While clamoring over the latest Kevin Love rumors involving bucket hats may be the craze, or the potential of trading up for one of the three power forwards (Gordon, Randle, Vonleh), I still see myself vastly intrigued by the possibilities for the Suns at 14, 18, and 27 in the draft. Suns GM Ryan McDonough has been adamant about the the likelihood of them holding onto all three picks, but I still want to review at least 14 and 18. With that in mind, first let us spend a little space on the Suns needs.
A combo guard is the magic position right now. There are those scary reports about Eric Bledsoe’s knees and the fact that no one is really quite dead set on him resigning. That has anyone who can play the 1 or the 2 seem appealing. Also, Gerald Green’s contract will expire at the end of next season, and at the age of 29 by that time, Gerald will take his last big contract from whoever wants to give it to him. AKA, I think he’s gone in 2015.
To go further on Bledsoe, he has proved, at least to me, that he’s not a reliable option to run the point when Goran Dragic needs a rest. That makes a backup point guard a necessity as well. I love Ish Smith, but he’s a rich man’s 3rd string point guard at best.
A power forward wouldn’t be the worst idea, as Channing Frye really wore down towards the end of last season. This pick, like a backup point guard, is all based on value and fit.
Lastly, one more backup wing would suffice. I might get some shots here, but I don’t think Marcus Morris is that good of a basketball player. The Suns could use a better all around player (not just an isolation scorer) at the spot.
So with that in mind, who would be a good fit at 14 or 18?
Before I get started, here is a list of the guys I won’t cover because either there’s no chance they are available at 14/18, would not be good value considering what else is available, or would be too much of a reach. They are… Dario Saric, Doug McDermott, Tyler Ennis, Kristapas Porzingis, Jerami Grant, KJ McDaniels, TJ Warren, Jusuf Nurkic. Right. With that out of the way, lets get started.
Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan, 6’7
Stauskas is one of my favorite prospects in the draft. He’s got the quickest release in the draft and is the best shooter in the draft not named Doug. He’s very crafty and versatile when scoring, having the ability to create space for his jumper while also being able to attack the rim. Stauskas has a couple of things that make him different from your traditional shooting guard who can shoot. Stauskas can finish at the rim with athleticism, and while it isn’t superb, he can dunk on someone or get acrobatic with his finish when he wants to. Secondly, his handle is good enough for those attacks, and he showcased this even further by running a lot of point at Michigan last year. This is what has him skyrocketing from the mid first round to the mid lottery, as teams love versatility in combo guards.
For his fit as a Sun, Stauskas could be the Suns backup point next year and then fill in the Gerald Green spot when he leaves. He’s great value at 14 and fills two needs for the Suns. He’s the perfect pick.
Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State, 6’5
Harris is a lot more of a complete player than Stauskas. Harris is a good defender already, who moves great laterally and uses his very good motor to get where he needs to be. Offensively, he’s much more of a pure slasher who has added a midrange game to give himself a dual threat. His big question mark entering this season was shooting the three, and while he slumped this season, I still see him as a good shooter. His ball-handling also sees teams looking at him as a point guard, but the craftiness and savvy of Stauskas has him ahead of Harris in that regard in my opinion.
For the Suns, Harris would be a very good selection. Stauskas is a better offensive player now and will be in the future, but Harris gives you more all around in things like defense and rebounding. I don’t see Stauskas or Harris being available for the Suns at 14 however, so let’s start getting a little realistic.
Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State, 6’7
Early has an unfair label of a tweener. Tweeners are guys who can’t shoot and can’t post up. Early can do both. He proved against primetime competition like Kentucky with perhaps the performance of the NCAA Tournament that he could shoot threes and bang inside. Early is very tough inside, and always tries to be physical whenever he is in the key. He’s always been a good rebounder and uses his 40" max vertical to get to whatever ball he wants. He shot 37.5% from deep last season, and still continues to improve as a shooter. His only holes as a prospect are that his handle tends to struggle sometimes, particularly in attacking the basket from the perimeter. He is also already 23, but that doesn’t stop you from picking a good basketball player in my opinion.
For the Suns, he would be a fantastic heir to PJ Tucker. While he’s not quite there defensively yet, Early could learn fast from Tucker and bring his offensive strengths along with his physicality inside.
