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Phoenix Suns Pre-Draft Workout #12: Tyler Ennis, Cleanthony Early, Russ Smith

Today's Suns workout was headlined by Tyler Ennis, Cleanthony Early, Russ Smith, and a handful of free agent hopefuls.

Today, the Suns workout featured Tyler Ennis (PG, Syracuse),  Cleanthony Early (SF, Wichita St.), and the second visit from Russ Smith (PG, Louisville), along with a group of likely undrafted free agents.

Tyler Ennis is a true point guard from Syracuse who is skilled beyond his years.  Ennis is a skilled ball-handler, passer, and is excellent running the pick-and-roll and the drive-and-kick.  He is also a good shooter, and proved to be very clutch in late game situations for Syracuse.

As a 19 year old freshman, Ennis led Syracuse in assists with 5.5 per game.  He was also second on the team in scoring, averaging 12.9 points per game, showing his versatility as a scorer as well as the floor general.  The biggest knock on Ennis is his average athleticism, and his ability to finish in the paint, especially through contact.  On defense, he can sometimes be beaten by quicker guards, but he is also quick enough to stay in front of many opponents.  In fact, Ennis did pretty well in his athletic testing at the NBA Combine, with a 36 inch vertical and a 2.84 sec shuttle run, as well as measuring in with a 6' 7" wingspan.

Cleanthony Early, a small forward from Wichita St., was also in attendance at the Suns' workout today.  Early is a versatile scorer who can put the ball in the hoop from anywhere on the floor.  He is athletic enough to drive into the paint and score in traffic, and a good enough shooter to make the defense pay from the perimeter.

Early led his team in scoring, averaging 16.4 points per game. Early is not a volume shooter either, he is extremely efficient, registering a .627 TS% (true shooting percentage).  In addition, Early uses his strength and athleticism to crash the boards, grabbing 5.9 on average per game, which was also the highest rebounding average on his team.  Early's biggest downsides are his age and his poor passing ability.  At 23 he is one of the oldest players in the draft, and has a low assist percentage.  He is also a tweener, playing mostly as a power forward at Wichita St., and now making the transition to small forward.

The other noteworthy player in attendance today was Louisville point guard Russ Smith.  This was Smith's second workout with the Suns...the only player we have seen make a return visit thus far.  Smith is a very quick, scoring point guard who is also working on showing teams that he can play as a traditional passing point guard as well.  He averaged 18.2 points per game as a senior, but also increased his assists to 4.6 per game this past season.  Obviously the Suns were impressed enough with Smith to bring him back in for a second look.  He could be a great option late in the draft, especially if he falls to the second round.

Here's a look at the full list of prospects in attendance today:

Prospect Profiles:


Cleanthony Early

On his ability to shoot from NBA range:

"It's really good, I've been shooting the ball really, really well.  But it's something that needs to improve like everything else...strengths need to improve, weaknesses need to improve.  But it's something I'm doing daily so I know it's going to happen."

On optimism of playing in the NBA

"I know I belong here.  I'm a good basketball player and I'm working hard to get even better.  I have big goals and that doesn't end draft night.  I'm not satisfied just being drafted.  I'm not hanging my head if I don't get drafted at a certain number.  I understand the things I can control and the things I can't control, so I'm manifesting my own destiny."

On fit with Suns

"I love the run and gun style.  I'm a fast athlete.  We just did the vertical test and I cleared over 12 feet.  I can run, I can jump, I can shoot the ball."

Tyler Ennis

On Suns workout

"It was a good workout.  Through the grapevines you hear that it's a tough workout, you get up and down a lot. You figure with the way Phoenix plays you'll be running a lot. I just try to get up and down as fast as possible and stick to my game."

On what he's trying to show teams in the workout

"Everyone sees me as a pass-first point guard.  What I want to show is that I can defend the point guard position.  Coming from Syracuse, a lot of people questions that.  And, I want to show that I can shoot the NBA three.  College wise they know I can knock it down,  but the NBA line is a little further.  So I want to show them I can knock it down off the dribble, catch-and-shoot, and show them that I can also lead guys that are older than me."

On what he brings to a team

"I think my facilitating ability, making guys better, and finding guys.  Just being able to control the tempo of the game.  I can play in the half-court set, and I can get up-and-down as well."

On familiarity with Suns' system

"I think everyone knows the run-and-gun Phoenix Suns.  They have a lot of young guys and a lot of young players.  They had a really good season last year.  I think anyone that has a chance to come here and be a part of this organization is lucky.  They have a great staff and a great set of players.  If I end up here I'd be more than happy."

Russ Smith

On second workout with the Suns

"I tried to do my best.  This is the first (second visit), then I go back to L.A. (Clippers) on Monday."

On workouts/interviews and impressions with Suns

"I feel like I did what they asked, I did good.  In the three-on-three settings, two-on-two, one-on-ones.  Definitely if I get into a five-on-five setting it will be a lot better.  This is great, I like the pace, the style, the staff, and what they (Suns) are about.  So I feel really good leaving today."

Ryan McDonough

On Cleanthony Early

"I think he'll be able to play some small forward.  He shoots the ball well enough. He's long, he's athletic enough.  I think that will be a fairly easy transition for him.  I don't think it will be that big of an adjustment for him.

On Russ Smith's second workout

"Russ has great energy.  Some of these guys if you ask them to come back they kind of complain and say how tired they are.  Russ I feel like could play two games and three more workouts tonight and be fine, he's just that kind of well-conditioned athlete.  We like how he pushes the ball, his energy, and his defensive ability. And, he has some pretty unique stuff off the dribble...and he's able to create his own shot and create shots for others.  He's a guy we're interested in, and we give him credit for coming back."

On Tyler Ennis

"I think the thing that stands out most about Tyler Ennis is his composure.  He was unbelievable in late game situations this year.  If you look at his possessions in close and late games he was off the charts in how many game winners he hit, and how many big plays he made down the stretch.  He's also got a really good feel.  He just catches (the ball) and makes a simple play.  He doesn't over complicate it.  He had a great year as a freshman and he's a guy we're certainly interested in."

Jeff Hornacek

On Tyler Ennis

"He's got a good feel for the game.  He doesn't try to force things.  He just takes what's given, he makes great reads.  He pulls guys toward him and makes a pass.  In the point guard position that's what you're looking for."

On competition between Ennis and Smith today

"They're different.  Russ is very active.  He plays like a playground game going between the legs, whereas Tyler plays more fundamentally and plays it straight.  So there was a contrast there and they both did a nice job."

On Cleanthony Early

"He can shoot the ball.  He's in great shape conditioning wise.  He filled the lane, he shot it, he was active.  He was physical with guys, and he played the four in college but obviously has to play the three in most of the league, and he's got the good quick feet to make that move."

This will be the last public workout with media availability, though the Suns may be holding a few more private workouts before the draft next Thursday.  Stay tuned for more draft coverage as we approach the big day!

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