Good job, Phoenix Suns. Good effort.
Everything seemed to be falling into place for the team. Anthony Bennett went first, followed by Victor Oladipo, Otto Porter and, miraculously, Cody Zeller.
Suddenly stud Kentucky defender Nerlens Noel and arguably the most talented player in the draft, Ben McLemore, were there for the taking.
So, naturally, Phoenix took Maryland center Alex Len.
The pick was not a reach, but it was a letdown.
On the bright side it appears the team plans on keeping the pick, so there is that.
And on a brighter side, the team did land the top player on its board, and some experts even pegged the center to be the first overall pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Give him a real point guard and watch him shine, they say.
“As it progresses, you get the feeling, ‘OK, OK, he’s going to be there,'” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said of watching Len fall to them. “And then finally when that fourth pick came and we saw it wasn’t Alex, it was a no-brainer for us.”
This is not Jake Tsakalidis. We hope.
Hornacek said that being able to draft someone who, at 20, still has plenty of room to grow and improve is not a bad thing, and in theory he’s right. The Suns have never really had a great center to build around, and it’s possible Len will develop into just that.
And if the Suns truly believe Len was the best player in this draft, as they’ve suggested, then it’s easy to see why they’re excited about landing him at number five. General manager Ryan McDonough is highly thought of in basketball circles, and no doubt he knows more about basketball than I do. So maybe, when all is said and done, we’ll look back on this pick as a shrewd one for the new regime.
But when you pass on a Noel, who is viewed as a sure thing to be a great defender, and you pass on McLemore, who could become the go-to scorer the Suns desperately need, you wonder why they are so high on a guy who averaged 11.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game as a sophomore.
For comparison’s sake, former Suns first-round pick Robin Lopez tallied a line of 10.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks his sophomore year at Stanford, and he turned out Robin Lopez.
And Len is entering the NBA with an ankle injury, and when big men start having problems down near their feet, bad things tend to happen. See: Ming, Yao, Ilgauskas, Zydrunus and Walton, Bill.
But I digress.
As of now it’s tough to get excited about Len given what the Suns passed on. And I’m not the only one who feels that way, as one look at the Arizona Sports Facebook page shows Suns fans are even less enthusiastic about their new center than they are about their team’s new logos.
As far as anyone can tell the Suns passed on a couple of players they were fortunate to even have the opportunity to pass on. And now, Len’s career will forever be compared to those of Noel and McLemore by Suns fans.
“If Len’s not on the board you look at those guys,” Hornacek said. “But he’s a guy that can be a game-changer down the road and it’s a situation where when we all looked at the guys and ranked them, he was consensus by all of our guys that he’s got the biggest upside.
“At that size, his skill level. So I think you take the best player available at that time.”
In time, maybe the we’ll see that the Suns hit a home run with Len. But right now, it looks like they swung and missed.