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Suns Draft Primer 2020: Small Forward Edition

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Should the Phoenix Suns invest draft capital on another wing to increase their depth and versatility on that front?

NCAA Basketball: Auburn at New Mexico Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

To date we’ve examined the premier point guards and shooting guards from the 2020 NBA Draft, and now it’s time to dive into some of the finest small forwards this class has to offer.

I know what you’re probably thinking. Another wing? The answer is very much yes. The Suns desperately need to add an additional multifaceted wing that plays both the 3 and 4. Whether or not that addition comes via the draft is an entirely different question for a different day.

You saw it when Cam Johnson was out, or when Kelly Oubre went down for the season. The wing depth is razor thin despite Phoenix drafting one in each of the past two lotteries in Cam and Mikal. Let’s offer a very polite “no thank you” to those miserable three guard lineups that were trotted out there whenever one of the three forwards were absent.

Lottery odds:

  • 1st pick = 3.0%
  • 2nd pick = 3.3%
  • 3rd pick = 3.6%
  • 4th pick = 4.0%
  • Picks 5-9 = 0%
  • 10th pick = 65.9%
  • 11th pick = 19.0%
  • 12nd pick = 1.2%
  • Picks 13-14 = >0.0%

Suns specific draft board

Point guard primer

Shooting guard primer

Note: The top two wings of Okoro and Avdija are in the same tier, and I’m not married to the idea of having Okoro ranked over Avdija by any means, as they are both top 10 prospects with intriguing upside and unique skill-sets.

I like Okoro’s fit in Phoenix just a tad more than Avdija’s, but at the end of the day I find it improbable either of the two are available if Phoenix is picking 10th, and if one is it will be one or the other, not both.

1. Isaac Okoro- SF/PF, Auburn.

6’6”, 225 lbs., 19 years old.

12.8 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.9 BPG on 51/29/67 shooting splits in 31.5 minutes per game.

Identity/Role: Versatile wing. Glue guy. Jack of all trades.

Isaac Okoro is the ultimate team player. His combination of length, defense and Swiss-Army knife potential on both ends makes him the epitome of your typical “glue guy” that holds a team together. Auburn was one of the best teams in the country last season, but when Okoro missed a couple games due to injury there was an undeniable massive drop-off that occurred which was far from coincidental.

Ideally Phoenix could plug him in at either forward position off the bench and ease him into a larger role over time. If the offense develops (mainly the jumper) then his value skyrockets and he becomes a top 5 player from this class. If not, he still projects as a useful rotation piece in a league that is starved for wing-depth. If he’s still there at number 10, I really like the fit.

2. Deni Avdija- SF/PF, Maccabi Tel Aviv.

6’8”, 219 lbs., 19 years old.

*10.2 PTS, 6.6 REB, 2.9 AST, 1.0 STL, 0.6 BLK on 44/28/56 shooting splits *per-36 minutes.

Identity/Role: Versatile wing. Playmaking forward.

Avdija is a skilled combo forward that can handle the ball and manufacture excellent passes whether it’s in transition or through the pick and roll. There are questions about his overall defense, but he figures to have the instincts and measurables to become an eventual solid team-defender.

The main question with him is the perimeter defense and “switch-ability”, which is frankly a valid concern. He isn’t quick enough to stick with some wings, and not strong enough (yet) to guard most bigger forwards, which isn’t ideal.

He has a nice touch around the rim to go with a decent handle for his size and tremendous court vision which allows him to be used as a secondary creator at times which is extremely valuable from a wing.

I’m not sold on his ability to create for himself in the half-court offensively, but I do buy the mechanics and form on his jump shot despite the suboptimal numbers from deep and the charity stripe. The versatility and playmaking ability he brings would make him a decent (not perfect) fit as a PF next to Ayton, but as I mentioned earlier it’s difficult to envision him available where Phoenix projects to pick.

3. Leandro Bolmaro, G/F, FC Barcelona Lassa/II.

6’7”, 180 lbs., 19 years old.

8.0 PPG, 2.5 APG, 1.9 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 0.1 BPG on 42/28/68 shooting splits in just 17.6 minutes per game.

Identity/Role: Playmaking Wing. Crafty scorer.

Bolmaro will likely be more of a late lottery to mid-first round prospect, and I love him in that range as he possesses similar upside to someone like a Deni Avdija at a much lower cost in draft capital.

