Let me start this by saying it is still very early in the process of scouting potential prospects to know who will be available, and where they are likely to be picked. However, players in the NCAA have been making an impression on scouts and analysts all season long, and are now beginning to establish their reputations and potentially raising or lowering their draft stock accordingly.
In addition, it is still too early to know where teams will fall in the draft order...and there are at least two teams who the Suns will be watching very closely as we get closer to the end of the season. Those are the picks I'm going to be focusing on today...The top-13 protected pick of the Minnesota Timberwolves, and the top-12 protected pick of the Washington Wizards.
As it stands, and as Kris Habbas mentioned in his Center of the Sun post earlier today, the Timberwolves are currently sitting on the 13th spot...so their pick would not go to the Suns at the moment. However, they only need to improve by one spot for the Suns to get their pick, which is more than possible in the tightly contested West. However, the Washington Wizards are currently at the 18th spot, and their pick is top 12 protected, which means that right now, the Suns would get it.
This draft is loaded, no doubt, but it is really strong on wings. So, for the first installment of this insanely early draft preview, that is the group we will focus on. All of the players listed below could be possibilities somewhere between 14-20, where the Suns could have one or two picks in the coming draft.
Four Wings To Watch
In alphabetical order:
Jerami Grant, SF, Syracuse
Height: 6'9" Weight: 215 Age: 19
Grant is one of the most unique prospects in this coming draft, in my opinion. With a 7'2" wingspan and great athleticism, he has already shown the ability to be a very good defender. Although his offense is still a work in progress, he has done a tremendous job in improving his jump shot since last season. Still, most of his work is done around the rim offensively, where he is able to get offensive rebounds and does a good job of finishing at the rim.
He will need to continue working on his offensive game, but if he can continue improving...watch out. The Suns' new system is all about speed, hustle, and athleticism...and Grant has all of that and then some. The only thing he lacks right now is shooting, specifically his lack of range from the three. However, his length, defense, and athleticism would make him a very intriguing prospect for the Suns to invest in for the future.
Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
Height: 6'8" Weight: 201 Age: 21
Rodney Hood is one of the higher targets on this list, who has been mocked as high as the top 10 by some analysts. What Jerami Grant lacks in shooting, Rodney Hood gives you, and then some. While Jabari Parker is the face of the Blue Devils this season, Rodney Hood is the engine that drives them.
Hood is a Sophomore transfer who played his freshman season at Mississippi St. before sitting out last season, and transferring to Duke this year. He has always been a deadly catch-and-shoot jump-shooter, but this year has shown the ability to be a threat offensively in every way. He has developed a silky-smooth game to go along with his lights-out shooting, and is an underrated athlete as well with his quickness, speed, and agility. He has also become one of the leaders of the Blue Devils as well.
The only knock on Hood is that he is already 21 years old, but he would be an incredible value if he were still available when the Suns make their first selection.
Zach LaVine, PG/SG, UCLA
Height: 6'5" Weight: 180 Age: 18
LaVine is a fast, super athletic wing who is still developing his game. He reminds me of a shorter version of Gerald Green, with a better handle. LaVine has all of the makings of a blue chip combo guard, who is still working on his game and improving regularly. Because of this, his stock has been rising dramatically. Once considered a possible 2nd round pick, LaVine's mock draft position is all over the place now, from a lottery pick to a late first round. I think he has the best chance of all the prospects on this list to rise the most by the time the draft comes around...think Oladipo last season.
As such, I think the Suns will be lucky if LaVine is still on the board when they make their first pick, but stranger things have happened. Although the Suns drafted a similar type of player last year in Archie Goodwin, LaVine certainly fits the bill of what the Suns are looking for in their players, and would be tough to pass on if he were available.
By the way, I went with actual game footage rather than his pre-college dunk highlights because they are more representative of what he can do on the court. But those dunks are pretty impressive, and show his ability as an athlete...you can watch that footage here.
James Young, SG/SF, Kentucky
Height: 6'7" Weight: 202 Age: 18
James Young is a promising prospect with a lot of talent. Although fellow Wildcat Julius Randle is receiving the bulk of the attention in Kentucky, and for good reason, Young is also making a name for himself as another freshman to keep a close eye on.
In my opinion, Young is one of the more underrated prospects this year, maybe because he isn't as flashy as many of the other names, he just gets it done. Young is a player who does a little bit of everything from the small forward position. He's a good rebounder and passer...but really stands out for his defense and scoring ability.
Young is still improving his range and is not a consistent three-point shooter yet, but his shot from inside the arc seem pretty good, so that may be on the horizon. He is the second leading scorer this season for Kentucky, just under Randle, and is doing it in a multitude of ways. As good as he is, Young is still figuring it all out as a young (no pun intended) freshman, and could be one of the best values if he makes it to the middle of the first round this year.
But wait, there's more!
This list doesn't even begin to cover all of the wings, let alone the many players from the other position groups, that Phoenix will be choosing from with as many as four first-round draft picks this year. So if your favorite player for the Suns to draft with their first pick hasn't been covered yet, don't worry, he will be.
This is just the start of what will be a semi-regular feature here on BSOTS with plenty of time remaining between now and the draft. We'll look at many other players and positions in the near future.