In almost every NBA draft, there is a consensus No. 1 pick. We have seen Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose taken first overall in the past five drafts, and all were considered the top of their respective classes.
But this year is perhaps one of the worst times for the Phoenix Suns to be bottom-feeders in the NBA. The Suns would have the fourth overall pick if the draft were today, but unfortunately, in a weak draft without an established top prospect, the expectations should not be too high.
At one time, Cody Zeller was considered the top prospect of the class, but his stock has fallen outside of the top five. Shabazz Muhammad has also been incredibly inconsistent this season, and he is no longer considered an elite prospect either. Nerlens Noel's stock took a slight hit after injuring his knee, and even Ben McLemore is a risky pick. His poor performance in the NCAA tournament raised more questions about his potential in the NBA.
At this point, it is impossible to know in which order the top prospects will be taken.
Still, there is certainly talent to be had. There are no players who currently project to be superstars at a professional level, but with two lottery picks, the Suns should hopefully be able to find two promising young players who should eventually contribute to a contending Phoenix team. Even if the cornerstone has yet to be found, the Suns can start to build the foundation of a solid supporting cast through the upcoming draft.
Here are a few March Madness stars that Suns fans should be keeping an eye on.
The Suns have so many wing players already, with Dudley, Tucker, Johnson, Brown, Beasley and even Marcus Morris.
While all of those guys could be great role players, the Suns could still use a star at shooting guard or small forward, or at least an everyday starter.
It's true, Oladipo is not the go-to scorer that the Suns crave. But to be fair, who is? Muhammad and McLemore are the two best scorers on the wings in this class, but neither of those two are franchise players, and they certainly don't compare to the Andrew Wiggins/Jabari Parker duo of the 2014 draft class.
So instead, perhaps the versatile 6'5" Oladipo out of Indiana should be considered. After all, if head coach Lindsey Hunter really wants to build a defensive-minded team, this would be a great start.
Although Indiana has already been eliminated, Oladipo had a phenomenal junior season.
He shot an incredible 60 percent from the field, mainly because he only takes smart shots. He scored 13.6 points and grabbed 6.3 rebounds per game, which is great for a 6'5" guard. He also has explosive athleticism, and emphatic fast-break dunks could once again be a common sight at the U.S Airways Center with Oladipo on the roster.
But what really separates him from the rest is his elite defense.
Oladipo has a defensive rating of just 86.9, and he also led the Big Ten with 2.2 steals per game. He has enough defensive potential to be placed in the NBA and immediately draw defensive comparisons to Tony Allen, Avery Bradley or Iman Shumpert.
He may not try to isolate or create offense for himself, but Oladipo has a lot of skills. He can catch and shoot in the corner, do a backdoor cut and finish the play off a pass, or thrill the crowd with an exciting alley-oop on a fast-break play. And remember, he provides all of that on offense while still being trusted to defend against the likes of Bryant, Harden or Wade.
Should the Suns Consider Taking Oladipo in the Top Five Picks?
Oladipo is not going to score 20 points per game in the NBA, as it just isn't in his nature. But if all goes well, perhaps his career will emulate that of Andre Iguodala, or even Luol Deng. That would be a great talent to have.
Glenn Robinson III
Michigan is about to make its first Final Four appearance since 1993. Trey Burke is the main player to thank for that, but Glenn Robinson III has also been an extremely important piece for Michigan all season long.
If Tim Hardaway Jr. and Burke both declare for the NBA draft, perhaps the freshman small forward Robinson is would be better off staying in college for another year, where he could be the star. However, he is currently the 14th pick in this mock draft (via nbadraft.net), which would make him a prime target for the Suns with the lottery pick from the Los Angeles Lakers if he does declare.
Robinson has shot 23-of-37 from the field in four tournament games, and he is averaging 13.5 points and 6.3 rebounds during that stretch as well. For the season, Robinson has posted averages of 11.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game, all while shooting 57 percent from the field and 33 percent from downtown.
In many ways, Robinson is actually comparable to Oladipo. Robinson has an insane vertical leap and the ability to soar for a highlight dunk. At the same time, he is also great at working off of the ball and getting open rather than isolating or creating offense for himself.
He isn't as great of a defensive player as Oladipo, and several scouts have criticized him for his weaker frame, but Robinson could be a great backup plan to the Indiana guard. He has clearly inherited the basketball gene from his father, and as long as the Lakers miss the playoffs and Robinson declares for the draft, he may have an automatic spot as a lottery pick with Phoenix.
Junior center Gorgui Dieng may not be considered a "star" prospect, but he could be the perfect second-round target for the Suns in the draft. Right now, this mock draft has him being taken 39th overall.
Phoenix does need wing players, but it could also use some youth down low. Marcin Gortat could still be traded at any moment. Luis Scola and Jermaine O'Neal are solid, but both are only getting older. Hamed Haddadi has been a serviceable third-string center but probably shouldn't be in the team's long-term plans. What the Suns could really use is a young defensive enforcer down low.
That is exactly what Dieng brings to the table. The Louisville center averages 10.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game, and he could bring some physicality and toughness to the Phoenix frontcourt.
Dieng is an impressive post defender, and not just because of his block numbers. He does read the offense well enough to get into position to block a shot, but he also uses his upper-body strength to pressure his man and can defend in pick-and-roll situations as well.
Dieng also has the ability to succeed on offense, though not at an elite level. While he does still have trouble handling the ball and shooting free throws, he has some decent moves on the low block and can consistently knock down a jumper from about 12 to 15 feet away from the basket.
On top of all of that, Dieng is doing very well so far in the tournament. He is averaging 11 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks through four games, and he has also shot 20-of-24 in that time. He definitely stepped up for Louisville against Duke after Kevin Ware was injured, and Dieng put up 14 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks.
He may not necessarily be a future starter, but Dieng could be a steal for the Suns in the second round. He is a fantastic rebounder and defender, but his offensive game isn't too raw either, making him a fairly well-rounded prospect.