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.
In case you haven't noticed by all these 10-day contracts the Suns are handing out, this team needs a backup point guard. We already outlined the potential names in free agency, but if they don't want to go route they can look towards a very point guard heavy first round of the draft.
This year's draft features two potential stars at the top, two intriguing two-way prospects in the middle of the first round, and 4 or 5 more names towards the end of the first round. The Suns picked a good year to need a backup point guard and they could easily fill the need through the draft. Here's a look at the 8 (!) point guards expected to go in the first round.
6'5" 176 lbs, 19 years old, Ohio State
I covered Russell already in the now outdated and useless #TopFiveProtected and unlike a couple of the prospects I covered there, not much has changed on Russell.
Russell has the size, shooting, and passing you want out of your point guard in 2015. This season Russell shot 41% from three with a ridiculous 6.6 attempts per game. He is more of a creative and precise (speed and location) passer than a playmaker, but don't confuse one as being more important than the other. He looks to pass a ton and he's really freaking good at it so I have no doubt about him being a point guard.
Russell is a super smooth scoring lefty who can generate his shot anywhere on the floor with ease because of his absurd handle. The part of Russell's scouting report that makes some scouts slowly back out of the room is that he's much more smooth than explosive and he might struggle to create space for his shot like he did in the NCAA tournament.
That's a reasonable concern, but Russell will still create his own shot; it's just a concern of how often he will be able to do that. Like his counterpart in the top five, Russell has potential as a defender but has failed to blow anyone away with that in mind. He's also not dynamite at finishing at the rim and there are concerns about him only going to and using his left, but we said the same thing about James Harden.
My point there is that that hasn't stopped certain guys in the league with that lefty problem from dominating and I think Russell has a great chance to be that next guy. Despite those concerns I think his shooting and passing alone as a point guard is enough for him to warrant a top five selection.
6'5", 200 lbs, 19 years old, China
Mudiay's natural fit at the point guard position with both his skill set and physical tools has scouts drooling. Mudiay has tremendous size for the position at 6'5" 200 lbs and he uses it in the best ways possible.
Mudiay has great floor vision and has a highly developed understanding of the pick-and-roll for his age. He uses that size to see over defenses, has a capable post game for smaller guards, and has the explosion as a finisher to give himself the extra power if he needs. He's a great playmaker who is capable of any pass on the floor out of any situation. They might not be as creative as Russell's, but they are just as good.
The problem for Mudiay is as a shooter, with mechanics that consistently change and that accompanies a lack of consistency from the perimeter. The giant flashing sign of concern is him shooting only 58% at the free throw line in China, a much bigger concern for how often he attacks the rim. He will also get a little too happy go lucky with his court vision and drive-and-kick game, which results in some lackadaisical turnovers and others that are unnecessary because of his reliance on his initial first read of the court. Like his counterpart Russell, there are reasons to take both sides of his potential or liability as a defender.
Mudiay's a fantastic point guard prospect who could become the steal of the draft (I realize he will go top five) if he can clean up a few of his flaws, which I should mention are things that he can fix. He will most likely be the first point guard off the board.
6'4", 200 lbs, 21 years old, Providence
Dunn might be the most intriguing guard prospect in the draft. He has the size and two-way potential that has some having him a lock for the lottery, but others see some massive red flags that make him more of a fit for 22-30 in the draft. I am in the former, but I'll include those concerns.
Dunn's appeal is as a complete playmaking guard. He is absolutely electric in the open court and is a blur with the ball in his hands. He's so fast that he doesn't even need ball screens because of how quick his first step is. The weapon here with Dunn is his playmaking, as at his fullest he's the best one this process has seen in years. He's also an exceptional defender when he's doing everything right and his quickness extends to his hands with a natural instinct for racking up steals.
His flaws are right next to his strengths and that's where some pump the brakes. He turns the ball over A LOT and he takes a ton of bad shots. He's a madman at times and he is a much different shooter when he steps outside the three-point line. His defense also lacks solid fundamentals in both his form and sometimes even in basic concepts.
