The Suns will most likely have the 13th pick for the third time in five years. They've picked 13th or 14th five times in seven years.— Sreekar (@sreekyshooter) April 16, 2015
Fortunately, this year's draft projects as a deep one and more importantly for the Suns it will have plenty of different types of players from the 10-20 spot on most big boards. With bossman Dave King's recent article going over some of Suns' GM Ryan McDonough's quotes that highlighted certain needs on the team, it's a good time to see where those needs might be addressed in the draft.
Here's a back and forth conversation with Sean Sullivan and I regarding those needs and the middle of the first round prospects.
Kellan Olson: Hello Sean! McDonough outlined size, rebounding, shooting on the wing, and leadership. I think we can eliminate leadership as something to fill through the draft with how far along the rebuild already is, but let's start with shooting. Who are the marksmen in this draft?
Sean Sullivan: In my opinion, the best shooter that the Suns could potentially take in the first round is Devin Booker from Kentucky. Booker is a 6' 6" wing prospect who has a lethal stroke from outside, shooting 41% from the perimeter...His stroke and form is so good in fact, he is often compared to a young Klay Thompson. Booker is more than just a great shooter though. As a freshman he demonstrated a very high b-ball IQ along with good size and solid perimeter defense. Booker certainly fits the mold of a young 3 & D prospect who could develop into a big time perimeter scoring threat and possibly more.
Sam Dekker is another prospect that many believe would be a great fit for the Suns...and I agree...though maybe not for his perimeter shooting ability...at least not right away. Dekker is a 6' 9" wing prospect with great size, top level athleticism (or am I supposed to say sneaky athleticism?), and very good agility and ball control for a player of his size. He is very good at using his quickness to get to the rim, and can also create his own shot. But the one aspect of his game that I think is a little oversold is his perimeter shooting. Dekker is at his best when he is driving to the basket or creating off of cuts and screens. But he isn't the most consistent shooter. In all, he shot 33% from beyond the arc this season...not bad, but not great. His shooting in the tournament in the first four games was great, going 15-30. But he finally came crashing back down to Earth against Kentucky where he went 0-6. I really like Sam Dekker, and I think in time, he could become a lethal scoring threat from everywhere on the floor, but I don't think he immediately helps solve the need for better shooting for the Suns.
Another prospect that has been climbing up the mocks recently is R.J. Hunter from Georgia St. Hunter had a good tournament run, and hit a huge buzzer-beating shot against Baylor that even caused his dad (and head coach) to fall out of his chair. There is no denying Hunter is a great shooter, especially off the catch, but I'm a little concerned about his consistency. After a great 2013-14 season where he shot nearly 40% from three, he regressed quite a bit this year, shooting only 30% in all beyond the arc. Personally, I think the only way the Suns consider drafting him is if they trade out of the lottery to a later spot and Hunter is still available.
If the Suns go the route of getting another wing to help open up the floor and improve shooting, it may lead to more crowding. Phoenix already has Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight (likely), and Archie Goodwin who can play the two; and P.J. Tucker, Marcus Morris, and T.J. Warren who can play the three. Trades could certainly happen to free up a roster spot there somewhere, but it isn't really a big position of need at the moment.
This brings me to my question for you...
SS: Kellan, what are some of the big men in this draft that you think could help open up the floor in the role of a stretch four/five, to help fill the vacancy that still remains since Channing Frye left to Orlando?
KO: As far as the bigs go, there could be four on the board that project as stretch four and fives. Trey Lyles can really handle the ball for his size and his fluidity with the ball makes the range on his jumper that much more deadly. He is probably too raw for the Suns though (especially on defense) and that brings us to Frank Kaminsky.
Kaminsky can create off of the dribble, is the best and most pure shooter out of these four, has a soft touch around the basket, and has the footwork down low. That's a dangerous package as a seven footer, but I have huge concerns about him as both a defender and a rebounder both with what he showed in college and how his athleticism translates. Remember, Frye was 27 when he joined the Suns with his developed defense and rough play down low. Also, just because Len can protect the rim doesn't mean that Kaminsky can get off easy somehow. He would still have to guard his man consistently and think of all the power forwards out West. Kaminsky could be very good in the NBA and succeed as an Enes Kanter type without the bulk of rebounds, but I don't see the best fit being in Phoenix.
I think there are two better fits that could be available in this group of big shooters and the first is Myles Turner. Turner is one of the best shot blockers in the draft at 7 feet tall with really long arms and like everyone else here can shoot from three. The thing I like the most about Turner is his feel for the post game and the overall space of the floor. He has some good touch and can score from fifteen feet in using his speed and his length with that soft touch. He's not going to be that rebounder the Suns want, but he gives them true size on defense and can shoot.
The best overall fit out of the four is probably Bobby Portis. Portis is an aggressive post player who can shoot from both the midrange and the perimeter. He's a decent rebounder and is very effective in passing out of the post. What I love most about Portis is that aggression coming out on both ends, as he will typically work very hard on defense. He was a very good team defender in college and we all know there's an opening for some of that at power forward on the Suns roster. He's not the dominant rebounder or athlete the Suns really need at the position, but I think he's the best fit out of all these capable shooters for the Suns.
KO: Sean, as you can see there isn't really that "perfect fit" among the four shooters in this range under big men. Transitioning from the stretch fours to the more traditional bigs, who can give the Suns a more true presence down low with both rebounding and size?
SS: Although the Suns definitely need more shooters, we saw what happened to them without Alex Len this season. Unfortunately, Len has yet to prove that he can remain healthy all season. The good news? His ankle surgeries haven't been the issue (at least not that we know of), but broken pinkies, chronic ankle sprains, and broken noses have made everyone question his durability.
Face it. The Suns need another low post presence...either to back up Len, or play along side of him. Fortunately, this draft has a few promising prospects in that regard as well.
