Today, the Phoenix Suns worked out a group of prospects with mixed rankings, headlined by T.J. Warren (PF, North Carolina St.) and Elfrid Payton (PG, Louisiana Lafayette) who both have the potential to be mid to late first round picks.
T.J Warren is a tremendously skilled scorer with a bevy of moves, and an ability to make shots from anywhere on the court. However, in and around the paint is where Warren is at is best. He is very comfortable scoring in a multitude of ways, with great touch, good ball-handling, and probably the best floater of any player his size. He was the third leading scorer in the nation, averaging nearly 25 points, while also contributing about 7 rebounds per game as well. Other than Doug McDermott, Warren is the most skilled forward in the draft this year. And like Doug, the biggest knock on him is his average athletic ability, and his status as a "tweener". However, Warren uses his strength and skill to complement his inside game, and is very comfortable scoring off of post-ups...which can help him make the transition to the next level.
Elfrid Payton is one of the most intriguing prospects in the draft. He possesses great size and length at the point guard position, and off-the-charts athleticism as well. Payton is known for his defensive ability, as well as his knack for getting to the rim, and scoring in transition. He is also aggressive on defense, averaging two steals per game in his junior season, which he also does a great job at converting into fast break dunks and lay-ups. He is also a good passer and His biggest knock is his shooting, which is still very inconsistent...especially from three, where he shot an abysmal 25% last season. However, Payton possesses the raw physical talent, defense, and play-making ability that make him stand out amongst his peers. He certainly fits the mold of the McDonough point guards of the past.
The other noteworthy prospect in today's workout is Arizona's own Nick Johnson. The Tempe native was a three-year starter for the University of Arizona, and led the team in scoring his junior year averaging 16.3 points per game, while also grabbing over four rebounds, and dishing out nearly three assists as well. Johnson played mainly off the ball as a shooting guard in college, and will likely be used as more of a scoring combo guard in the NBA. He is an excellent defender, named to the PAC-12 all-defensive team, and a phenomenal athlete. He is undersized at the shooting guard position, but can stay in front of his man with excellent agility. He is also extremely quick and explosive, and a smart player as well. He certainly fits the up-tempo style of play that the Suns use, and could be a tremendous value in the second round.
Here is the full list of today's participants, along with their information:
- T.J. Warren (SF/PF), 6'8", 220 lbs, 20, North Carolina St., Ranked #16 in DX Top 100, Projected Pick #18 (Suns) in DX Mock Draft
- Elfrid Payton (PG), 6'4", 185 lbs, 20, Louisianna Lafayette, Ranked #25 in DX Top 100, Projected Pick #27 (Suns) in DX Mock Draft
- Nick Johnson (PG/SG), 6'3", 198 lbs, 21, Arizona, Ranked #51 in DX Top 100, Projected Pick #52 in DX Mock Draft
- Melvin Ejim (SF), 6'7", 219 lbs, 23, Iowa St., Ranked #87 in DX Top 100
- Roscoe Smith (PF), 6'9", 202 lbs, 23, UNLV, Not in DX Top 100
- Shawn Jones (SF/PF) 6'8", 233 lbs, 22, Middle Tennessee St., Not in DX Top 100
Other Workout Notes:
- Archie Goodwin was once again in attendance, and ran the three-minute drill with the prospects. This time, he had competition as Nick Johnson paced him for the majority of the drill. Archie pulled ahead at the end though, eventually finishing with 28.5 laps to Johnson's 28. Still, good showing by Nick Johnson to give Archie the best competition I've seen thus far.
- Remember Alex Oriakhi? He was the Suns' second round pick from last season who spent the past year playing overseas. Well, he was also in the gym today, hanging out during the workouts in full practice gear. He didn't participate during the media session, but it looked like he had been practicing as well...judging by the sweat-drenched apparel. Not sure what the plans for him will be, but it was good to see him there.
On Nick Johnson
"Looked good...His stroke looked really good. He shot the ball well. He's one of the more explosive guys, one of the better leapers we've had in. He did very well in the conditioning drill at the end. Overall a good performance for him. I think his versatility makes him easier to evaluate. As for his role, I think like most rookies he would come off the bench at first, be able to shoot the ball and put some points on the board. Defensively he's got some pretty good strength. He is a little undersized at the shooting guard position, but he's tough, strong, athletic, and well-conditioned. All of those things help make up for being a little bit undersized. "
On T.J. Warren
"It would be hard not to be impressed with how he scored. He was the number one conference player of the year. He really carried his team at times. It was impressive, not only that he scored, but that he did it efficiently as well."
On Elfrid Payton
"He showed some nice things...length, athleticism, and playmaking. Another very productive guy that had to do a lot for his team. A guy like that you get to see more of what he can do on film, the whole package, because he had to do a little bit of everything unlike guys from the powerhouse teams with a lot of good players around them who might be into a certain role. He's got good length. He's thin but he's wiry-strong. I think as he get's older he'll fill out and get stronger. He's got pretty good instincts. He got his hands on a number of balls today, using his length to reach in and poke the ball away...I think he'd be able to come in an NBA game and pressure guys right away and give them a hard time."
On Nick Johnson
"He's strong, athletic, and can really shoot the ball. He shoots it easy. We try to wear the guys out and see how they shoot when they're tired, and it didn't even look like he got tired. I think that strength really helps him. He'll probably have to play some point, a little bit of a combo because of his size. He's a guy that gets up and down, if he plays off the ball he'll be ready to spot-shoot it. He can be very good at that."
On Elfrid Payton
"He's got a great knowledge of the game. He makes great passes. His shooting was better than what we anticipated. He was another guy that didn't get tired. When he went through the scrimmage part of the three-on-three, there was no tiredness, he wants to play. he showed how he can handle pick-and-rolls, and make passes out of that...he's very good at that. He's projected to be a first round pick, and you can see why."
On T.J. Warren
"He has a unique skill of scoring. Watching tape, he looks kind of methodical looking. But because of that, he knows great positioning. When he makes a move and he sees the opening, then he explodes. He got hacked pretty good, and he still was able to be strong enough to finish it off. The question for him wasn't the scoring part, it was the defense. I thought he did a great job defensively. Getting his hand on the ball, he was better than I anticipated form watching tape."
On fit with the Suns
"Their style fits my game pretty well. Their able to get out in transition and run the floor every chance they get. Transition and fast breaks that's my game, I can get up and down and run."
On ability to defend in the NBA
"I think it's going to be a little bit different but not much. I have a good skill set, long arms...I'm pretty quick with my hands. I think it will be an easy adjustment."
On playing at home
"I actually practiced in this gym when I was eight or nine, with Rex Chapman, so it’s good to be back. I was here when we had the squad...Steve Nash, Joe Johnson, Quentin Richardson, Amare...It was definitely one of the most exciting arenas in the NBA, and this year they got it back. I would love to play at home. They had a great team this year, and I think I can be that piece to add to the puzzle."
On his NBA position
"I think I'm both (guard positions). I think it's a benefit that I played the two in college, and I have that experience. I can guard both positions. I think it's something that's a plus in my game."
Another workout coming tomorrow. The rumors are that Adreian Payne will be one of those in attendance...stay tuned.