The Phoenix Suns have held star-studded workouts the past couple of days. You might even say that the talent walking around US Airways Arena on Wednesday and Thursday was greater than any collection of talent in Suns uniforms in a long while (though you'd be wrong).
"A little inexperienced, maybe," Hornacek quipped when asked about that.
Yet, the potential is there. The Suns would be fortunate to have any of the top players on the team next season. The process over the next three weeks is to get to know the guys through group workouts, individual workouts and one-on-one meetings.
All but Nerlens Noel have visited or will soon be visiting Phoenix. And don't count Noel out either. They all know this draft is fluid, and anyone could end up at #5 overall.
Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek has made it clear he likes to see guys compete together. And most of the guys want to compete against each other as well, to raise their draft stock.
Videos: check out Suns.com for videos of each interview (I'm the guy to the left of MCW in his interview)
Why a point guard group?
While PG is the strongest position on the team, that's not saying much when you're the Phoenix Suns. Coming into the 2013-14 season with an underrated Goran Dragic as starter and 22-year old Kendall Marshall as the backup is not good enough to check off the box and look in another direction.
"We're talking that way (point guards) because guys are highly rated as a fifth pick," Hornacek said. "That doesn't mean that Kendall isn't better than them. These guys will get on the court and they'll battle. If we draft a point guard, it's up in the air. We're going into training camp like anybody can be a starter."
Hornacek's favorite Suns memory is the 1990 Conference Finals run when the Suns played havoc with the league by employing an unguardable three-guard lineup featuring himself flanked by Kevin Johnson and Dan Majerle.
"When the ball comes out of Goran's hands, we need more guys to be able to make a play with it," Suns GM Ryan McDonough said. "Some of the guys in here, to be honest with you, fit that description."
It sounds like McDonough is looking for a combo guard who can play both PG and SG depending on the lineup. But when you're drafting so high, you just have to take the best player available and let it all shake out from there.
If the Suns draft a Trey Burke (at 5) or a Shane Larkin (at 30, or via draft-day trade), it's because that was the best player on the board at their pick.
MCW is the biggest point guard in the draft at 6'6". He never reached his potential in two years in college, but was the man for Syracuse during a strong NCAA tournament run. He cited the advantage his height gives him, to see over people on offense and be big enough to crowd the opposing guard with his size.
One big question mark on MCW is his ability to play defense. Syracuse has historically played zone, and produced sketchy NBA defenders as a result of not learning the fundamentals of individual and team defense.
"I think I just want people to see it for themselves. I can sit here and tell everyone till I'm blue in the face I can play defense. But when they see it that's when they will really believe it."
Shane Larkin is rising up draft boards on a weekly basis, but still ranked no better than fourth on the PG depth chart and stuck in the middle of the first round of mocks. Trey Burke, C.J. McCollum, Michael Carter-Williams and even Dennis Schroeder are ranked higher at the moment.
"Yeah, that's why you come out here," Larkin said of joining the PG-heavy group. "To go against guys rated above you. I wanted to come out here to work out against all three of them but Trey was doing the individual today."
Larkin's biggest knock is size (5'11"), yet he's nearly the same size as Trey Burke who is currently projected to go as many as 10-15 slots higher in the 2013 NBA Draft.
"Trey is maybe ¾ inch taller than me. He doesn't have the undersized label, but it's whatever."
Larkin's advantage is athleticism. He jumped the highest at the combine and overall ranked very well in all the athletic tests. He clearly has a desire to show off his skills against his closest PG competitors.
"I wish it was one on one," Larkin said. "So I could show my quickness is hard to guard one on one. And the bigger guys [like Michael Carter-Williams], its going to be hard for them to go around me just because I can get into them as a smaller guy. But I wasn't able to show that today but it was a good workout, great strategy, so it was fun."
While Larkin has a lot to prove, and a lot of room to rise up the draft charts, C.J. McCollum is in a trickier spot. If he shows poorly against guys like MCW and Larkin, his draft stock could plummet.
But that's not even an issue for McCollum, a 6'3" combo guard who's happy being pegged with the PGs this week.
"I'm not running from anybody," C.J. McCollum said when asked about playing against the other point guards. "I'm working out against whoever. We're all basketball players, so there should be nothing to hide."
McCollum has been compared to another small-school combo guard who just won rookie of the year, Damian Lillard of the Portland Trailblazers. McCollum embraces that comparison, considering Lillard did so well that McCollum will benefit from an inflated draft stock as a result.
"His demeanor sets him apart, and I think I have the same demeanor. Nothing really fazes us, we're both heady players, both able to score.
"I think it's funny," McCollum continued. "He did well, so now people will say CJ will do well at the next level. But if he would have done poorly, or if Steph Curry did poorly, they'll be saying small school guys can't play in the NBA, it's impossible. I'm glad he did well."
McCollum just graduated from Lehigh with a journalism degree in his four years of playing, citing that dedication as a testament to his character. "I stayed there and committed myself. It shows what type of person I am. I was in an environment where you're a student first, athletes were second. And that's kind of how I approach this game, approach life. "
McCollum is currently rated higher than any PG prospect besides Trey Burke, and could even get drafted above Burke if he shows well in workouts. But it will be tough to surpass Burke since he won't be able to compete directly against the Michigander.
Still, McCollum sees the workout tour as a chance to prove himself, to show the NBA scouts that he can play the game despite not having the prefect measurables.
"I was very undersized, very small," he said. "I watched smaller guys like Allen Iverson. And I watched a lot of guys that weren't very fast like Steve Nash. He does a great job of changing pace and learned to play the angles. I'm not the fastest guy in the world. But I'm kind of smart, I know how to use my body and change gears a little bit."
After watching Kendall Marshall (21 last year) fail to use his big body to create separation for shots, it's clear that McCollum (who will be 23 as a rookie) is a bit more mature in the game of life and basketball.
"Definitely there's an advantage to playing four years and then get thrown into the fire," he said. "You go to bigger schools, you're waiting behind All-Americans, potential pro guys. I got to learn on the fly, and I think that's helped mold me into the player I am today."
After leading Michigan on a wild, fairy-tale ride through March madness, hitting shots from all over the court and controlling the game like few in college can do, Trey Burke has put himself into a position of power leading into the NBA draft.
While other players like Shane Larkin have to answer questions about size, Burke does not. Burke's amazing tourney run gives him the benefit of being compared, body-wise, to Chris Paul who tossed aside any concerns over being 6 feet tall by being a transcendent player.
Still, Burke is only 6 feet tall and hasn't displayed quickness on defense or a great court vision, two traits that Paul brought with him into the league. Burke's shot-making and leadership is A-plus, but that resume compares just as closely to Acie Law as Chris Paul.
So it's no surprise that Burke is riding this wave and doing nothing to derail it.
"I wouldn't mind competing with a group," Burke said. "My agent just told me it's best to compete by myself. I really don't have a lot to gain by competing with others."
Like Ben McLemore, Burke is only doing individual workouts. His draft stock can't be any higher than it is - as high as #2 to Orlando - so why take any chances? The King of PG Mountain can only go down from here.
Here's the prospect profiles and where they rank on Kris Habbas' Big Board (nbadraftinsider.com)
- Trey Burke (6)
- Michael Carter-Williams (9)
- C.J. McCollum (15)
- Shane Larkin (21)
The only PG prospect not in attendance was Germany's Dennis Schroeder who is not working out for any teams. Rumor has it he's been given a first-round promise, so he returned to Germany until the draft.
Draft Scouting Reports
SB Nation is building scouting reports on all the top prospects. Check them out - very good work. It's always good to see another perspective besides the usual suspects in scouting.