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March Madness Preview: Phoenix Suns Draft Watch Guide

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The Suns will likely be picking in the late 1st round for the first time in a while. Take a look at who to watch as potential targets for James Jones this March.

2020 NBA Draft Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

We’re now in March, so it would be remiss of us to not talk about college basketball and preview the 2021 NBA Draft regardless of the Suns’ success this season. I have constructed the ultimate Draft Guide specifically through the Suns point of view.

James Jones definitely has a type and now that we have a bit more of a substantial track record to base his draft philosophy off of, it should be a little easier to narrow down some targets.

If the draft took place today, the Suns would be picking 28th overall, which is not a territory this franchise is used to in recent years. Given the recent “reaches” by Jones, picking in the tail-end of the 1st round might actually be a match made in heaven.

I broke down the 7 Best Shooters in the 2021 NBA Draft here, and it’s likely that many of these guys are on James Jones’ radar given his affinity for shooters.


Draft Class Synopsis

This draft is top heavy, with a clear top five that features some star-level talent in Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, Jonathan Kuminga, Jalen Suggs and Jalen Green. They will all be left off this list for self-explanatory reasons. After that group there’s a bit of a drop off, but still a fairly strong crop of players in that 6-to-15 range.

Once you get past that lottery area, the ocean-wide gap of players opens up with a ton of interchangeable players from the 15-to-40 range, which could wind up playing into the Suns’ favor.

Here are some additional names I excluded from this list due to them most likely being off the board when Phoenix picks:

Without further ado, let’s dive into the top targets to look at from the Suns point of view.


Potential Suns Targets

Guards/Initiators

Jaden Springer- 6’4”- CG, Tennessee

12.8 PPG — 3.6 RPG — 2.9 APG — 1.1 SPG — 49/47/80 shooting splits

The skinny: A do-it-all combo guard that can score from all three levels. Plus frame, strong athlete with bounce and plays extremely disruptive on-ball defense. More of a project type, but very high potential. Probably out of Phoenix’s range, but if he’s available when they pick by some miracle, they should sprint to the podium.

James Jones scale: 6.5/10


Jared Butler- 6’3”- PG, Baylor

16.4 PPG — 4.9 APG — 3.2 RPG — 2.3 SPG — 48/43/74 shooting splits

The skinny: Butler is a dynamic scoring guard that has the best handle in the class without a doubt. The shifty point guard plays hard defensively as well. While there are limitations due to his size, his shot creation off the bounce combined with his deadly handle should translate to the NBA.

James Jones scale: 9.5/10


Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland- 6’3”- CG, VCU

19.2 PPG — 4.4 RPG — 2.0 APG — 2.0 SPG — 44/38/88 shootings splits

The skinny: Hyland is one of the best shooters in this class, and has the complete package off-the-dribble. He can hit step-backs, side-steps, pull-ups, and hit off the catch-and-shoot. He truly has the most diverse shooting portfolio. Along with that, he has a plus wingspan and makes some great off-ball defensive reads.

James Jones scale: 8.5/10


David Johnson- 6’5”- PG, Louisville

12.5 PPG — 5.7 RPG — 3.4 APG — 1.1 SPG — 41/39/71 shooting splits

The skinny: Johnson is a plus-sized point guard that can play both on and off the ball. He is a solid athlete that has some impressive flashes, though he seems to be more of an upside play at the moment. The shooting has made some progress which is encouraging, because if the shot is real he has a much more realistic path towards finding an impactful role at the next level.

James Jones scale: 6.5/10


Miles “Deuce” McBride- 6’2”- CG, West Virginia

15.5 PPG — 4.6 APG — 4.0 RPG — 1.8 SPG — 42/43/80 shooting splits

The skinny: McBride is a tenacious on-ball defender that wreaks havoc in typical West Virginia fashion. He can also hit shots off the bounce, with a wide-array of pull-up shooting that he’s flashed since his freshman season. He could serve as an effective secondary creator alongside Booker when thinking big picture.

James Jones scale: 8/10


Davion Mitchell- 6’2”- CG, Baylor

13.5 PPG — 5.6 APG — 2.7 RPG — 2.1 SPG — 51/46/71 shooting splits

The skinny: Despite rocking the same number and last name, no, he is not related to Donovan Mitchell. Davion is one of the best defenders in the country and has shown massive improvement to his jump shot. When you combine that with his ability to get to the rim as a slasher, there are certainly some intriguing possibilities. Keep a close eye on both Baylor guards.

James Jones scale: 7.5/10


Ayo Dosunmu- 6’5”, G, Illinois

21.0 PPG — 6.3 RPG — 5.3 APG — 1.1 SPG — 48/40/78 shooting splits

The Skinny: Ayo has been one of the most effective players in the country for one of the best teams in the nation. He is currently out due to a broken nose, but the junior guard is a crafty three-level scorer that has improved his three point percentage substantially this season. He has some secondary playmaking flashes as well, and figures to be a productive rotation guard in the league for years to come.

James Jones scale: 7.5/10


Cameron Thomas- 6’5”- SG, LSU

22.8 PPG — 3.1 RPG — 1.4 APG — 0.8 SPG — 41/29/88 shooting splits

The Skinny: A gifted scorer, Thomas figures to serve as a super sixth man in the NBA as a flamethrower off the bench. I have massive concerns over his (nonexistent) defensive presence and spotty shot selection, but you cannot question his ability to put the ball in the bucket.

