Why the Phoenix Suns must draft a slasher

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

In 2011, the Dallas Mavericks won the NBA championship despite having one of the least athletic guards running the point: Jason Kidd. However what Kidd had a knack for doing was breaking down a defense, in a similar fashion to much beloved Steve Nash, They may not have attacked the rim with the ferocity of someone like Russell Westbrook on James Harden would today, but they achieved similar results stretching defenses and causing headaches for opposition big men.

Today, there's no denying the Suns roster is scarce of talent. Goran Dragic was given the reins of the offense when he arrived from Houston, however to date has struggled to lead the team to any success offensively: ranking 29th in Offensive Efficiency Rating.

Despite ranking 9th in pace last year, the Suns didn't have the talent to take advantage of a fast tempo game. Goran at times showed glimpses of brilliance in transition, showing he is adept to a fast tempo game. However when you have the likes of Jared Dudley and Kendall Marshall running the break with you, it's hard to capitalize against more athletic players.

Successful NBA team offenses capitalize on two things: a) really good outside scoring or b) really good inside scoring.

Of the top 10 offenses you could probably generally group them as the following:

Inside scorers: Miami (contending), Oklahoma City (conference semis), Denver (1st round), San Antonio (contending)

Outside scorers: New York (conference semis), LA Clippers (first round), Houston (first round), Brooklyn (first round), Golden State (conference semis)

Neither: LA Lakers

Now I understand this is a HUGE generalization, what makes a team capable of winning a championship is a combination of excellent defense and an effective offense. However, throughout the playoffs we've seen outside scoring reliant offenses be quashed by good defenses. Of the teams that reached the conference finals (Memphis, San Antonio, Indiana and Miami), none of them relied on 3 point shooting. Memphis and Indiana both relied heavily on their defenses, but even then, they both respectively had good slashers in Paul George (with a cameo of Lance Stephenson) and Mike Conley. The less defensively reliant Heat and Spurs too have A-grade slashers in LBJ/Wade and Parker respectively.

Here's a comparison courtesy of of Goran against a few other slashing guards who play on successful teams.

Name % Shots taken in paint FG% in paint FTA per 100 possessions
Goran Dragic 35.76 59.26 6.3
Russell Westbrook 42.37 52.62 10.1
James Harden 43.98 54.08 12.8
Mike Conley 44.26 49.76 5.4
Tony Parker 50.40 59.68 7.6

This begs the question, why on earth isn't Goran finishing at the rim more? His FG% in the paint is as high as Parker's, yet Parker finishes at the rim almost 15% of the time more than him. Goran fairs well against the rest, except he just isn't getting to the rim enough.

That brings me to my point. If the Suns want to get back to their old ways, running an A-grade offense, they need a way to break down the defense. Players like Nash who broke down an offense with supreme court vision and IQ don't come around too often, so it's more important to emulate success in a similar fashion to the current teams: with a high quality slashing ability. By no means was Goran brought in to be the answer to this problem, so it comes down to trying to draft a player who fills the need.

The Suns have three picks in the upcoming draft, of those picks I'd expect two of them to be slashers and one long-term big man prospect. Courtesy of DraftExpress, here's a rundown of viable picks at each draft position:

Pick #5:

Player FTA per 40 minutes pace adjusted
C.J McCollum 7.8
Anthony Bennett 6.9
Victor Oladipo 5.0
Trey Burke 5.0

Thankfully, the picks here coincide with the general consensus of the Suns community. Burke and Dipo both are competent on the drive. McCollum may have benefited from playing weaker opposition, however still shows great skill attacking the basket. Bennett is an unusual player who attacks the basket like a guard but is too big to play as one, he may end up playing as a small forward in the NBA. But really, steer clear, if we want tweeners we can play SuperCoolBeas or Mook Morris. Actually, no thanks to that either.

Pick #30:

Player FTA per 40 minutes pace adjusted
Erick Green 8.7
Jamaal Franklin 8.1
Archie Goodwin 7.9
Nate Wolters 7.6

Archie Goodwin has been a popular pick at #30 lately, and it makes even more sense looking at his ability to get to the rim. Jamaal Franklin does it all and would be a great playmaker for the Suns, however may not drop to pick #30.

Pick #57:

Player FTA per 40 minutes pace adjusted
Nemanja Nedovic -
Pierre Jackson 7.4
Myck Kabongo 7.3
Brandon Paul 7.2
B.J Young 5.4

If Nedovic is still around at #57 we MUST snap him up. Not only is he arguably the most athletic guard in the draft, people are sleeping on his talent because he hasn't been extensively scouted while he plays overseas. My knowledge of the later picks here isn't great, but based on mock drafts if any of these players were to fall this low, they would be good value picks.


It would unfair to expect any of these picks to get the Suns any closer to a championship offense. However, the Suns offense would be taking a step in the right direction if any of these players were taken at their respective picks. The last thing we want to see next season as fans is a stagnant offense which is painful to watch and impeding the development of the younger players.

Despite McDonough's 'best player available' philosophy, it would be safe to assume the Suns will end up drafting at least one player who can attack the rim and help Dragic as a playmaker. Taking a high risk player like Goodwin at pick #30 could pay huge dividends in the long term so it shouldn't come as a surprise if the Suns take two guards in the first round. Keep in mind, McDonough was partially responsible for drafting both Rondo and Bradley.

So many hypotheticals... only time will tell how master McD will go about his business on draft night.

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