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Phoenix Suns NBA Draft Series: The Dark Horses

Could Moe Harkless be the right fit for the Suns?
Could Moe Harkless be the right fit for the Suns?

With the NBA Draft fast approaching on June 28, we at Bright Side of the Sun want to cover all the bases regarding the possible players who the Suns could draft.

Depending on the decisions the Suns make in free agency this season, nearly every position could be considered an area of need.

We have spent a lot of time covering the more popular draft choices who the Suns could draft at #13, such as: Kendall Marshall, Terrence Ross, Dion Waiters, Jeremy Lamb, John Henson, etc...but what about some of the lesser known prospects who could still end up wearing the purple and orange as well?.

Of all the possible draftees, I selected four additional players who have all worked out with the Suns this summer and who could be on Phoenix's radar come Thursday night.

Meet the dark horses of the Suns' draft: Fab Melo, Andrew Micholson, Meyers Leonard, and Moe Harkless.

Continue reading after the jump for a breakdown of these less talked about prospects.

Fabricio (Fab) Melo, C, Syracuse: Melo is a 7'0" sophomore center from Syracuse known for his strength and physical play along with his long wingspan, shot blocking, and post defense. The Brazilian native is still very raw offensively, and he has also had some conditioning issues over his two seasons at Syracuse...especially in his freshman year. However, his size and raw physical ability make him a sought after prospect in this draft and could be an option for a team looking for a mid to late first round project who could become a force at the next level

Here are his stats from Syracuse over the last two seasons:

Basic Statistics

Year Min Pts FG FGA FG% 2Pt 2PtA 2P% 3Pt 3PtA 3P% FTM FTA FT% Off Def TOT Asts Stls Blks TOs PFs
2010/11 9.9 2.3 1.0 1.7 60.7 1.0 1.7 60.7 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.8 36.0 0.7 1.3 1.9 0.2 0.3 0.8 0.8 1.8
2011/12 25.4 7.8 3.3 5.8 56.6 3.3 5.8 56.6 0.0 0.0 1.3 2.0 63.3 2.7 3.2 5.8 0.7 0.5 2.9 1.4 2.8

As you can tell from his stats, there is nothing Melo does exceptionally well, beyond his shot blocking ability. He is an average rebounder and a pretty good defender, but he is still developing offensively and his understanding of the game and basketball I'Q. still has a way to go.

Although they did bring him in fgor a workout, I don't believe the Suns will have much interest in Melo unless he drops significantly to the late first round and the right opportunity comes along to acquire a pick.

Andrew Nicholson, PF, St. Bonaventure: Nicholson is a 6'10" senior power forward from St. Bonaventure known for his great defense and his rebounding/shot blocking. Nicholson has a tremendously long wingspan measuring in at 7'4" and huge hands. He uses both of these physical attributes well in his game to block and grab rebounds by the bunches. Although he is mainly known for his defense and rebounding, he is also a skilled offensive player as well. He shoots the ball very well for his size and has three point range as well. Still, he also scores effectively in and around the paint and loves to dunk the ball when given the opportunity.

Here are his stats from his four years at St. Bonaventure:

Basic Statistics

Year Min Pts FG FGA FG% 2Pt 2PtA 2P% 3Pt 3PtA 3P% FTM FTA FT% Off Def TOT Asts Stls Blks TOs PFs
2008/09 25.1 12.5 5.1 8.5 60.2 5.1 8.5 60.2 0.0 0.0 2.3 3.7 61.3 2.1 3.9 6.0 0.2 0.6 2.7 2.1 3.3
2009/10 30.2 16.4 6.6 11.7 56.4 6.6 11.7 56.4 0.0 0.0 3.2 4.2 76.0 2.4 4.7 7.1 0.5 0.2 1.8 1.8 3.0
2010/11 33.8 20.8 7.6 13.4 57.1 7.5 12.6 58.9 0.2 0.7 26.1 5.3 7.5 71.1 1.7 5.6 7.3 1.0 0.5 1.5 3.2 3.0
2011/12 30.1 18.5 6.9 12.0 57.1 6.2 10.4 59.3 0.7 1.7 43.4 4.0 5.2 77.6 2.6 5.8 8.4 1.0 0.7 2.0 2.5 2.8

You can see that he seemed to peak in his offensive production his junior year and maintained that efficiency in his senior season. The one area he improved at offensively was his three point shooting where he shot an impressive 43% last season...pretty good for a guy known mostly for his defense and interior scoring.

