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Phoenix Suns Pre-Draft Workouts Day 12: Labissiere, Johnson, and Poeltl look to fill the gap at the four spot

The front office was clearly trying to quench their thirst for a power forward with today's workouts.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Participants

  • North Carolina F/C Brice Johnson
  • France F/C Alpha Kaba
  • Kentucky F/C Skal Labissiere
  • Columbia G Maodo Lo
  • Utah C Jakob Poeltl
  • Syracuse G Malachi Richardson

Brice Johnson

Measurements via DraftExpress:

DraftExpress Top 100 Prospects Ranking: 30th

Johnson was given an ample amount of exposure while playing under the scope of North Carolina's program, and it shows immediately when you speak with him. There is no wavering in his voice, and he oozes with confidence with every word.

The product of a father who leads his life as a basketball coach, Johnson has a clear understanding of the game and has been instilled with an unquestioned work ethic.

"Every time I missed a dunk [my dad] would make me do 50 push-ups," Johnson said.

Those extra push-ups may be the biggest reason why dunking the ball has become the biggest part of Johnson's game.

"I think about 85 percent of my shots were dunks this year," Johnson joked.

Johnson spoke to extending his range out as far as the three-point line in order to make the transition to the NBA a bit smoother, and that is a promising development in terms of helping his draft stock. It was apparent that Johnson knows that his strictly back to the basket game will not translate, but I hope he isn't morphed into something that he is not.

The North Carolina forward/center is best served to be a kamikaze big man on the pick-and-roll, capable of averting a defense's attention away from lurking shooters because of the threat of the lob over the top. He is bouncy, and has the requisite length and motor to be a tremendous rebounder.

Currently perched at the 30th spot in DraftExpress' rankings -- in large part to his lack of a jumper (yet) and his age I presume -- Johnson is going to be a solid get for a team in the later stages of the first round or even the second round. Unlike some of the international prospects that are within the same range, you know what you are getting in Johnson. That is valuable.

Alpha Kaba

Measurements via DraftExpress:

DraftExpress Top 100 Prospects Ranking: 99th

Keeping the international flavor alive, Kaba is one of those overseas players with tantalizing length, but a slight frame and unpolished skills. Sitting at the tender age of 20, Kaba has plenty of room to grow in regards to shorting up his release and dribbling with more fury. His length gives him a head start on a defender during a dribble drive, but he isn't too crafty once the promised land is reached.

In my estimation, the knock on Kaba is in response to his lack of explosion to go along with his length. Instead of thundering down the floor when he dribbles, he kind of moseys his way.

Generally, it is difficult to evaluate an international prospect on the basis of the competition they are up against, and Kaba is no exception. There is a great deal of mystery to him.

Skal Labissiere

Measurements via DraftExpress:

DraftExpress top 100 Prospects Ranking: 9th

Labissiere was a highly touted recruit when he arrived at Kentucky, and was one of the most watched freshman during college basketball last season. As Labissiere learned, with great hype and attention comes great scrutiny, and the seven-footer had his fair share of skeptics as the season waged on.

"I feel like people underestimated me a little bit. But I like that, it makes me work even harder. I know how good I can be, so it doesn't really bother me," Labissiere said.

Now, the context in which that statement is framed may lead to critics to view Labissiere as an arrogant young kid, but, as you will see in the video, the tone of his voice is uniquely soft and direct. There is an aura of confidence, yet no arrogance to be found.

As a long athlete, Labissiere projects to be a stretch five or four in bigger lineups. The best part of his game besides his length is his ability to shoot the ball, and teams will drool over his potential as a duel floor spacer and rim protector. Having a shot blocker with shooting ability is a coup for any lineup, as it unlocks untapped potential on both sides of the ball.

The lure of Labissiere's skills are tempting, but he knows that the most important focus for him involves improving his strength to bump with lugs in the paint.

"It's just a matter of me working really hard. Working at my game every single day and getting stronger and bigger in the weight room -- which I have been doing," Labissiere said.

Labissiere will be hard to pass up with the 13th pick -- granted he is still there to be had.

