During the lead-up to the NBA draft, most of the attention will be on the lottery picks, and deservedly so. However, there is talent to be found later in the draft, and even after it ends. Several successful NBA players have started as undrafted free agents or late picks, including the Suns’ own Raja Bell and Goran Dragic. As draft season heats up, I will try to uncover and analyze some overlooked and underrated players who could make an impact late in the draft, or even those who won’t hear their name called on June 26
Height (with/without shoes): 6’ 8.75", 6’ 9.75"
Weight: 252 lbs.
Wingspan: 7’ 0.75"
Standing Reach: 8’ 11"
Max Vertical: 33.5 inches
Lane Agility Drill: 11.39 seconds
Three-Quarter Sprint: 3.37 seconds
Senior Year Stats:
MPG- 32.9, PPG- 20.4, FG%- 55.6, RPG- 7.4, APG- 1.6, BPG- 1.5
FG%- 55.6, FT%- 73.5
Intensity and Strength
Simply put, Bairstow is a country-strong forward who has the body to bang inside with NBA-sized forwards in the NBA. He is a hustler on and off the court, having been known to squeeze in a quick weightlifting session after games while still in his uniform before he talks to the press. As a teenager growing up in Brisbane, Australia, the only offers he had to play college basketball were at CSU Bakersfield and UNM. While at UNM, he drew rave reviews from the coaching staff and his teammates as an extremely hard worker, and built himself up to the 20.4 points per game he averaged as a senior. Say what you will about Cameron Bairstow, but at the end of the day, there’s a place in the NBA for someone who’s willing to outwork everyone else.
One of the biggest knocks on Bairstow going into the draft is his lack of athleticism, but he helped to assuage some of those fears at the NBA combine, where he held his own in the athletic testing drills. His vertical leaps did rank near the bottom for the PF-C group, but his agility and sprinting drills compared favorably to the rest of the big men, meaning he wouldn’t have a problem getting up and down the court in the Suns’ style of offense.
Bairstow’s offense is what stands out about him as a prospect. As a senior, he was able to put up 20.4 points per game at a very efficient 55.6% clip. He has a variety of moves that he uses to score in the post, including jump hooks with either hand, and an arsenal of fakes. Where I see Bairstow making his money in the NBA however, is the midrange game. He has a very reliable, although ugly, midrange jump shot that he can spot up with or take off the dribble. His ball-handling, while not stellar, is efficient enough to allow him to get to his spots and make the easy jumpers.
On the perimeter, Bairstow’s big body allows him to be an effective screener, and his jumpshooting ability makes him a threat in the pick-and-pop game. While he only attempted three three-point shots his entire senior career, his decent free throw stroke and the fact that he drained 15 of 25 NBA distance threes at the combine hint at the fact that he could be a floor-spacing stretch four.
Defensively, Bairstow is not afraid to put a body on anyone, and would provide a toughness and energy for the Suns on the interior for as long as he is on the court. His motor and intensity would serve to help mask his less-than-ideal height for an interior player. Although he played in the Mountain West and not an elite conference, he did put up a respectable 1.5 blocks per game.
Something I found interesting: Dwight Powell is a player who recently impressed at a Suns workout and has been mocked to go in the mid-second round. Let’s take a look at the stats from Stanford and New Mexico’s meeting in the NCAA tournament. Bairstow led all scorers with 24 points on 10 for 18 shooting, although it was not enough to keep his team from defeat. His counterpart, Powell? He scored a whopping three points on a 0 for 8 shooting performance. Yes, it was just one game, but it was arguably the most important game of Bairstow’s career, and he thrived under pressure against a likely draft pick.
Overall, Bairstow is a below the rim player, and on the surface, he doesn’t fit the mold of a typical Suns big man. But one thing that I feel is missing is a sense of toughness and strength on the interior. No, Bairstow isn’t a rim protector, and I feel the Suns must to look elsewhere if they wish to fill that hole. But Bairstow’s motor, strength and intensity would pair nicely in the paint with the athleticism of Len and Plumlee.