Suns draft notebook: Tim Kempton Jr. works out, Jordan Bell wants to be Draymond Green
PHOENIX — There can’t be too many draft prospects who have inside knowledge of the team they’re working out for, so count Tim Kempton Jr. among the lucky ones.
With his father watching from a chair overlooking the Phoenix Suns’ practice court at Talking Stick Resort Arena, the former Lehigh and Brophy College Preparatory standout went through a 90-plus minute workout for the team his father, Tim Kempton, once played for and for the past 14 seasons has been the radio color analyst, sitting alongside Al McCoy.
“It’s surreal. To kind of even think about that is one thing, but then to come out here and kind of have that experience is a whole other opportunity,” Kempton Jr. said. “I’m thankful for all the NBA workouts I’ve done, but this one is going to hold a special place in my heart and in mind no matter what happens. I mean, coming out working out for the Phoenix Suns is something that you dream of as a little kid, playing for your hometown team, and I was able to do that today.”
Kempton Jr. was among a six-player workout on Friday that included Oregon junior forward Jordan Bell, Miami senior guard Davon Reed, Syracuse senior forward Andrew White III and New Mexico senior forward Tim Williams plus Mathias Lessort, a 6-foot-9 forward from France.
Bell is the only one projected to be a first-round pick, likely in the later third of the 30 selections.
Kempton Jr. is hopeful to hear his name called on June 22.
“But I also know free agency is not a bad situation at all, either,” he said. “Being able to kind of, as they say, pick your team, can benefit some players and kind of benefit the roles that you want to play on a certain team.”
Listed at 6-foot-10 and 253 pounds, Kempton Jr. can certainly handle himself in the paint. He led Lehigh in rebounding in each of his final three years, while his 10.4 mark as a senior topped the Patriot League and was good for 13th nationally.
Then there is his ability to shoot the ball, specifically being able to stretch the floor as a big.
Kempton Jr. shot 39.7 percent from 3-point range for his career, including making 23-of-56 this season. Dad never even attempted a 3 during his eight-year run in the NBA.
“Knowing the way the game was transitioning these past couple of years and…watching games every night, he knew this was a turn that the league was making and he kind of jumped on my butt early to try to just get my form down and be able to stretch to the 3 in college a little bit last year and then now making the push to the NBA 3-point line,” said Kempton Jr., who averaged 20.4 points this season.
A two-time Patriot League Player of the Year and AP Honorable Mention All-American, Kempton Jr., Arizona’s player of the year in 2013, left Lehigh as the school’s and league’s all-time leader in career rebounds. plus he ranked third in school history and fourth in Patriot League history in career points.
“I think with Kempton it shows — and I’m just referring only solely to his father — that you can get by despite your bloodlines,” assistant GM Pat Connelly joked. “He had a hell of a career at Lehigh. Really skilled. As you can see, really strong. He’s a little bit more toned up than his dad. I think it does help growing up around the game. There’s a certain sense you get when you’re around the gym from, like, kind of day one. A good feel for the game, obviously, is the one thing that usually pops out for kids like that.”
Athleticism is what popped during Bell’s workout. Then again, it popped during his three years at Oregon as well.
The Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, Bell, as a junior, finished second in the conference in blocks (2.3), led the league in field goal percentage (63.6) and ranked sixth in rebounding (8.8) and 13th in steals (1.3).
In the NCAA Tournament, he became the first player with five straight games of 12-plus rebounds since Houston’s Hakeem Olajuwon in 1983-84, including 13 to go along with 11 points and a season-best eight blocks to help lead Oregon past Kansas in the Elite Eight and advance to the Final Four.
Bell credits his effort for his ability to rebound and block shots.
“I think it’s 90 percent effort, honestly. You just got to want to do it. A lot of people have the ability, they just don’t want to,” he said. “And then I think 10 percent is like, just having the kind of skills (of) knowing where it’s going to come off, how it’s going to bounce, where exactly it’s going to be off, if somebody is shooting left-handed or right-handed, like where the ball is going to land. Stuff like that.”
Added Connelly, “Look at him, he’s not 6-11, but it doesn’t matter. He gets out there. He gets up. He battles. He’s physical. He has that timing or knack, same thing with his shot-blocking, you can’t just be athletic and rebound, you also have to have kind of a commitment to get the ball and the timing to kind of read where the ball is going.”
Bell is 6-foot-9 but has a 6-foot-11 wingspan and 8-8½ standing reach. He ran the fastest shuttle time (2.56) in combine history, and he nearly surpassed this year’s top mark in the Suns’ post-workout three-minute run. Bell fell short by half a court length.
“My teammate Dillon Brooks set the record for this year of 28½, so I wanted to at least get better than that,” he said. “I’m kind of disappointed.”
While Bell can put the ball in the basket, it’s on the defensive end of the floor where he believes he can have the biggest impact on a team.
“I take very much pride in my defense. I think that’s who I am, that’s my label, that’s what I hang my hat on every time I step on the floor,” he said. “I think my ability to guard perimeter players, switch on screens, keep people in front of me is definitely something that’s going to help me out in the long run, keep me in the league a long time and make my value go up more.”
Some have compared him to Bo Outlaw, a 6-foot-8 forward who lasted 15 years — including two stints with the Suns — in the league because of his effort and energy.
Bell prefers the comparison to a current player, Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors.
“Just a guy who does everything on the floor, is scrappy, tough. Offensively, just making the right plays, never looking for his shot. He understands his role. He has players around them so he tries just to get them more shots, get them open on screens, rebound, give them extra shots, stuff like that,” he said.
“Me coming in right now is definitley the perfect time for me to come into the league.”