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Phoenix Suns meeting with top prospects, but not necessarily top targets

At the Draft Combine this week, the Suns can interview up to 20 players. The players on the Suns list has some obvious omissions.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The annual NBA Draft Combine is underway in Chicago and our favorite local Suns beat writer Paul Coro is on the scene to give us updates along the way.

He's secured the Suns interview schedule of prospects.

Ingram, Hield, Murray and even Poeltl are in the Suns range with their top pick, while Labissiere, Chriss and Valentine are in the late-lotto range and Brice Johnson might be there late in the first round at the Suns' range at 28 or 34.

Coro also added in a recent story that the Suns would interview Henry Ellenson, Diamond Stone and Wade Baldwin on Friday. Ellenson could be their top pick, while Stone and Baldwin would be in the mix with a later pick. Baldwin just measured out with a freakish 6'11" wingspan, pretty good news for a 6'5" guard prospect.

That's an impressive list of prospects, but if you look long enough you'll see a lot of important missing names. Among the players right there at the Combine, you don't see the Suns interviewing Kris Dunn, Jaylen Brown, Deyonta Davis, Tyler Ulis or Taurean Prince, for example.

You'd think that a team with the 4th overall pick, and still a chance at anywhere in the top seven, along with 13th, 28th and 34th, would able to interview everyone and anyone they'd want.

Ah, but here's the rub. Each team can only secure 18-20 interviews, and the more popular an athlete the less likely you'll be one of the few that gets to talk to a particular player at the Combine.

So how do the Suns prioritize their lists? Former Assistant GM of the Nets, Bobby Marks, writes about it for The Vertical.

Teams often pick prospects to interview that fall outside of their draft range.

A team like the Clippers, who have picks Nos. 25 and 33, should focus on players whose range is in the top 15. With the challenge of getting lottery prospects to commit to a draft visit, the combine interview will be the only time for a one-on-one visit.

Even if the player is off the board when the Clippers select, the information gathered would be filed into the team's scouting database and used in future trade discussions or free agency.

Having a baseline of information is critical.

Why would a team only focus on players outside their draft range? Because of those infamous pre-draft workouts, of course. You know those. The Suns routinely set team records for the number of prospects they get in to Phoenix for several hours at a time, if not a couple of days.

Nearly every player at the Draft Combine will visit a team holding four of the top 34 picks. But that being said, players have to prioritize their time. It's grueling to get on a plane every other day for another workout that will set the course for the rest of your life. Just look at the schedule already set for the draft's 66th best prospect.

It's a grind, all the players say. And you can't afford to have bad days because your muscles are sore or your body is just out of juice.

So, the players have to limit themselves a bit. And the higher up the list you rank, the more important it is to be at the very top of your game on every single workout day.

So let's take a closer look at who is on and who is off the Suns interview list.

Brandon Ingram, but no Ben Simmons?

The top prospect the Suns met with this week was Brandon Ingram, projected to go either #1 or #2 with Ben Simmons. There's almost no chance that either player drops lower than #2 between now and the end of June, which means that they will have a very narrow draft workout schedule.

Typically, the consensus top prospects don't kill themselves in the predraft workout process. For one thing, they don't want to get hurt. For another, they don't want to look bad against "lesser" competition. It happens every year. If you, as the 2nd rated prospect, have a bad day or two against someone rated in the teens, team executives might spread the word and all of a sudden you're dropping. And that costs money. Lots of money.

So, unless the Suns win the lottery, they will never get another chance to speak to Ingram unless they acquire him in the far future.

The same would have been true of Ben Simmons, but he didn't even bother with the Combine for the same reasons: he doesn't have to.

No Kris Dunn or Jaylen Brown?

These guys are likely salivating at the chance to be drafted by the Suns in June, so there's zero chance they will turn down one or more visits to the Valley to impress the Suns.

Each of those visits lasts at least a full day, including an overnight, if not more than one. So why waste one of your precious 30-minute Combine slots on them right now?

Don't worry Suns fans. You'll hear a lot of these guys in the coming weeks.

So why Murray, Hield, Poeltl then?

The same is true for others that ARE on the Suns list this week, including Ellenson, Hield, Murray and Poeltl. The Suns will have plenty of chances to speak with them later in the process.

But I wouldn't read too much into that besides a hedging of bets. If Jakob Poeltl, for example, has to pick and choose his destinations in the coming weeks, he might skip a team that already has two starting centers and picks either higher (4th) or lowers (13th) than he's projected to go. The same could be said for Hield and Murray, when looking at the Suns' roster of young, starting caliber guards.

For sure, every one of these guys will be asked to visit the valley. But there's always one or two who decline due to heavy workout schedules and a narrowing of projected draft slots that don't overlap the Suns'.

No Dragan Bender or Timothe Luwawu?

These guys are slotted 3rd and early-teens, respectively. So of course the Suns are interested, and of course they are interested in the Suns. Except they are still playing overseas and can't come to the US at the moment.

You can expect to hear that the Suns are one of the teams each will visit between now and the Draft for a private workout. The only question is whether they will show up on a day the Suns have other prospects visiting, and if they will take the chance to jump into the mix so show how they fare. Don't bet on it though. Only bad things can come from a single-team multi-player workout when your draft status is as high as it's going to get.

PreDraft Workouts coming soon!

The Suns workouts are likely starting Monday or Tuesday, and will occur 3-6 days a week for the next month. Expect a record number of visitors, since maybe only the foreign players and Ben Simmons will decline to visit this year.

We usually don't get the press release on who is in attendance that day until an hour before the workout. Often, that's a product of the guest list being so fluid.

We have a new contributor, Owen Sanborn - who came highly recommended by Kellan Olson, who will be a regular for BSotS at the predraft workouts. Between Owen, Kellan and even Sean and I, you can expect several dispatches per week on who's coming to visit.