By now you’ve probably learned that the Phoenix Suns are the top professional basketball team on Planet Earth.
While there are forgettable teams with admirable records in the Eastern Conference and the Utah Jazz are still sitting atop the West despite playing sub-.500 ball in March (yes that’s correct, look it up), the eyes don’t lie.
Since Valentine’s Day the Suns have been massacring opponents, winning 10 of 13. This will continue, and it puts Phoenix fans in an unfamiliar place in mid-March. As we peek forward towards the 2021 NBA Draft this summer while be picking, GASP,
IN THE LATE FIRST ROUND.
Do you know how long it’s been since the Suns lone first-round pick has come as late as it inevitably will in 2021? I’ll tell you how long. FOURTEEN YEARS.
That ‘07 draft followed the season in which Phoenix fell to S** A****** in the Western Conference Semifinals. We turned the #24 pick into Rudy Fernandez and the #29 pick into Alando Tucker.
Since then we’ve been mostly
blessed cursed with high draft picks. Six in the last seven years if you’re keeping score. But those days are over. And they’ll likely never return.
Thursday marks the start of the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, held in its entirety, in my home state of Indiana. Many recent seasons we didn’t need any help knowing who to watch. But I don’t who’s the 28th, 29th, 30th best player in college basketball. Do you? No, you don’t. Here’s the input of some people who think they know that kind of stuff.
29. Phoenix Suns: Josh Christopher, Arizona State
Christopher is one of the toughest players to assess in this class. On paper, he has been a pretty big disappointment this season, and evaluators wonder how this style of basketball is going to work at the next level. He’s allergic to passing the ball, has never really been much of a high-volume 3-point shooter and hasn’t ever really made shots at a super high clip. He’s also not exactly an elite athlete. And yet, when you watch the tape, you do see how he’s going to make it work. He gets separation from players and will be a real weapon with just slight improvement as a shooter. Defensively, he has some real tools in the backcourt. He’s one of the many polarizing prospects evaluators are interested in diving deeper into this offseason. His range is wide entering the pre-draft process, and it would behoove him to take it very seriously.
28. Phoenix Suns: Josh Giddey, Adelaide 36ers
Giddey may not be a point guard in the NBA, but he basically plays the position in the NBL and functions at a high level. For an 18-year-old that stands at 6’8, what he is doing is impressive and his feel is intriguing. Perhaps the Suns would be a good landing spot, especially because it may take him a while to find his level in the NBA.
29. Phoenix Suns: Cam Thomas, LSU
Every team needs a scorer. While Thomas doesn’t move the needle as a passer or rebounder and he goes through the motions on the defensive end, he can fill it up with the best of them. He’s one of the few freshmen that is living up to his potential. This is a player that lacks a conscience as a shooter, which is both a blessing and a curse.
Phoenix needs some punch off the bench and Thomas might be able to supply that. He isn’t going to create for others, but in the right situation, this could be a very nice weapon.
29. Phoenix Suns: Josh Giddey, Adelaide 36ers
Giddey is starting to answer questions about his shooting with 10 three-pointers over his last seven NBL games. A first-round team should figure it’s worth betting on his jump-shot development, given what it could do for a jumbo playmaker (5.6 assists) who’s flashed some encouraging defensive instincts.
25. Phoenix Suns: Franz Wagner, Michigan
Probably not a future All-Star, almost certainly a high-level role player: that’s the selling point for Franz Wagner. At Michigan as a sophomore this season he’s doing a bit of everything, from hitting 3-pointers to creating to playing top-shelf defense. He does so many different things at a high level it’s hard to see him dropping much further than this. There’s just an obvious role for a 6-9 forward who can do all of those things — and well — at the NBA level.
29. Phoenix Suns – Daishen Nix, combo, G League Ignite
Nix showed up out of shape to the G League, and the stats aren’t there yet – or even close. He’s shooting 17% on 3-pointers, but this is an upside play. The Suns are loaded and legit contenders in the West, so Nix might not be needed for a year or two. Nix was a point guard in high school, but he seems like a combo guard in the pros, with his defense of point guards coming into question.