The prospect pool in this year’s NBA Draft stands out for its surprising depth in the latter stages.
The 2017 class has a consensus top 10 players followed by three players — Donovan Mitchell, Zach Collins and OG Anunoby — that are very unlikely to fall past the 15th selection.
Beyond a few names like Justin Jackson, Luke Kennard and Jarrett Allen, who could go in the middle of the first round, it’s anyone’s guess as to the next players who will come off the board.
Charting big boards across the web, there’s a muddled group of 15-30 players ranked between 15-45 that have late first round to early second round grades on them depending on the opinion.
What this does is add more value to second-round picks, even in the bottom-half of the round, because teams have been known to ignore rankings and go get “their guy” once the second half of the first round starts.
Past selections like Bruno Caboclo, Solomon Hill, Miles Plumlee and Larry Nance Jr. in that late first round opened the door for higher rated players to fall into round two. Montrezl Harrell slipped all the way to 32 in 2015 and Jordan Clarkson plummeted to 46 in 2014.
When this happens teams like the Phoenix Suns, who this year own the No. 32 and 54 picks, can cash in.
The theme of this group in 2017 is raw big men. Allen, Ike Anigbogu, Justin Patton, Harry Giles, Isaiah Hartenstein, Ivan Rabb and D.J. Wilson are part of that group.
Now, how you feel about those players and what the Suns should look for with their first second-round selection at No. 32 dictates your stance. Either you want the Suns to take one of them as a potential replacement for Tyson Chandler and Alex Len — the depth of the group makes it likely one of them is on the board — or you’d rather find a wing or guard and will be happy every time a big man is taken by another team in the late first round.
Speaking of wings, there’s a cluster of older, more seasoned perimeter players that will surely have a standout or two within a few years.
All of these players have a certain balance to their offensive skill while doing their best defensively. Derrick White, Josh Hart, Sindarius Thornwell, Wesley Iwundu, Dillon Brooks and Sterling Brown all specialize in different ways and could help a rotation right away. While not as deep as the former group, there are bigs that qualify here too, such as Johnathan Motley and Cameron Oliver.
Those looking for a specific skill, such as defense or shooting, can look in the second round as well. These players are at this grade because of how much they rely on that singular tool to contribute.
Syracuse’s Tyler Lydon and Valpo’s Alec Peters are great shooters, Jordan Bell is one of the best defenders in this draft, Mathias Lessort and Bam Adebayo are simple energy bigs with upside for more, Dwayne Bacon can really score and undersized guards Frank Mason and Tyler Dorsey each excel in different ways offensively.
Lastly, the Suns can take a big swing on a player that has significant red flags surrounding their profile but could ultimately be a steal if they reach their ceilings.
SMU forward Semi Ojeleye has tweener concerns but also has a unique combination of a strong, athletic frame with a smooth shooting stroke. South Carolina’s P.J. Dozier must continue to develop his floor sense but has all the tools athletically to be a versatile combo guard. If someone can figure out how Florida’s Devin Robinson and Clemson’s Jaron Blossomgame fit in today’s game and grow their skills, their athleticism will shine in specific roles.
Where some of this value took a hit, however, is the international prospects. Rodions Kurucs, Kostja Mushidi and Arnoldas Kulboka were all near-locks to get drafted — Kurucs in the first round — and withdrew their names this week. French big man Jonathan Jeanne, who gained some serious first round buzz in the past month, also had a major medical condition come up and his career is now in doubt.
This is important to note because if the Suns feel they don’t have enough roster space and don’t like a player’s fit for the NAZ Suns, they might elect to trade one or both of the picks. The draft-and-stash options are limited, as DraftExpress’ latest mock had just seven international players selected.
Still, it’s a deep group and the Suns could find their next Tyler Ulis, Alan Williams or Derrick Jones Jr. as part of their long-term core.