The thing about Dunn's stock is whether you think those flaws are easy to fix and I think they are. He missed a considerable amount of time due to injury despite being his age and that extends to learning more control and being more fundamental defensively. He's actually a good shooter inside the arc so that makes you think that all he needs is repetition to become that from beyond the arc.
I think he's a great fit for the Suns, who would love a guy who excels as a defender and a passer for their scorer heavy bench. A GM in the lottery could get obsessed with him and reach, but he should be available for when the Suns pick and would be a good pick in my opinion.
6'5", 185 lbs, 22 years old, Notre Dame
Grant is a very similar point guard prospect to Dunn. He's a 1 with size, great passing ability, and the potential to be just as great defensively.
Grant's biggest strength is his playmaking, which is a strong mix of what Dunn does as an attacker and what Mudiay does as a passer. He can find anyone on the floor at anytime and his size makes that possible. Whether it's in transition or in the half-court, Grant is terrific at creating offense for himself or his teammates. He just gets it. As a defender he is the same way in terms of being really freaking good at it, as he combines great instincts and all-around ability to be a nightmare.
The concerns for Grant go beyond those two categories of passing and defending, which coincidentally are the same concerns for Dunn. Grant is not a convincing shooter and also takes some bad shots with that shot. The biggest concern with Grant though comes with the top-tier athletes with his strength and verticality. This has him struggling with finishes at the rim, bumping his man on defense consistently, and getting through screens in both PnR and off-ball situations.
Like Dunn, Grant gives you two tremendous and important necessities in being a willing and great passer as a point guard and the ability as a defender. His concerns translate more to me in my opinion though, as it will be interesting to see if he can handle those athletic problems. He'd still be a great pick for the Suns though because of those same reasons with Dunn.
That's a big bulk on the four guys the Suns could possible be selecting (I believe in lottery karma) so we will break it down a bit quicker on these last names.
6'2", 190 lbs, 21 years old, Louisville
Rozier screams boom-or-bust to me. He's a very good penetrator and finisher who makes up for a slight lack of size with great length and quickness. He can defend very well and can get you steals and rebounds. The trouble with Rozier is that he takes a lot of bad shots, over dribbles the ball, and you aren't entirely convinced he's a point guard, which is a huge problem with his size. Playoff teams might and should be scared of that, so he could slip all the way to the second round. He could make a ton of teams pay though if he learns how to be a natural point guard.
6'1", 170 lbs, 18 years old, Duke
Jones is the real deal as a point guard and reminds everyone of Tyler Ennis. He sees the floor as goof as anyone in the draft, is an exceptional general in balancing his game out, and has the ability to get past his defender. The problem with Jones is his athleticism and he needs to turn into a reliable shooter if he's not going to be able to keep up in every other facet of the game. Jones might be entering the league at the wrong time in the pace and space era of extreme athleticism, but he's too good of a natural point guard to go outside of the first round.
6'5", 178 lbs, 22 years old, Utah
Wright has continuously developed as a senior point guard who has very good size and passing ability combined with some tremendous rebounding and defense for a point guard. He became a much better shooter this season and that's a big deal considering his inconsistent scoring. He is a ball hawk defender who takes care of the ball so well as a floor general. His potential at his age scares teams and some still aren't convinced that he can shoot, but that sounds a whole lot like what happened with Draymond Green. There's two sides of that coin of course, but the evidence of him being really good at basketball is there.
6'2", 180 lbs, 20 years old, Murray State
Like Mudiay/Russell and Dunn/Grant, Payne presents as a very similar prospect to Tyus Jones. Payne is a pure point guard with his court vision and natural understanding for how everyone moves on the floor. He's deceptively fast with the ball and a capable shooter. His problems lie in his potential to grow elsewhere and if he can keep up with NBA athletes on both sides of the floor. He's an analytics favorite who has been efficient both as a manager of the ball and surprisingly as a shooter. There are some teams who will have him right behind Mudiay and Russell, so get ready and familiar with Payne's game.