minutes if he gets an opportunity for the team.
Players to look at if still unpicked:
- Nemanja Nedovic
- Peyton Siva
- Solomon Hill
- Brandon Davies
Summary of needs
It is safe to say when McDonough says he'll be drafting the "best available player" he will in fact be looking for the most talented player. This is judged not only on upside, but the player's current skill set and how these skills translate to the NBA. The Suns' talent pool is in a bad place, so stockpiling talent will without doubt come before any other step in the rebuilding process. This too, could involve trading for picks. However once again, the lack of talent = a lack of trade assets.
If the Suns were to trade someone like Gortat to get another mid-lotto pick, it would only help the cause. At this stage, nobody is safe. There remains no star talent on the team. Even if the Suns acquired a contract like Kendrick Perkins, it does nothing to hurt the rebuilding process. As long as through it all McDonough continues to draft the best potential star talent rather than catering for the team's most immediate needs, the road back to success won't be as a rough as it was when Blanks was GM.
At least that's what we're hoping.