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Phoenix Suns Draft Primer: The Bigs Edition

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Phoenix could use some size from a general needs point of view, but does it make sense to draft a big in consecutive years?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-North Texas at Villanova IndyStar-USA TODAY Sports

Happy draft day, folks!

Here is our final quick-hit positional draft primer guide, this time we’ll cover the bigs in the 2021 NBA Draft to keep an eye on.

Below we have the previous primers in case you missed them:

In general, I don’t think the Suns should draft for any immediate specific needs in this draft. I’ve made it clear by this point that you can find a cheap veteran big like a JaVale McGee to eat minutes in an instant impact role for example.

If Phoenix takes a big I hope it’s because they value them as a long-term piece to their core, and not an immediate fix or solution to their current needs.

Likely out of reach:

Kai Jones- F/C, 6’11” (Texas)

Isaiah Jackson- F/C, 6’11” (Kentucky)

Alperen Sengun- C, 6’10” (Turkey)

A lot of these guys are more in the late lottery to mid-first range, so it’s doubtful any of them are there at 29.


The Bigs!

Usman Garuba- F/C, 6’8” (Real Madrid)

  • Role: Elite Defender + Rim Runner
  • Stats: 4.7 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 0.5 BPG, 0.8 APG on 47/31/66 shooting splits in 17.2 MPG.

It’s fairly unlikely Garuba is available at 29, but I had to include him on this list because he’d be such a perfect fit for what Phoenix needs while simultaneously fitting in long-term. Don’t get too caught up in the raw numbers, as he played in the ACB and EuroLeague, the second-highest level(s) of competition outside of the NBA.

If he somehow drops, take him and don’t think twice. He’s one of— if not the best defender in the entire draft.

JT Thor- F/C, 6’10.5” (Auburn)

  • Role: Versatile Big + Rim Runner
  • Stats: 9.4 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 1.4 BPG, 0.8 SPG on 44/29/74 shooting splits.

Thor is a pure upside play that will take time to develop, but man does he have some insanely fun flashes. He’d be a project for sure, but one I would not have an issue with the Suns taking a swing on by any means. He’s long, mobile, athletic, and has some interesting ball skills as well.

Day’Ron Sharpe- F/C, 6’11” (UNC)

  • Role: Energy Big + Interior Threat
  • Stats: 9.5 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.9 BPG on 52/0/50 shooting splits.

Sharpe will likely be able to carve out a role as an energy third big for a team that could use some size and rebounding. He does a nice job of carving out space and scoring in the interior along with snatching rebounds through his size and positioning. He’s projected to go right around Phoenix’s range, so keep an eye out for the Tarheel product.

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl- F/C, 6’9” (Villanova)

  • Role: Interior Threat + Well-rounded big
  • Stats: 15.7 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.6 BPG on 49/28/71 shooting splits.

JRE is very much the most “James Jones-type” on this list and could be a likely option for the Suns at 29. He’s a well-rounded big with experience in a winning program, but my main concern is where he plays positionally full-time. He’s strong enough to guard the interior, but not a rim protector, and isn’t exactly the best defender in space against quicker players.

While I do think he’ll carve out a productive career as a third or fourth big in an NBA rotation, he’s not someone that has a ton of upside. If he’s the pick, you’d get a mostly neutral reaction from me.

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

  • Role: Versatile Playmaking Big + Stretch Big
  • Stats: 17.5 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.1 SPG on 43/33/71 shooting splits.

Sandro is a grab-and-go big that has ball skills and would fit seamlessly into the 0.5 system that Phoenix deploys. He can stretch the floor and has even shown some off-the-dribble shooting along with some half-court pick and roll promise. The defense and shot selection could be better, but with the way the game is trending, he could be an interesting rotation big.

Luka Garza- C, 6’11” (Iowa)

  • Role: Traditional Center + Interior Threat
  • Stats: 24.1 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.6 BPG on 55/44/71 shooting splits.

I’m not really on the Garza train, but he’s included due to him checking a lot of James Jones boxes as far as his combination of age, BPM, shooting percentages, and production goes. He will likely be a liability defensively, but he should continue to provide an offensive punch on the inside and be able to contribute as a backup center for years to come.

Honorable Mentions

  • Jay Huff- C, 7’0” (Virginia)
  • Filip Petrusev- F/C, 6’9” (Mega Basket)

That concludes our 2021 NBA Draft primers, now it’s time for the big show tonight.

We’ll have additional coverage that will be much more in-depth on the Suns’ actual selection with the 29th pick, assuming they keep and make that pick.