James Jones scale: 7/10


Non-NCAA names to watch:


Wings

Corey Kispert- 6’7”- W, Gonzaga

19.5 PPG — 4.9 RPG — 1.8 APG — 1.0 SPG — 55/46/89 shooting splits

The Skinny: Kispert is widely considered the best shooter in the draft. He will likely be off the board when Phoenix picks due to his rapid rise up draft boards this season. There are many similarities between him and Cam Johnson, as he’s someone that isn’t just a shooter by any means. If he’s on the board when the Suns pick somehow, lock it in.

James Jones scale: 11/10


Franz Wagner- 6’9”- W, Michigan

13.3 PPG — 6.4 RPG — 2.9 APG — 1.4 SPG — 53/37/84 shooting splits

The Skinny: The younger brother of the Wizards’ Moritz Wagner, Franz is the better prospect of the two. He is a jack of all trades wing that plays with a high IQ and has very few flaws on either end of the court. He will probably be gone when the Suns make their selection as well, but he’s someone I could see Jones and company being intrigued by.

James Jones scale: 8.5/10


Marcus Bagley- 6’7”- F, Arizona State

11.8 PPG — 6.1 RPG — 1.2 APG — 0.8 SPG — 39/36/72 shooting splits

The Skinny: The local product is likely a borderline first round pick due to his projectable archetype as a “3&D” wing. While he’s had his time limited due to injury and ASU’s COVID protocols, he’s shown some flashes that should have the attention of NBA GM’s around the league.

James Jones scale: 7.5/10


Chris Duarte- 6’6”- G/W, Oregon.

17.2 PPG — 4.7 RPG — 2.3 APG — 2.0 SPG — 53/42/78 shooting splits.

The Skinny: As far as production goes, you’d be hard pressed to find a better wing than Chris Duarte this season for the Ducks. He’s hitting tough shots off the bounce at a very efficient level, playing impactful defense and making winning plays for Oregon time and time again. He’s been widely considered a mid-to-late 2nd round prospect, but I’m much higher on him than the consensus and could see him playing his way up into the 1st round this March.

James Jones scale: 8/10


Isaiah Livers- 6’7”- W/F, Michigan

14.5 PPG — 6.2 RPG — 2.2 APG — 0.8 BPG — 48/45/87 shooting splits.

The Skinny: Michigan is one of my favorites to make a Final Four run, and Livers would be a major factor for them doing so. He’s one of the best shooters in the draft with a quick, high release that he can get off under nearly any circumstance. Keep an eye out for Michigan’s duo of Livers and Wagner, as they could skyrocket up boards the next month or so.

James Jones scale: 9/10


Trey Murphy III- 6’9”- W/F, Virginia

10.8 PPG — 3.2 RPG — 1.3 APG — 0.6 SPG — 52/46/90 shooting splits.

The Skinny: Murphy is a lights out shooter that has plus size for his position. Along with that he is an older player that plays in the ACC, so that should have James Jones’ undivided attention alone. Standing at 6’9”, he’s not going to have any trouble getting off that sweet stroke in the NBA.

James Jones scale: 9/10


Stretch Forwards/Bigs

Sandro Mamukelashvili- 6’11”- F/C, Seton Hall

17.8 PPG — 7.1 RPG — 3.1 APG — 1.1 SPG — 45/34/73 shooting splits.

The Skinny: “Mamu” seems like the type of big that James Jones would love to target, though I’m not sure they’d invest in another big after taking Jalen Smith last year. He is a point forward that can operate with the ball in his hands in transition and out of the pick and roll at 6’11”, which is very enticing in the 0.5 system.

James Jones scale: 9/10


Kessler Edwards- 6’8”- F, Pepperdine

16.6 PPG — 6.6 RPG — 1.0 APG — 1.0 BPG — 47/36/87 shooting splits.

The Skinny: Edwards has ideal size as a forward that can play a bit on the wing defensively. Along with being an active defender with length, he can space the floor as a stretch 3/4. On the older side, the upside may not be what you’d like in a typical first round pick, but he’s someone that could carve out a decent rotation role in year one.

James Jones scale: 7.5/10


Matthew Hurt- 6’9”- F/C, Duke

19.3 PPG — 6.3 RPG — 1.4 APG — 0.8 BPG — 57/45/70 shooting splits.

The Skinny: Hurt is your typical stretch big tweener that can shoot the lights out but can’t do much else. The main issue with him is that he’s not quite strong enough or a capable rim protector to play the 5, and not quick enough to hang with 4’s defensively which is troubling for his NBA projection.

James Jones scale: 7/10


Sam Hauser- 6’8”- F, Virginia.

15.3 PPG — 6.8 RPG — 1.8 APG — 0.6 SPG — 51/44/86 shooting splits.

The Skinny: There could be a legitimate case for Hauser being the best non-Kispert shooter in the class. He will likely serve as a high IQ stretch four at the next level. He isn’t a playmaker by any means, but he is a ball mover and makes the correct read more often than not for the Cavaliers. Being another older ACC prospect that can shoot the lights out, I could see Jones being enthralled.

James Jones scale: 8.5/10


Non-NCAA names to watch:

Alperen Sengun- 6’10”- C, Besiktas (Turkish League).

Usman Garuba- 6’8”- F/C, Real Madrid.


Check out my NBA Draft Zone page for full, in-depth NBA Scouting reports on some of the top prospects in the 2021 NBA Draft.

Hopefully you all find this resource useful as you follow along the NCAA tournament. It’s a tremendous feeling to not really care about what happens in the Draft Lottery.

James Jones and company should be in a prime position to add a useful rotation player in the back-end of the 1st round.

Also, be sure to listen to our latest “Zona Mondays” episode on Locked On Suns where Bright Side’s Brendon Kleen and I discuss the draft if you’d like similar content to this guide.