Willie Cauley-Stein is one of the most intriguing big men in the draft. He's a true 7-footer who is one of the fastest, most agile big man I have seen in a long time. He has the speed of a wide receiver and the lateral agility of a guard. He can defend the post with his length and athleticism, and also switch off on guards to defend them on the perimeter...something that is very unique and makes him a very rare prospect. Cauley-Stein is by far the best defensive center in the draft, but he needs to work on his rebounding and his offense. For someone with his length and athleticism, he only grabbed 6.4 rebounds per game as a Junior. He only averaged around 6 rebounds per game as a freshman and sophomore as well. Offensively, he is very limited. He doesn't have a jump shot, and scores nearly all of his point on lobs to the rim which he catches and dunks. Still, his unique ability has him in the top 10 in most mocks. But if he slips, he could get serious consideration from the Suns.
Jakob Poeltl is another big man who has really been climbing the mock drafts recently, and could end up being a potential target for the Suns. Poeltl is a true center. He's 7 feet tall, long, and pretty athletic for his size. He runs the floor very well and is an excellent shot blocker. He also shows promise as a rebounder...especially on the offensive glass. As a freshman at Utah this season, Poeltl averaged 9.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game in around 23 minutes. Unlike Cauley-Stein, Poeltl already has some offensive tools, though he still needs to improve his low post game. I think Poeltl has the most potential to be a starting NBA center as he develops more of an all-around game than Cauley-Stein.
Of course, I can't talk about low post threats without bringing up my favorite non-center, Montrezl Harrell. Harrell is a power forward who plays much bigger than his height. He is only 6' 8", but he has a 7' 3" wingspan that helps give him a 9' 1" standing reach, which is right about average for the position. Of course, his top level athleticism, aggression, physicality, and high motor is what really sets him apart from the competition. He is an intimidating force in the paint who doesn't shy away from contact and looks to dunk everything. He is also a tremendous defender who understand sets and rotations and uses his length to close out on scorers and deny entry passes into the post. If the Suns are looking to add a player who can score inside, rebound, and play defense, then Montrezl is their guy. Plus, he has a pretty decent mid-range shot that he has worked on throughout his career that should continue to improve as well.
Of course, it doesn't benefit the team to have improved post play without point guards who can get them the ball, either. Although the Suns' front office never mentioned it, the fact is they only have one point guard under a guaranteed contract on the roster right now, Eric Bledsoe. Yes, Brandon Knight will almost certainly return. But what if he or Eric get injured? We saw what happened when the Suns tried to play Archie on the ball...yikes.
This leads me to another question for you...
SS: Kellan, if the Suns choose to add depth to the point guard position, who do you think they should focus on?
KO: MONTREZL FOREVER. Wait what? Point guards? Oh, okay. There are two point guards that could be on the board at #13 and they have their similarities. Kris Dunn is a blur that has incredible play-making and ball-handling ability combined with some ridiculous and raw defensive play. Jerian Grant is a pass-first guard who has tremendous floor vision and an ability to get to the basket with some not too shabby defense either. It comes down to preference between these two and in my opinion Dunn is the better option because of his overall potential and how fixable his flaws are (I went over them here in our point guard preview). Regardless, the Suns should be in a position to go point guard if they want a true backup for Bledsoe.
KO: Sean, I spoke about Lyles earlier and how I thought he was too raw as a fit for the Suns. but that was mostly because of the amount of choices the Suns would have on shooting big men. This team has a lot of talent, but they could always use more and there could be two forwards with very high ceilings on the board at #13. What do you think about those two raw prospects?
SS: Kevon Looney is one of the more confounding prospects in the draft this year, at least in my opinion. If you look at Looney on paper, he looks like a top 5 talent. He's a 6' 10", 210 lb power forward who is very athletic, has a 7' 3" wingspan, great mobility, very good rebounder, and can shoot the ball out to the perimeter. However, he is reluctant to use his skills as an inside scorer, choosing instead to settle for jumpshots. When he does try to score inside, he is seemingly out-muscled and doesn't have a low post game of any sort to counter what the defense tries to take away. This is a big red flag for me, and because the Suns already have a shooter in Markieff Morris, I just don't think he's the right fit for the Suns. What I do like about him is his rebounding instincts, particularly on the offensive glass. He knows how to position himself on the weak side of the basket and has a quick jump, and great anticipation to grab rebounds and give his team second chance opportunities. If the Suns do go after him, I think this is where he will make his greatest impact in the short term.
The other project you are referring to is Kelly Oubre Jr. Although Oubre isn't as raw as Looney in my opinion, he still has a lot more growth to do in order to become a complete player. Kelly is a 6' 7", 205 lb wing prospect from Kansas who was impressive as a freshman. With Oubre, his development has less to do with his skill set, and more to do with learning how to use it effectively. He already has a good stroke from anywhere on the court, including 36% from beyond the arc. He has the skills to be a very good all-around player not only on offense, but defensively as well with his athleticism, length, and lateral agility. In my opinion, Oubre just needs time to be coached and learn the system he's in to contribute more effectively. As a freshman, he sometimes settled for bad shots and got lost on defense. I don't think this is anything that he can't be coached out of though, as he's shown flashes of being a very capable defender and seems to have a good understanding of the game. I wouldn't be surprised if he is on the Suns' radar.
KO: That wraps up just about every prospect that both DraftExpress and ESPN have at the 10-20 spot in the draft. If we look at that McDonough quote again he talks about size, rebounding, shooting on the wing, and leadership. Getting to that last prospect, all I'm going to say is that Stanley Johnson checks all four of those boxes. He's been slowly dropping down draft boards throughout this process. If there's one guy Suns fans should be hoping slips in the draft, I think it's him.