Whether it happens in the draft or later in free agency, the Phoenix Suns, according to GM Ryan McDonough, need to become more athletic and find more perimeter scoring.
The former has been on display quite a bit the last week and was again Monday with what McDonough called one of “the more athletic groups we’ve had” in for pre-draft workouts at US Airways Center.
North Texas’ Tony Mitchell and Duke’s Mason Plumlee, two likely first round prospects, highlighted a group that included projected second round candidates in guard Isaiah Canaan (Murray State) and center DeWayne Dedmon (USC), plus draft hopefuls guard Khalif Wyatt (Tempe) and forward Jamelle Hagins (Delaware).
Mitchell, a 6-foot-8, 235-pound sophomore, compared his game to Denver’s Kenneth Faried and Dallas’ Shawn Marion, a one-time Suns player.
“I know I can run up and down; definitely show athleticism, dunking the ball,” said Mitchell, who has worked out for Chicago, Denver, Portland, New York and Utah.
“He’s a very powerful guy,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said after the team’s sixth straight pre-draft workout and seventh in eight days overall. “When he gets the ball around the basket, he’s a pretty darn good finisher. He’s a guy that’s pretty intriguing for the fact that he’s big, can shoot the ball and take it inside.”
Mitchell was one of only two freshmen—Kentucky’s Anthony Davis was the other, to average a double-double (14.7 points, 10.3 rebounds) in 2011-12. Davis became the No. 1 overall pick of the New Orleans Hornets, while Mitchell returned to North Texas, where his shooting and production both dropped (13.0 points, 8.5 rebounds).
Despite the statistical drop-off, Mitchell has never dropped off McDonough’s radar. The first-year GM said he’s seen the 21-year-old play several times, including at the 2011 FIBA Under-19 World Championships in Latvia.
“He’s a guy who physically could come in and play fairly quickly I think,” McDonough said.
Plumlee is another draft prospect McDonough considers NBA-ready.
Asked to become more of a scorer his senior season at Duke, the 7-foot Plumlee averaged 17.1 points while shooting 59.9 percent from the field, seventh best in the nation. He was named Pete Newell Big Man of the Year and Associated Press second-team All-American.
Entering the NBA, however, Plumlee knows his role, at least initially, will be more defensive than offensive.
“There are very few bigs that are asked to come in and score right away,” he said. “That’s like a must: defend, rebound, protect the rim, do things like that.”
Plumlee, who averaged 7.7 rebounds per game for his career, including 10.0 rebounds last season, said he’s worked out for Boston, Dallas, Oklahoma City and Philadelphia with “about five or six more” visits scheduled.
He isn’t expected to still be available when the Suns select 30th, though McDonough has expressed an interest in acquiring an additional pick, perhaps in the middle of the first round.
Depending on the cost to move into that range, McDonough may target a player like Plumlee, whose athleticism as a big man addresses a need.
“He’ll be one of the better bigs in the league running the floor,” McDonough said. “He plays above the rim. He rebounds above the rim. There were a number of times in the workout today where if he got loose the guards just threw the ball up to the rim and he caught it and dunked it.
“A guy who can rebound the ball like that is attractive to me. The guy runs the floor and plays with energy. He’s a guy that I can see slotting in and being on the floor pretty quickly in an NBA game.”