Gone are the days of three and four-year college stars whose games we’ve watched develop over the years until we, as basketball fans, felt we had a good idea as to whether they projected as NBA stars or certain busts. Oh yes, times have certainly changed.
This year, with the number one overall pick, the Cleveland Cavaliers have a choice between a big man who could only manage eight field goal attempts per game this season, a supreme shot-blocker with a blown out knee and no offensive game, a premier athlete with reported social issues, and a pair of wingmen who were barely on the NBA radar nine months ago.
And with the fifth pick in the draft, the Phoenix Suns could take whichever of these flawed prospects falls to them, or reach deeper into the well of the unknown.
Here are the best and worst case scenarios for whoever the Suns land at 5.
Len is a legit 7-feet with excellent athleticism for his size. However, he already has a foot injury (Yao Ming flashback) and he disappeared entirely more often than he dominated inferior physical specimens in college. A beat writer for the Terrapins wrote this week that the Cavaliers would be crazy for taking Len with the top overall pick.
BEST CASE SCENARIO FOR SUNS – By falling to the Suns at five, GM Ryan McDonough is free to trade a disgruntled Marcin Gortat for a good price to help this team build for the future. The NBA’s quicker pace allows for Len’s athleticism to flourish on offense, while defensively his size alone makes him a threat in the paint and on the boards.
WORST CASE SCENARIO – McDonough drafts Len at five, then feels a need to trade Gortat and takes less than a top ten pick for the rare commodity of a good/affordable center in return. Len’s foot injury becomes a recurring issue, and his wilted sunflower routine (eight field goal attempts per game) from college isn’t a stage he grows out of.
One of the greatest shot-blockers we’ve seen in some time. But in this year of “Misfit Toys for Christmas,” our first Noel could end up being a Charlie in the Box. According to one NBA scout, Noel has zero offensive game and is likely to never develop one. Now, let’s consider the knee injury, the slight build, and his tendency to play over aggressively on defense, and you can’t help but wonder who would consider this guy with a top five pick? The answer: all five teams with a top five pick.
BEST CASE SCENARIO – Healthy Noel was likely a lock for the top pick. Injured, uncertain Noel could drop to the Suns at 5. The team grabs the 7-foot jackrabbit and an organization that has been ridiculed for its poor defense for more than a decade has a centerpiece. Noel is known for having a good work ethic and great character. His lack of offense proves to be a much bigger issue than the knee injury.
WORST CASE – Even with a healthy knee, Noel has trouble holding his own against grown men. At nearly 7-feet tall, the Kentucky big man weighs only 205 pounds. He shows impeccable timing as a shot blocker, but he gets pushed around by bigger centers and becomes a liability.
Scouts rave about Oladipo’s giant leap of improvement from his sophomore to junior season. But he shot 60 percent from the floor this year because most of his offense came off the dunk. There don’t seem to be any concerns about the Hoosier’s athleticism or ability to defend, but his NBA comparisons range from Dwyane Wade to Tony Allen. And only one of those two players was worth a top-five pick.
BEST CASE SCENARIO – Oladipo is Dwyane Wade, a player who improved by leaps and bounds every year in college and then exploded once he joined the league.
WORST CARSE SCENARIO – The Suns draft a two-guard that can’t shoot. Isn’t this position also known as the shooting guard? The Suns ranked in the bottom third in the league this season in scoring and field goal percentage. The team ranked in the bottom three in offensive efficiency and three-point shooting. Oladipo does very little to help in any of these areas.
The best athlete in the draft seems to epitomize the SportsCenter Era basketball player. McLemore is a highlight package in waiting, a player who excels beyond the three-point line and above the rim. Unfortunately, everything in between is a worry, and that includes everything between the player’s ears.
BEST CASE SCENARIO – Suns draft McLemore at 5, he thrives being half-a-country away from a childhood that proved troubling at best. He proves coachable and dilligent, fulfilling comparisons scouts are making between him and Ray Allen.
WORST CASE SCENARIO – A guy that has never had two nickels to rub together is now worth millions of dollars. He proves he’s not mature enough for the jump from college, though no one can blame him for making it. The comparisions to Ray Allen end, when the Suns acknowledge that Ray Allen could certainly shoot and jump, but he’s going to the Hall of Fame because he was a complete basketball player who worked tirelessly at this game.
Otto Porter, Jr.
The Georgetown product flew under the radar until this season, because his athleticism does not rank with Oladipo’s or McLemore’s. However, his game is currently better than both players. Porter is long and lean and his defense should translate easily to the NBA game. Offensively, he averaged nearly 20 points per game this season, making him arguably the most complete player in this draft, even if he’s not the most athletic.
BEST CASE SCENARIO – Suns draft Porter at five and plug him into the starting lineup immediately. He wins Rookie of the Year, although he fails long-term to develop into a superstar. Porter becomes a terrific third player for Phoenix, and next season the team drafts one future superstar and signs an established star as a free agent.
WORST CASE SCENARIO – He gets hit by a bus leaving the draft? I don’t know what to tell you, to me Porter may not have the upside that others possess in this draft, but he’s the low risk pick.
Five inches shorter than Nerlens Noel and 40 pounds heavier, Anthony Bennett is a tank. He has a terrific inside game with the ability to hit a three, but he’s a tweener with a questionable mid-range package. Bennett is short for a power forward and slow for a 3.
BEST CASE SCENARIO – Anthony Bennett becomes a repeat story of the Suns’ last top five pick: Armen Gilliam.
WORST CASE SCENARIO – Anthony Bennett becomes a repeat story of the Suns’ last top five pick: Armen Gilliam.