PHOENIX — It was only a matter of time, considering their haul of first-round picks, that the Suns would finally get around to looking at some first-round talent.
That time occurred on Monday, the fifth day of pre-draft workouts.
The Suns worked out Michigan State shooting guard Gary Harris, Duke small forward Rodney Hood, UCLA point guard Zach LaVine, LSU power forward Johnny O’Bryant, Kentucky shooting guard James Young and Clint Capela, a 6-foot-11, 222-pound power forward from Switzerland.
All six players are considered viable options for the Suns at No. 14.
“This is probably the most talented group we’ve had,” GM Ryan McDonough said. “You see the talent. You see the potential.”
However, potential though can often be hard to project, especially in the four perimeter players.
Harris started 67-of-69 games, becoming only the third Spartan to break the 1,000-point mark in just two seasons, joining Mike Robinson and Magic Johnson. He ranked sixth in the Big Ten in scoring (16.7) and fifth in steals (1.8), landing a spot on the conference’s all-defensive team.
“He’s one of the better two-way players in the draft,” McDonough said of the 6-foot-4 Harris. “He certainly shot the ball well out here today and his ability to defend stood out.”
The 6-foot-8 Hood began his college career at Mississippi State, where he made the SEC All-Freshman team after averaging 10.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game. Then after sitting out his sophomore year due to NCAA transfer rules, he bettered his scoring to more than 16 points a game in his only season at Duke.
What sets Hood apart from the others is his shooting. He was the ACC’s top three-point marksman (42.0 percent) and fourth-best shooter overall (46.4 percent).
“Obviously with Goran (Dragic) and Eric (Bledsoe) there’s going to be shots out there,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “Teams really have to focus on those two guys and our bigs role hard to the basket. If you’re a wing player and you like to shoot the ball, I think you’d like to be here.”
LaVine, listed at 6-foot-6 and 181 pounds, left UCLA after only one season. He dropped 19 points on ASU in January on his way to capturing Pac-12 All-Freshman Team honors, ranking fourth in both scoring (9.4) and three-point field goal percentage (.375) among first-year players.
Only 19, he figures he needs to show teams he can run an offense at the next level.
“In college I didn’t really get to play a point guard position and I played it my whole life,” said LaVine, who has worked out for the Bulls and Magic and was headed to a workout with the Lakers. “I feel like I have a good handle for the ball, a good feel for the game. I’ve been working on a lot of my reads, how the defense plays you, what pass to make, when to score, when the right time to score; being consistent on defense, more active, more on the ball. I feel like I got the tools to be a good defender.”
Young, a year younger than LaVine, played small forward at Kentucky but sees himself as a shooting guard in the NBA.
“That I can really attack the basket,” he said of what he hopes to show teams during the pre-draft process. “That’s what I’ve been working on these past few weeks and just really getting strong, working on my upper core.”
The 6-foot-7 Young averaged 14.3 points on 40.7 percent shooting in his one and only season at Kentucky, where he really turned heads during the NCAA Tournament, including a team-high scoring effort of 20 points and a game-high seven rebounds against Connecticut in the title game.
“There’s no reason to think these guys can’t contribute right away,” Hornacek said of the entire group of prospects, each one an early entry candidate for the NBA Draft on June 26.
The Suns also hold the 18th and 27th picks.
“At the end of the day the most important thing is talent usually wins out if it’s combined with work ethic and character,” McDonough said. “That’s what we’re looking for.”