Analyzing Phoenix Suns' Biggest Draft Needs

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Analyzing Phoenix Suns' Biggest Draft Needs
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With three first-round selections in the upcoming 2014 NBA draft, the Phoenix Suns will have plenty of chances to improve in some specific areas that were weak during the regular season.

Though it is often said that taking the best player available is more important than focusing on a specific need, the Suns may have the opportunity to do both with their multiple first-round picks. 

The Suns don't have any huge voids to fill in the roster, or else they wouldn't have won 48 games. But they still ultimately finished the season as a ninth seed, so clearly some change is necessary to come back stronger next year. 

Now, here are the Suns' greatest draft needs that they must search for in all prospects. 

 

Rebounding

When P.J. Tucker is your second-best rebounder, you know you have a problem.

This past season, the Suns were 13th in total rebounds per game. That doesn't appear to be bad at all. 

But, once adjusted for pace, the team's rebound rate looks a bit different. Phoenix was 16th in total rebound rate and 22nd in defensive rebound rate, meaning that they were allowing a lot of offensive rebounds and second-chance opportunities to opposing teams. 

It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that dominant rebounding leads to more wins, or that most playoff teams are great at collecting boards. In fact, only two teams missed the playoffs despite finishing in the top 10 in total rebound rate—Detroit and Sacramento. If the Suns want to be a playoff squad next season, rebounding should be their first priority. 

Additionally, examine the rosters of Western Conference playoff teams and you will find that almost every team has an imposing, dominant frontcourt with at least one star.

The Suns, on the other hand, have Channing Frye and Miles Plumlee. Neither one is a great rebounder, or an intimidating defender, and one can only imagine how they would fare against Duncan, Griffin, Ibaka, Aldridge, Howard or any of the other outstanding frontcourt players in the West. 

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Having Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe is a great start to the rebuilding process, but now the Suns must focus on the frontcourt. They must look for rebounding options right now, whether it be with the 14th pick or the 50th pick. 

 

Interior Defense

In addition to rebounding, the Suns' frontcourt has one other main flaw, and that is defense. 

P.J. Tucker has established himself as a fantastic one-on-one perimeter defender capable of guarding almost any elite wing. 

Eric Bledsoe, one of the most athletic guards in the NBA, also vastly improved the Suns' defense whenever he was in the starting lineup over Gerald Green.

And Goran Dragic is also a capable perimeter defender, though it isn't his greatest strength.

But the big men, Channing Frye and Miles Plumlee, have much more trouble defensively. And if opposing teams can just find a way to drive past Bledsoe or Tucker and get to the rim, they can score easy points against Frye and Plumlee.

According to NBA.com/stats, Frye allowed opponents to shoot 52.3 percent at the rim this past season. Comparable players are Chris Bosh, Al Jefferson and Dirk Nowitzki, three forwards not known for their defensive abilities. 

Plumlee allowed 50.3 percent shooting at the rim, which is better but still not so great by center standards. For comparison, Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah allowed 46.8 percent, and Roy Hibbert led all starting centers with just 41.4 percent. 

Forward Markieff Morris was the worst of them all, allowing 56.1 percent shooting at the rim. The only four NBA forwards that played at least 25 MPG who were worse were Kevin Love, Thaddeus Young, Tristan Thompson and Kelly Olynyk

Rocky Widner/Getty Images

Unfortunately, after Joel Embiid, the 2014 draft class doesn't have many great centers. In fact, there may be only three or four centers picked in the entire first round.

But the Suns don't necessarily have to look for a dominant interior presence now. There's still hope for Alex Len, and if that doesn't work out, the Suns have the assets to make a trade as well as plenty of cap space.

Right now, they just need to evaluate all the forwards in the draft and see which players could be a defensive upgrade over Morris and Frye. 

 

Perimeter Shooting

The Suns scored 105.2 points per game in 2013-14, which ranked seventh in the league. They shot 37.2 percent from three-point range, ranking eighth.

So why do they need even more perimeter shooting?

Well, besides the fact that extra depth never hurts, the future of the team's sharpshooters is at this point unknown.

Channing Frye, who shot 37 percent from deep as a stretch 4, could opt out of his player option right now and become a free agent. Or, even if he does accept his player option and stays with the team for one more year, he could easily be traded due to his value as a veteran, an expiring contract and a sharpshooter.

Gerald Green is coming off a fantastic breakout year during which he shot 40 percent from three-point range. But now that his value has skyrocketed, he'll likely look for a huge contract extension when he hits free agency in the summer of 2015.

Rocky Widner/Getty Images

The same applies for Marcus Morris, who will also be looking for a contract extension now that his rookie contract is coming to an end. 

And finally, corner specialist P.J. Tucker will likely receive a large salary increase this summer, as he's currently a restricted free agent. 

Looking ahead, the Suns may not be able to offer all of these role players lucrative contract extensions and still retain enough cap space to chase after a third star. Therefore, the smart long-term move would be to add a cheap prospect right now who could fit in with the team's quick style of play by being a spot-up shooter off the bench. 

Which need should the Suns focus on the most during the draft?

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There might not be any playing time for that prospect at first, but it would be a long-term investment that could easily pay off. 

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