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Suns put spotlight on bigs in pre-draft workout

After an all-guard prospect visit Tuesday, big men took center stage on the practice court at US Airways Center Thursday.

The Suns’ tenth pre-draft workout featured possible No. 30 candidates Colton Iverson of Colorado State and Jeff Withey of Kansas.

The two seven-foot centers were joined by Tucson native Aaron Anderson, a forward from Kennesaw State, as well as forwards Augusto Lima (Spain), Deshaun Thomas (Ohio State) and Rodney Williams (Minnesota).

“We had a good balance of size,” GM Ryan McDonough said.

Withey, who transferred from Arizona during his freshman year after then-head coach Lute Olson resigned, was the most high-profile of the group, and perhaps most NBA-ready.

“He has such a shot blocking knack,” McDonough said. “I mean you guys have seen it during the NCAA Tournament and watching Kansas over the course of his career there, (he) really just turns a lot of balls away at the rim, either his own man or off the ball, weak side shot blocking. He’s certainly a factor on that end of the floor.”

Withey led the Big 12 with nearly four blocked shots per game, ranking second nationally and setting both the school and conference per game average season record.

The two-time Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year acknowledged he needs to add weight. Listed at 222 pounds, Withey said he wants to play at 235 or 240 pounds next season.

Scoring is another area of his game he wants to elevate.

“I want to show people that I can shoot the ball,” said Withey, who had his own cheering section with former Kansas teammates Marcus and Markieff Morris watching the workout. “That’s something that I’ve been working on is my 15-foot jump shot.”

With Marcin Gortat as the lone center currently under contract for next season, the Suns are in need of a big who is not only strong inside, but athletic as well.

“The game has changed,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “Sixty-five, seventy percent of the game is pick-and-rolls. You can’t have a big guy out there that can’t move his feet. Teams will just stick guys in the pick-and-roll on him and these guards today are good enough to get by you and create something. It’s very important that the bigs can move their feet.”

This year’s draft class, while missing that so-called “franchise changer”, is deep at the center position.

Already the Suns have worked out Steven Adams, DeWayne Dedmon, Rudy Gobert, Zeke Marshall, Mike Muscala, Mason Plumlee and Cody Zeller plus received a visit from Alex Len, who according to reports is drawing consideration for the number-one overall pick held by Cleveland.

“If I were to guess out of the 30 picks in the first round, I’d probably say at least six to eight of those would be centers, which is rare. Some years there’s just a handful,” McDonough said. “After you get past the lottery or the upper half of the lottery, I think there’s really good depth at the center position from the mid-lottery down through late first round, maybe in the early second round.

“It’s good,” he continued. “Every team in the league could use a center. Obviously, you prefer to have starters, but even if you get a backup center especially later in the first or early second (round), that’s a good get.”