Phoenix Suns: How Good Can Their Recent Draft Picks Be?
In the final part of my three-article series about the Phoenix Suns' drafting history since 1990, I'm going to take a look at the eight selections that the franchise has made in the last four years.
So far, I've analyzed all the picks that the Suns have made and come up with the 10 best picks and the 10 worst picks, all based on a formula that you can find fully explained on either of those two articles. If you haven't checked either of them out, I would highly recommend doing so before clicking through this one so that the next eight slides make more sense.
Once you've done that, read on to see how the eight most recent picks fit in.
Robin Lopez (No. 15 in 2008)
In order to break even with his 15th-overall selection, Robin Lopez has to accumulate 8.7 Win Shares over the first four years of his career.
After a disappointing rookie season and a failed experiment in which he started 87 of the 118 games he played in during his second and third seasons with the Phoenix Suns, it appears as though it's going to be quite difficult for the former Stanford Cardinal to make it to that magical number of 8.7.
Going into the 2011-2012 season, Lopez had earned just 5.8 Win Shares and through the first 27 games of the season, he's only earned another 0.5 more.
Without a starting job, there is no way that Lopez is going to be able to avoid the bust label. Assuming he maintains his current pace this season, he'll finish the four-year span with 7.4 WS, giving him a Difference of -1.3.
While that's not good enough for Lopez to make his way into the best picks rankings, it's not bad enough for him to drop into the worst picks rankings either.
Goran Dragic (No. 45 in 2008)
Because Goran Dragic was selected with the 45th pick of the 2008 NBA draft, he only needs to earn 2.3 Win Shares over the first four years of his career to break even.
Dragic exceed that total in his second season alone, when he accumulated 2.8 WS while averaging 7.9 points, 2.1 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game.
Going into this season, the 6'4" guard from Slovenia, who was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs and traded to the Phoenix Suns two days later, had already earned 3.9 WS in his career. Now playing for the Houston Rockets, he's on pace to earn 3.2 more this season, which would give him a four-year total of 7.1.
That hypothetical Difference of 4.8 would make him the eighth-best draft pick for the Phoenix Suns since 1990 and knock some guy named Steve Nash out of the top 10.
Earl Clark (No. 14 in 2009)
Now a good bit of the way into his third season at the NBA level, Earl Clark still has yet to start even a single game for either the Phoenix Suns, who drafted him out of Louisville in 2009, or the Orlando Magic, who received him in a trade in December of 2010.
That's a bit problematic since Clark has to earn 9.1 Win Shares to break even.
The 6'10" forward was terrible as a rookie, shooting only 37 percent from the field as he accumulated a pathetic -0.3 WS. He made up for it with 0.3 positive ones the next season and is still stuck at 0.0 this season.
Unless there's a serious breakout coming and he puts up a historic fourth season, Clark is doomed to find himself as one of the biggest Suns' busts since 1990. To avoid coming in at No. 1 on the worst picks rankings, Clark needs to earn 2.2 WS. Otherwise, his Difference would be worse than -6.9 and he'd supplant Zarko Carbarkapa as the worst pick since 1990.
Taylor Griffin (No. 48 in 2009)
I think it's safe to say that Taylor Griffin hasn't had the same amount of success that his brother Blake has had in the NBA.
Taylor played in just eight games during his rookie season and has yet to find himself back on the basketball court at the highest level of the sport in the United States. He spent the rest of that rookie season with the Iowa Energy in the D-League before departing for Belgacom Liege in Belgium. Now, Griffin is toiling away with the Dakota Wizards.
It seems unlikely that Griffin is ever going to make much of an impact, if any, at the NBA level again, so I'm going to assume that he earns no more Win Shares throughout his career.
WIth a career total of 0.0 and an expected four-year total of 1.9, that leaves him with a difference of -1.9. Tough math, I know.
If that's the case, Griffin will edge his way into the worst picks rankings at No. 9, just slightly worse than Mark Buford and Ron Ellis, both of whom were drafted with No. 49 picks and never played a game in the NBA.
Emir Preldzic (No. 57 in 2009)
A 6'9" player who can comfortably play point guard, shooting guard, small forward or power forward, Emir Preldzic was drafted with the 57th pick of the 2009 NBA draft by the Phoenix Suns.
Since then, the versatile Bosnian has yet to make his way across the pond to play for the team who drafted him, or any other NBA team for that matter.
Fernerbahce Ulker, the team that Preldzic plays for, renewed his contract earlier this month, locking him up for the next three years. As a result, I highly doubt that Preldzic will ever play in the NBA.
That leaves him with a Difference of -0.9, meaning that he was a disappointing pick for the Suns, but not disappointing enough to find himself on the worst picks rankings.
Gani Lawal (No. 46 in 2010)
Gani Lawal made his NBA debut on December 31, 2010 in a 92-75 victory against the Detroit Pistons. The former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket found himself on the court for just one minute and 56 seconds, committing one foul and making absolutely no other box score contributions.
Since then, he has yet to make it back onto the court, instead spending time with the Iowa Energy, Zastal Zielona Gora and his current team, Xinjiang Flying Tigers.
Because he was drafted at No. 46 in 2010, Lawal's expected four-year Win Shares come out at 2.2. If he never plays again, he'll finish with a Difference of -2.2 and find himself at No. 9 on the worst picks rankings.
Dwayne Collins (No. 60 in 2010)
Mr. Irrelevants like Dwayne Collins aren't really expected to make much of an impact in the NBA, although players like Isaiah Thomas are the exception to the rule and the reason that No. 60 picks are historically supposed to earn 0.6 Win Shares during the first four seasons of their career.
I think it's safe to say that Collins is going to finish that four-year span with a difference of -0.6. He's never played a game with the Phoenix Suns or any other team in the NBA, and he was recently let go by the Cimberio Varese, an Italian team in the Lega Basket Serie A.
If you can't make it in an Italian league, you aren't going to make it in the NBA.
Markieff Morris (No. 13 in 2011)
It's up to Markieff Morris to change the trend for the recent draft picks of the Phoenix Suns.
In the seven picks we've looked at so far, we've seen just one player perform well enough to find himself expected to come out of the first four years of his career with a positive Difference.
Because he was drafted out of Kansas at No. 13, Morris has to earn 9.6 Win Shares over that crucial four-year span to break even. If his rookie season is any indication, that shouldn't be a problem.
Morris has played in all 27 games for the Suns thus far, starting five games in the process. His averages currently stand at 7.4 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game and he's earned 0.8 WS so far. That puts the former Jayhawk on pace for 2.0 WS as a rookie in a shortened season. Even if he doesn't improve at all and maintains that identical pace, he'll finish the four years with 9.3 WS and only slightly underperform.
I've liked what I've seen from Morris in brief bursts and think he's going to earn a larger role with the team sooner rather than later.
A lot can change, but right now it appears as though Morris will validate his lottery selection in this past draft.