Zach LaVine, PG/SG, UCLA, 6’6
Every team that is not completely filled up at either guard position is salivating at LaVine. LaVine has some of the best athleticism in the draft, combining some blistering speed with some crazy hops. The part of his game that adds more is his shooting stroke, as he has a really pretty jumper that you could see turning into something. Unfortunately for LaVine and those watching him, he was an absolute mess in the second half of the season and really struggled with the limited playing time. He has little to no idea on how to run an offense, tries to do too much all the time, and still only weighs 180 pounds. LaVine is a project, but his athleticism and jumper has teams willing to be patient.
LaVine is not a good fit for the Suns. While he’s not on the tier of LaVine, Archie Goodwin is a project combo guard the Suns are already working on. Those saying that LaVine could come into the Suns and help right away with his shooting are insane, as he’s got a loooooong way to go before he contributes positively to an NBA basketball team. He’d be great to hand the keys to if I was a lottery bound team, but the Suns want to make the playoffs next year, and LaVine is not a great fit for that.
James Young, SF/SG, Kentucky, 6’8
Young has had his draft stock damaged by his year at Kentucky. The Harrison twins were not a good fit for the type of player he is, and piling on top of that was a player like Julius Randle who needs the ball often. Young has a great future in the NBA as a role player, but you need to get him the ball every now and then like any other offensive basketball player on the planet, and Kentucky struggled to do that consistently. Young is a great scorer, who possesses that craftiness that apparently every lefty has. He’s a great finisher who understands how to get to the foul line. His shooting was off this season, but once again, he rarely was able to touch the ball to get in rhythm. I see him as a knockdown shooter from three at the next level. Young has a good motor that has him in the right spots on the floor when he needs to be. His biggest flaw is as a defender, but it’s mostly due to bad form and failure of recognition. That’s something that NBA coaches can help reduce over time, and I think Young will be just fine after a year or two of development.
For the Suns, Young could be that extra bit of offense they need while being a backup wing and a potential piece at that Gerald Green spot. I like him at 14 and love him at 18.
PJ Hairston, SG, Formerly of the University of North Carolina and now the D-League’s Finest, 6’5
Hairston has stuck around the mid first round due to the allure of combo guards like Stauskas and Harris moving ahead of him over the course of last season. Hairston is a lights out shooter. He is so good at finding open spots on the floor (a la Danny Green) in either transition or the half court to get open for the catch and shoot. Hairston’s biggest strength besides that is his strength. At 230 pounds, Hairston is a bully with his defenders and takes his bumps all the way to the rim. He embraces physical contact around the floor knowing that he will come out on the better end of it. It’s always refreshing to see a guy with a physical mismatch always take advantage of it. Hairston is strictly limited beyond that though, as he still needs to develop other facets of his game like his handle or scoring elsewhere besides the perimeter or the rim.
Hairston is a great fit for the Suns. He is a little too similar to guys like Stauskas, Harris, and Young, so that limits his chances of being selected at 18 if one of those guys is picked at 14. If there is a worst case scenario and all three of those guys are gone by 14, something like Hairston at 14 and Early at 18 would be just fine.
Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State, 6’10
One of the most popular prospects for the Suns, Payne’s ability as a stretch 4 seems all too easy of a selection. Payne was strictly an athletic banger inside as a good defender and rebounder before this season, but Payne showed off a brand new stroke from three with great efficiency. Payne shot 38% from three last season for the Spartans, which surprised the hell out of everyone. His movement as a big has always impressed me, as he’s not clunky or slow in his pace up and down the floor. His problems lie in him already being 23, and a player like that of his size cannot be entering the NBA at only 240 pounds. Panye needs to put on weight and muscle fast while not sacrificing that surprising athleticism.
As for the Suns, Payne looks like a great replacement for Channing Frye. The problem there is that the Suns already have this guy named Markieff Morris. With the other needs that are present and available at 14 and 18, I don’t see Payne as a viable selection. The Suns are also lacking another banger inside, and I feel that I’d rather get that in free agency than another stretch 4. If only Montrezl was available….. See you next year with that Lakers pick buddy.
Rodney Hood, SG, Duke, 6’9
I’ll get this out of the way fast, I don’t like Hood as a prospect. He can really shoot the ball, and has that wit to him in being a lefty scorer. His size at the position is appealing as well, especially for a shooter, which means he can get his shot off whenever he wants. However, the list of negatives for Hood’s game is too long for me to take kindly to him. He doesn’t rebound at all despite his height, he might be the worst defender in this draft, and he only weighs 210 pounds for someone who is 6’9. He might turn out to be a good NBA player, but those negatives make me think it will take a while. No thanks.
Well there you have it. My dream scenario out of all those guys is Stauskas at 14 and Early at 18. What’s yours? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading.