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Suns weigh the risk vs. reward of draft prospects

Drafting players, regardless of the sport, is an inexact science.

The process becomes further complicated when the information on a player is limited, i.e. one or two years of college experience.

Teams will not hesitate drafting a Nerlens Noel out of Kentucky or a Ben McLemore out of Kansas, players who are one-and-done, because of their supposed “can’t miss,” NBA-ready talent.

Teams will hesitate, though, drafting a player, perhaps just as young as a Noel or McLemore, but maybe needs more seasoning.

“If you’re right there at a championship level and you need one more guy you think will put you over the hump, then it probably makes sense to draft a more veteran guy, maybe a senior who can come and play right away,” Suns GM Ryan McDonough said. “Where we are, obviously we need to build this, so if there is a guy you think can be a starter, a good starter someday even if he’s 18, 19, might not be ready to play, then that might be a risk you have to take.”

The Suns have worked out a handful of players who fit that description.

Grant Jerrett, who left UA after just one year, was among the first draft prospects to visit Phoenix. A 6-foot-10, 232-pound 19-year-old, Jerrett has reportedly worked out well for teams, seeing his stock rise.

Archie Goodwin is an 18-year-old shooting guard who averaged 14.1 points in his one and only season at Kentucky.

“He’s got length. He’s got good size,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said of the 6-foot-5 Goodwin.

“Obviously, he’s going to need to learn the game better,” Hornacek added. “When you got a young kid like that, those are the guys you can kind of train. You can see he’s got the feel. He’s a guy out there that with some work and a couple of years, he can be a very good player.”

Goodwin at least played a year in college. Ricky Ledo did not.

In for a visit this past weekend, the 20-year-old shooting guard was academically ineligible to play as a freshman at Providence but was allowed to practice.

“Ricky really shoots the ball well,” said McDonough, who watched the former high school All-American practice. “He’s just a natural scorer. He has been his whole life. The challenge is the rest of the game, especially not having played this year. He’s never guarded guys with this size, strength and athleticism.”

The Suns, obviously, need to hit on all of their draft picks, especially the No. 5 overall selection, but do they take a chance at No. 30 or No. 57?

A younger, inexperienced player may be deemed a high-risk but one with a high-reward.

Coming off a 25-win season, the Suns may be willing to be patient with that type of player.

It’s up to McDonough to make that call.

“It depends on the player. I’m certainly not opposed to it,” he said citing three straight seasons of drafting high school players while he worked in Boston: Kendrick Perkins in 2003, Al Jefferson in 2004 and Gerald Green in 2005.

“If I think the guy has special ability and most of the guys we’re talking about,” McDonough continued, “they were some of the top-rated players in their high school class. They have been the best players in their age group all the way. Yeah, obviously, it is more of a longer term thing. You might take a year or two before they can give you anything at the NBA level, but if you think a guy has a chance to be special then I think you have to take that risk.”

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