Bright Side of the Sun will be giving you extensive draft coverage all the way up to June 25th. Our first installment of this process is a pre-combine look at the players sorted according to position by Sean Sullivan and Kellan Olson.
The off-season is quickly upon us, the NBA Draft Combine, and team workouts will be starting before you know it. Although it is still very early, there is already a solid indication of the players likely to be picked somewhere within the Suns' range of the 13th or 14th pick, most likely.
Here are the power forwards who I believe are likely to be in the Suns' range in the coming draft.
6' 11", 231 lbs, 20 years old, Arkansas
Bobby Portis is one of the more unique, and confounding prospects in the 2015 draft class, at least as far as power forwards are concerned. On the one hand, he has great size for a power forward at 6' 11", he has a very good stroke and can hit the jumper out to the three, and he's pretty good at posting up inside when he chooses to do so.
Another part of his game that I think is underrated is his basketball I.Q. He makes good passes to his teammates and seems to understand the game and the system he plays in. He's also a pretty good defender, and uses his length to challenge and block shots in the post.
On the other hand, Portis seems to be somewhat inconsistent in his play, and disappears at times. He did not play well in the tournament overall, and though he put up decent numbers, he wasn't efficient. Another knock on Portis is that he isn't a great athlete. He isn't terrible in this regard, just not exceptional.
My take is that Portis is a very solid all-around player who can help a team in a variety of ways. He isn't the next star in the making, but I think he could be more than solid on a team where he isn't the first option, and can use his skill set to help the team on both ends of the floor. Portis will likely be a late lottery to mid-first round pick, and could be one of the players of whom Phoenix looks at very closely.
6' 10", 235 lbs, 19 years old, Kentucky
Trey Lyles is one of the ultra-talented freshmen who helped the Kentucky Wildcats go 38-1 on the season, before losing to the Wisconsin Badgers in the Final Four. Lyles is one of the youngest players on this list, and as such, is still one of the most unfinished with one of the highest upsides.
The first word that comes to mind when I think of Trey is smooth. Lyles is a skilled forward with fluid movement and very good footwork. He is agile and very mobile if not explosive, and uses his footwork and skill to get open looks at the basket, from inside or mid range.
Although Lyles is projected to be a power forward, he had to play primarily as a small forward at Kentucky due to the size and talent of the players who shared the court with him. As a freshman coming off the bench, Lyles was able to average 8.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game in around 23 minutes on average. Those numbers may not be eye-popping, but considering that he was never one of the top scoring options on a very talented Kentucky team, he had a very impressive season overall.
Again, Lyles is a prospect that a team will be drafting with intentions to develop, not as a finished product. Lyles has a very unique skill set for a power forward, as a player who can use his footwork and agility to score inside, hit jump-shots from mid-range out to the three point line, and use his high b-ball I.Q. and impressive understanding of the game to help set up his teammates as well. He may not be my first choice, but it's hard to argue that Lyles wouldn't be a solid addition to the right team, and I'm sure that the Suns will do their homework on him.
6' 10", 210 lbs, 19 years old, UCLA
(Stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com)
Kevon Looney is a high-risk, high-reward player who has tremendous upside, but also some bust potential. Looking at Looney's skills and measurables alone, he looks like a blue-chip prospect who should be one of the top picks in the draft. He's 6' 10" with a 7' 3" wingspan, outstanding athleticism, excellent mobility/agility, a good jump-shot out to the perimeter, and a good ball-handler and passer for a big man.
One of the most impressive things about Looney's game in my opinion is his ability to grab offensive rebounds with a quick jump & second jump, and good ball instincts and positioning on the weak side of the basket. In fact, 37% of his rebounds came from the offensive glass this season, and his second shot opportunities that he converted or created for his teammates made a big difference in UCLA's success.
Still, there are area's of Looney's game that I'm just not sold on. Despite his size and length, I saw a player who had great difficulties finishing in the post, and couldn't seems to use his athleticism to get off the ground or to gain an advantage over the opposition. He isn't a physical player whatsoever, and definitely needs to add strength.
However, his shooting, passing, and rebounding make him a very intriguing prospect for a team looking to develop a player with very high upside to his game. Because of his unique but unfinished game, Looney's draft stock is all over the board, with some mocks claiming he is a top 10 pick, and others believing he will be picked in the low to mid 20's. There's a good chance that he will be available when the Suns pick, so it just depends on how the front office and coaching staff views him.
6' 8", 240 lbs, 21 years old, Louisville
Montrezl Harrel is one of the most athletic big men in the draft, and one of the most aggressive inside scorers as well. He is explosive with a motor that doesn't quit, and uses his strength and physicality to fight through contact, draw fouls, and punish the opposition inside. In fact, Harrell hold the record for the most dunks in Louisville history at 221 in his three years, and shattered the single season dunk record as a sophomore with 98 dunks in his 37 games.
But Harrel can do more than just dunk, although that's certainly where he is at his best. Montrezl has also improved his shooting and now has a better than decent mid-range shot, and even has range out to the three point line, though not shooting it accurately from that distance yet. His shot mechanics look good though, and that leads me to believe that he can continue to improve on his jump shot at the next level. He's already able to keep the defense honest though, and for a player like Montrezl, that's more than enough.
Aside from his offensive game, Montrezl also shines with his defense and rebounding. Harrell uses his length and strength to challenge opponents in the post, and uses his agility to stay in front of players away from the basket as well. He is also a very good rebounder for his size, and gobbles up boards against taller opponents because of his aggressiveness and length.
The biggest knock on Montrezl is his height, or lack thereof. Harrell is only around 6' 8" in shoes, and that is a big issue for many when projecting how he will fare in the NBA as an undersized power forward. However, what Montrezl lacks in height, he more than makes up for in length with a huge 7' 3" wingspan. Combined with his athleticism and physicality, I personally don't see this as being much of an issue. As they say, you don't grab rebounds or play defense with the top of your head.
It's no secret that I am a big fan of Montrezl, and I think that his skill set is the perfect match for a system like the Suns. Phoenix needs a dynamic inside scorer to complement the more skilled Markieff Morris. The Suns don't currently have a player who plays with ferocity and aggression inside, and I think Harrell is the perfect man for the job. Montrezl is currently projected to be picked somewhere around the mid first round, and with the Suns likely picking at 13, he will likely be available if they want him.