The Suns go into this off-season with several glaring needs, to be expected of a team which missed the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year in winning only 39 games. Foremost is a star player at any position, but that star isn't likely available at #13. Next on the pecking order of needs are:
- Help in the frontcourt, specifically at PF to fill the remaining hole left by Channing Frye's departure last summer, and
- PG, since the departures of Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas and Tyler Ennis at the trade deadline.
Jerian Grant is my choice should the Suns draft a PG. At PF, I prefer a player with a similar profile of tremendous achievement at the college level, basketball smarts, and the maturity to contribute right away: Wisconsin PF/C Frank Kaminsky.
Measurables (all courtesy Draft Express)
- Height (with shoes): 7'1"
- Weight: 231 lbs
- Wingspan: 6'11"
- Age: 22, played four years college basketball
- Last season's basic stats: 18.8 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.5 BPG on 55% overall shooting and 41% from 3
- Consensus First Team All-American as senior
- Multiple Player of the Year honors including AP, Sporting News, Naismith Award and Wooden Award
- Led Wisconsin to NCAA Tournament Championship game, losing to Duke.
I repeat: Kaminsky was tremendously productive in college, playing in the highly competitive Big Ten. (For more on his dominant stats and awards, see his Sports Reference page.) His measurables also show his weaknesses as a prospect: He's tall, but not particularly long for his height, is slightly built, and might be close to the maximum of his potential at age 22.
He achieved these milestones in his career by playing a smart, fundamentally strong game, displaying a wide variety of elite skills: Kaminsky can shoot from all over the floor, can handle the ball and initiate offense, his defense is stronger than he's given credit for (3rd in the Big Ten in D-Rating this past season, and 9th in blocks), and he rebounds well (1st in Big Ten in Defensive Rebound % this past season).
DX's strengths and weaknesses breakdowns:
Let's talk about the elephant in the room: Kaminsky is a white, American big man and as such, lazy analysts (mostly fans) will find other white, American big men to compare him to, whether the comparison fits or not. No, his game isn't like Tyler Zeller, or Bryant Reeves, or Christian Laettner, or Joe Kleine or (fill in the blank with generic, white big man). He's his own player, though he does fit some of the stereotypical white guy qualities of being more skilled than athletic, and lacking elite upside.
The player I'd compare him to in considering his fit in Phoenix is Channing Frye, another 3-point shooting 7 footer with questionable interior play and toughness. In this comparison, Kaminsky shines as a more well-rounded player than the departed Frye. Kaminsky can space the floor the way Frye did for the Suns (and this was sorely missed last season), but can also do so much more in initiating offense from the high post through passing and putting the ball on the floor.
Whether you like him specifically as a player or not, my position is that a player of Kaminsky's type is what the Suns need to add to the offensively limited Brandan Wright (assuming he's re-signed), mid-range Markieff Morris, and still-learning-the-ropes Alex Len in the frontcourt.
As the Warriors showed us in their march to the championship, the league is changing; it's transforming into more of what the European game has been. Big men of limited skill are in lower demand as floor spacing and player versatility take precedence. Kaminsky plays like a traditional European big man, comfortable both inside and outside the paint, and adept at more than just posting up, or catching the ball and dunking.
In Draft Express' mock draft, they project Kaminsky going #12, one pick ahead of the Suns. All mock drafts I've seen have him going in that range, which means the Suns should be able to either draft him at #13 or move up a bit to land him if they really want him and no other team has fallen completely in love with him.
Kaminsky is unlikely to become a star, but it's hard to imagine he won't be at least a solid role player. Of course the Suns need a star, but the #13 pick isn't a likely place to land one. They should be able to plug a hole with a well-fitting role player, and Kaminsky would be that in Phoenix.