Leandro is a crafty wing that can handle the ball and makes incredible passes off the live dribble and in transition. He is a pesky, intense defender that works through screens and really puts effort in on that end which is encouraging. He absolutely needs to add strength and fill out his frame to survive in the NBA defensively.

With Phoenix’s second unit starved for any sort of creation, Bolmaro could immediately be plugged in as a point forward-type and make plays happen. He doesn’t seem like a strong candidate for them with the 10th pick as things stand, but I truly enjoy Bolmaro as a prospect.

4. Aaron Nesmith, SF/PF, Vanderbilt.

6’6”, 213 lbs., 20 years old.

23.0 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 0.9 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.9 BPG on 51/52/82 shooting splits in 35.7 minutes per game.

Identity/Role: Elite movement shooter. Floor spacer.

Many scouts consider Nesmith as the best shooter in this draft class, and for good reason. He shot an astounding 52.2 percent from deep on a high volume clip of 8.2 attempts per game which combined, is otherworldly. Granted he only play 14 games due to an injury mid-season, those numbers are video-game like and had him on pace for a historic shooting season at the collegiate level.

His off-movement shooting is incredible to watch. He runs off screens/actions and hits shots while fading to his right or left, after pump-fake relocations, it doesn’t matter. You name it, he hits it with confidence.

The 6’6” wing has some sneaky ancillary skills on both sides of the ball that could make him a valuable NBA player. He probably won’t excel at any one area outside of shooting but he could be competent enough to warrant some serious playing time with shooting at a premium in today’s game.

Nesmith is essentially the (slightly better) Cam Johnson of this draft, so I could see James Jones consider “reaching” for him at 10 if he sticks to his preferred player-type of older, NBA-ready shooters like we saw with Cam Johnson and Ty Jerome in last year’s draft.

5. Keyontae Johnson, G/F, Florida.

6’5”, 190 lbs., 20 years old.

14.0 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.3 BPG on 54/38/77 shooting splits in 31.3 minutes per game.

Identity/Role: Jack of all trades. Slasher. Tweener.

Not many in this draft class helped their draft stock more in conference play than Keyontae Johnson did this season at Florida. He really turned it up a notch and took the leap that many were hoping for entering his sophomore season as a Gator.

He is a bit of a “tweener” as a SG/SF-type that rebounds very well for his size, and thrives in transition.

He is an excellent slasher with the ball, but more notably off the ball he makes excellent cuts and reads defenses well which is a vital skill that is far too often overlooked when analyzing prospects.

I don’t see him being much of an option with where Phoenix projects to pick, but he is a fun prospect.

6. Jaden McDaniels, F, Washington.

6’9”, 201 lbs., 19 years old.

13.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.4 BPG, 0.8 SPG on 40/34/76 shooting splits in 31.1 minutes per game.

Identity/Role: Long wing. Scorer. Project.

If you draft Jaden McDaniels it’s not because of the player he is now, but rather the player you hope he becomes.

He has the size and frame that add allure to his archetype which is often one of the most dangerous areas to gamble on a prospect as far as attributes go. There have been some outlandish and unfair (to him) comparisons that have been thrown out there such as Kevin Durant 2.0 for example.

I am much lower on McDaniels than the consensus seems to be, and that applies for my Suns board as well. I don’t like this fit due to the lack of a proper organizational developmental infrastructure in place for this type of player to succeed. If he lands in the right environment it’s not far-fetched to see him hitting a favorable outcome.

This is the type of player I believe Ryan McDonough would be all over, which is why Phoenix must stay far away.

2nd round targets:

I have all of these guys roughly in the same tier with early-to-mid second round grades. This group could be targets for Phoenix if they decide to trade down or add a 2nd round pick.

  • Robert Woodard, F, Mississippi State.
  • Jordan Nwora, F, Louisville.
  • Romeo Weems, F, DePaul.
  • Aaron Henry, F, Michigan St.
  • Corey Kispert, F, Gonzaga.

Scottie Lewis was slated to be in this section, but he just announced he is returning to Florida for another season.

Scouting Reports:

Isaac Okoro Scouting Report

Deni Avdija Scouting Report

Leandro Bolmaro Scouting Video

Aaron Nesmith Scouting Report

Additionally, if you crave more draft coverage in the form of podcasts I highly recommend listening to the “Prep2Pro Podcast” hosted by Max Carlin and Ben Pfeifer. It’s available on iTunes, Spotify, etc.

They do tremendous work and provide excellent insight on prospects, draft philosophy and more.

Next up on the docket will be the Suns’ power forward draft primer.