With his size, his stats, and his all-around production on the court, some of you may be asking why he isn't ranked higher as a prospect. I think it has a lot to do with his school. Although the Atlantic 10 isn't known as a heavyweight conference, he played against schools like Xavier and Temple on a regular basis and also put up good numbers against teams like Syracuse, Florida St., Ole Miss, and Illinois during his time at St. Bonaventure as well.

While Nicholson was considered a draft sleeper early on, he has been rising in the mock drafts recently after several impressive workouts. He is now being considered as a mid first round pick and possibly a late lottery prospect as well.

Meyers Leonard, C, Illinois: Leonard is a 7'1" sophomore center from Illinois known for his impressive physique and athleticism to go along with his size. Meyers Leonard has a ton of potential to blossom into a dominant center at the next level. He has a 7'3" reach to go along with his quickness, strength, athleticism and agility...and is easily the most overall physically impressive prospect in the draft.

Here are his stats from his two seasons at Illinois:

Basic Statistics

Year Min Pts FG FGA FG% 2Pt 2PtA 2P% 3Pt 3PtA 3P% FTM FTA FT% Off Def TOT Asts Stls Blks TOs PFs
2010/11 8.2 2.1 0.8 1.8 48.3 0.8 1.7 49.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.4 0.5 70.6 0.3 0.9 1.2 0.2 0.2 0.4 0.8 1.5
2011/12 31.8 13.6 5.3 9.1 58.4 5.3 8.8 60.4 0.0 0.3 9.1 2.9 4.0 73.2 2.3 5.9 8.2 1.3 0.5 1.9 2.1 2.9

Looking at his stats, you can see he took a big step this season in his minutes played and his impact for Illinois this season. He shot 58% from the field averaging 13.6 points a game by scoring mostly in the paint, and also did a fairly good job on the boards as well. However, Leonard is still extremely raw offensively and still needs to develop as an overall player. He also seems to lack the aggression and passion at times that could make him the dominant player that he has all the physical tools to be.

Leonard is going to be a first round pick based almost solely on his potential. He has risen dramatically in the mock drafts based on his measurables and is now considered a lottery prospect. Any team that drafts him is taking a chance on their ability to help him develop and become a consistent NBA player. He still has a long way to go in this regard, but if he can add and refine his skills he could be considered the steal of the draft in years to come.

Moe Harkless, SF, St. Johns: Harkless is a 6'9" freshman small forward from St. Johns who is known for his athleticism and ability to finish at the rim. He is a fast, quick, and explosive player who uses his athleticism and length to attack the basket on offense and grab rebounds on defense. He is very good at running the floor and scoring in transition and could give the Suns the added athleticism, speed, and youth they so desperately need.

Here are his stats from last season at St. Johns:
Basic Statistics

Year Min Pts FG FGA FG% 2Pt 2PtA 2P% 3Pt 3PtA 3P% FTM FTA FT% Off Def TOT Asts Stls Blks TOs PFs
2011/12 36.1 15.5 6.0 13.3 45.2 5.5 10.9 50.6 0.5 2.5 21.5 2.9 4.3 67.6 2.8 5.9 8.6 1.5 1.6 1.4 2.5 2.3

Some of the aspects of Harkless's game that don't show up well in the stats are his style of play, in which he loves attacking the defense and getting to the rim to score most of his points. The problem is, he is a very inconsistent jump shooter and especially struggles from behind the arc, as you can see from his very poor 21.5% three point percentage. Harkless has also been criticized for not playing hard enough on defense, which the Suns are now trying to change within their team mentality as well.

If the Suns were to take a chance on Harkless, it would be based on his ability to attack the rim and run the floor. He can certainly continue to develop his shot over time, and I think he will, but he is not ready to step out on the floor and spot up on the perimeter like the Suns typically ask of their wings. Harkless is still a very young player who has a ton of upside and potential though, so don't count him out, especially if the Suns manage to end up with an additional first round pick somehow.

Of all the above prospects, Harkless is probably my favorite of the group based on the skill set that he provides. However, all of these players are considered borderline lottery picks, and they all have aspects of their game that the Suns are looking for.

The Suns certainly have their own favorites heading into the draft, and we won't know for sure who they value over the others until a selection is made. While I wouldn't say the chances of drafting any of the above players is all that high, it could come down to the Suns taking one of these players if their primary targets are already off the board.

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