Six 2014 NBA Draft Prospects Phoenix Suns Must Target
The Suns have three first-round picks at 14th, 18th and 27th overall. Though it's unlikely that they bring three rookies into training camp next season, this situation gives general manager Ryan McDonough the opportunity to make a trade and still select a promising prospect or two for the future.
The Suns have seen dozens of prospects work out, and by now they are likely choosing between just a few candidates.
Here is a list of prospects that the Suns should target. Since there should always be a backup plan, each pick comes with two different targets.
The Suns have a greater need in the frontcourt than the backcourt, but the best player available should always be taken with a lottery pick. Perhaps the Suns have learned that lesson ever since they drafted Earl Clark and Kendall Marshall in the late lottery.
The Suns have plenty of shooting guards, but the future of that position is not so clear.
Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe are backcourt partners in crime, but Bledsoe is a restricted free agent, and there's always a chance that the two will not stick together in the long term. If one is traded for a star such as Kevin Love, for example, the other would become the sole starting point guard.
Then there's Gerald Green, who is coming off a fantastic breakout season but who is also an unrestricted free agent next year. The Suns may be so focused on re-signing Goran Dragic and the Morris twins at that point that there will be little cap room left to give a pay increase to a sixth man such as Green.
And although Archie Goodwin showed some promise in his rookie season, he is a slasher by nature and would be unable to replicate Green's fantastic three-point shooting, which was such an integral part of the offense in 2013-14.
So, who is one of the best pure shooters in this draft class? Michigan's 20-year-old Nik Stauskas.
He is a fantastic shooter as well as an efficient scorer and passer. Whereas Goodwin brings the athleticism, Stauskas is known for his high basketball IQ.
His defense is much more questionable, but then again, so is Green's. If Stauskas could be the next J.J. Redick or Gordon Hayward, the Suns should certainly take him with a lottery pick. He may not contribute immediately but could be an above-average starter one day.
Unfortunately, not too many mock drafts have Stauskas falling all the way to No. 14th. Most have him in the No. 9-13 range. But even so, there's always a possibility that he could fall to the Suns. And if that happens, they should pounce on the opportunity.
If Stauskas is off the board, another shooter the Suns could target is Gary Harris.
The main advantage that Harris holds over Stauskas is that he's more of a two-way player who can play great defense as well as offense. He is a better all-around prospect.
On the other hand, he is undersized at 6'4.5" with a 6'6.75" wingspan, and that might not be what Phoenix is looking for. If the team drafts Harris instead of Stauskas, it would be almost impossible to play both Harris and Archie Goodwin at the same time, because neither one is good enough to run the offense or big enough to consistently log time at small forward. Therefore, it could be argued that one prospect would impede the development of the other.
Plus, Stauskas really is an extraordinary shooter. Harris has nice touch, but he isn't on quite the same level when it comes to pure shooting ability.
There is a possibility that neither Stauskas nor Harris will be available at No. 14. In that case, other options include Rodney Hood, James Young and Zach LaVine.
Hypothetically, Adreian Payne could be available with the 18th pick. But it's a bit of a risk to wait until then and certainly no guarantee. Still, taking him 14th would mean abandoning the idea of selecting a pure shooter in the lottery.
The reason for his value is that he would be an immediate contributor off the bench. At 23 years old he may be one of the most NBA-ready prospects in the draft and could contribute to a playoff run right away.
Channing Frye is clearly regressing and could also be making $6.8 million next year if he accepts his player option. While Markieff Morris might be a fine replacement for Frye, the Suns could also attempt to use Payne as a cheap solution. He is, after all, a great shooter.
Payne is a versatile offensive player who can do a bit of everything. At Michigan State he had a post game and was able to score from the paint as well as from behind the three-point line. He has the length to occasionally block shots and has also been praised for his hustle on the glass.
Defense may be a problem for him. That seems to be a trend throughout this list, but if the Suns are drafting Payne to replace Frye, defense should not be the greatest consideration.
Drafting him depends on whether the Suns would rather take upside or ability. Payne has the talent to play in the NBA and contribute right now, unlike other 20-year-old forwards who are out there. But he has limited upside as well as fairly low stamina, which could affect his ability to be a true starter in the NBA.
Keep in mind that some great scorers could available with the 18th pick. One of those prospects is T.J. Warren out of N.C. State.
He is often criticized for the same reason as Doug McDermott, which is that both players are small forward/power forward tweeners. However, Warren is an exceptionally skilled scorer who uses strength as well as skill to complement his game, and therefore the "tweener" label shouldn't really dissuade suitors.
He may never be a primary scoring option or fantastic shot-creator, and yet he is often praised for his ability to move without the ball and set off-ball screens. He's fantastic in transition and as a catch-and-shoot player, which would make him a perfect fit for the Suns system. The offensive rebounds don't hurt either.
His defensive potential and instincts could be his greatest weakness, and those are where the tweener concerns really come into focus. If he isn't strong enough to guard NBA power forwards or quick enough to guard small forwards, he may struggle to find minutes in a rotation.
But overall, Warren is a promising prospect who could help Phoenix without demanding many touches.
Swiss power forward Clint Capela is admittedly one of the rawer prospects in this class. But when a team has multiple first-round picks, it's a good idea to select at least one player due to his upside.
If the Suns draft him, it would primarily be for his physical tools. He's 6'11" with a 7'4.5" wingspan and still has the speed to run the floor in transition and entertain crowds with his leaping ability.
Above all, those tools could make him a fantastic rebounder and shot-blocker, which is exactly what the Suns need in the future. The current frontcourt duo of Channing Frye and Miles Plumlee is quite unimpressive in terms of rebounding and defense, and the Suns lack a high-energy frontcourt player on the bench.
As for his weaknesses, Capela must add strength in order to be an effective NBA big. But that is a problem that many 20-year-old prospects face (including the Suns' 2013 selection Alex Len), and therefore it shouldn't be a huge concern.
Capela is raw, and it could take him a few years to adapt to the NBA and live up to his potential. At 18th, he'd be a risky pick. At 27th, he would be a steal. If he's successful, he could be the next Serge Ibaka or Kenneth Faried.
Jerami Grant is similar to Capela in that he is a gifted athlete who lacks polished skills. Grant, above all, could use a great shooting coach to fix his broken shot in the NBA.
Enter Jeff Hornacek.
If Grant can develop a decent jump shot and serviceable set of post moves, he would become a fantastic player. That's easier said than done, but if anyone could teach him to shoot, it's Hornacek.
A weak offensive game is one of the only shortcomings that Grant has. He already possesses the athleticism and defensive potential of an intimidating big man.
If he lives up to his potential, he could draw comparisons to Al-Farouq Aminu, an athletic undersized power forward who is fairly valuable to his team despite his lack of perimeter skills. Or, Grant could look more like another former Syracuse player and Phoenix Sun, Hakim Warrick.
Neither are stars, but with the 27th pick, most teams would gladly take their level of production.