Maodo Lo

Measurements via DraftExpress:

DraftExpress Top 100 Prospects Ranking: Not Ranked

Lo has a game that moves in slow motion, and a shot that is too clunky off of the pick-and-roll to do any damage at the NBA level. With that said, he does have a great touch with his shot and has shown the potency to explode on whim, as evidenced by an Ivy League record 11 made 3-pointers in one game,

All of that shooting aside, Lo will likely not be able to hang at the next level due to the absence of athleticism that teams covet.

Jakob Poeltl

Measurements via DraftExpress:

DraftExpress Top 100 Prospects Ranking: 8th

The media was welcomed to an unforeseen sight this afternoon: Poeltl shooting some three-pointers. The Utah seven-footer shot only one three during his two seasons in school, and has clearly made extending his range a priority during the draft process.

"I definitely improved [my shot]. I worked on different aspects of my game in college -- it was never too much shooting. Obviously, I shot the ball, too, in practice and stuff, but it was never something I did in a game situation," Poeltl said. "I have improved it these last couple of months ... I just notice [that] I have to get it more consistent."

I am struggling to decide where the line needs to be drawn as far as making every single big man prospect a victim to the shooting renaissance of the modern NBA. Poeltl is a really skilled player for his size, and is best suited to operate around the elbows -- a la Andrew Bogut -- to take advantage of his passing ability. Extending his game out to the three-point line may sound good in theory, but is it the best route in terms of his development?

Poeltl is not the only prospect that is going to struggle with this reality (Sabonis is another one that comes to mind), and I just hope that teams do not fall in love with the idea of making him strictly a stretch player. A true back to the basket big that can command a double team and pass in as astute manner while stationing the block is an essential cog to any offense. Golden State uses Bogut and Draymond Green exquisitely as facilitators at the elbow, and other teams should seek to do the same with their respective big men.

Additionally, double teams along the post tend to result in the ping-ping-ping ball movement along the perimeter if the post player is able to dish it out in time. More times than not, the end result will be a corner three.

Assistant GM Pat Connelly can attest to Poeltl's passing chops.

"[Poeltl] is a really good passer," Connelly said with a raised brow. "You saw it as a freshman, you continued to see it as a sophomore. He can play off the elbow or play off the block, and if he commands a double team or sees somebody cut, he is able to find them."

Malachi Richardson

Measurements via DraftExpress:

DraftExpress Top 100 Prospects Ranking: 37th

Richardson has proven to be one of the more contentious prospects in the draft due to his youth, gigantic wingspan, inefficiency and potential. There is plenty to like about Richardson's game, but there are also warts that could potentially stunt his growth as a player.

At Syracuse, Richardson was asked to go one-on-one a bunch, promoting poor shot selection and inefficient looks at the rim. These kind of crazy shots have lead to the Syracuse guard being labeled as a ball-stopper that will struggle to create for other players besides himself. The good news is, Richardson is aware that he has to become more efficient.

"I think it was a lot of shot selection, really, and just taking tough shots. That's what it really boiled down to," Richardson said. "I think if I can clean that up ... Take more positive shots, good shots for our team. I think the percentages will go up a lot more."

Given the youth in which Richardson exhibits, I am not going to take too much stock into the ball-stopper label. In fact, I am going to look at it from another angle; because Richardson was given free reign to take contested shots off the dribble and create more within the pick-and-roll, he will be better suited to transition into the NBA game.

It is a productive practice to go through the rigors of being a focal point of an offense at the collegiate level before becoming a pro. Richardson's development was accelerated tenfold because of his initial inefficiencies, and it showed during Syracuse's Final Four run (specifically with some of those sparkling off the dribble threes).

Richardson will not be asked to have an entire offense orbit around his offensive abilities when he first comes into the league, and with the right tutelage, he can hone his skill set into something worthwhile. I will be extremely surprised if he lasts past the first round.

Pat Connelly Alert

That is a wrap on day 12, folks. Stay tuned for more pre-draft workout coverage on Friday afternoon!

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