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Phoenix Suns close books on ‘great’ pre-draft workouts

PHOENIX — Michigan guard and expected lottery pick Nik Stauskas worked out for an NBA team on Friday, but it wasn’t the Phoenix Suns. He worked out for the Los Angeles Lakers, the third of the reported four teams he was due to visit ahead of next week’s draft.

He had previously worked out for the Charlotte Hornets and Boston Celtics.

That fourth team, the Suns, held a pre-draft workout on Friday and according to general manager Ryan McDonough, it was their final one scheduled — scheduled being the operative word there.

“We feel great about the guys we’ve had in,” he said. “We’ve gotten pretty much everybody we’ve wanted to get in. Ideally, you get everybody in the draft, but when your first pick is at 14, that’s not realistic. We feel like we had some great workouts. We feel very good about our process with the workouts in addition to the in-person scouting and the film (study). We feel like we’re pretty well prepared going into the draft.”

The last announced Suns workout included seven draft hopefuls and was split into two groups because the NBA limits teams to a maximum of six players per workout.

In town on Friday were Wichita State forward Cleanthony Early, Syracuse guard Tyler Ennis, Cincinnati forward Justin Jackson, Oregon State forward Eric Moreland and Louisville guard Russ Smith, plus two international players in forwards Viktor Gaddefors (Sweden) and Ojars Silins (Latvia).

Early and Ennis are projected to hear their names called in round one, where the Suns own pick Nos. 14, 18 and 27, while Smith became the first prospect to be worked out a second time in Phoenix.

Early is a 6-foot-7, 209-pound scorer who can hit the three — a shot he said he first developed as a high school freshman, when at 5-foot-7 he needed to be able to extend his range.

He spent two years playing at Sullivan County Community College in New York before landing at Wichita State, where, as a senior, he ranked first on the team in scoring (16.4) and rebounding (5.9).

“Everyone is saying I’m a four-man just trying to play a three. It’s kind of a lie,” said Early, following what was his 12th pre-draft workout. “I’m obviously a basketball player and I can score in different ways. I think I could create (his own shot). I have to obviously develop and work on certain things, but this is what I do every single day. Improving is a must and is something that’s going to happen.”

According to McDonough, the change from power forward to small forward should be a smooth one for Early.

“I think that will be a fairly easy transition for him,” he said. “At Wichita they used him some at the power forward but also some at the small forward. He shoots it well enough. He’s athletic and versatile enough where I don’t think it’ll be that big of an adjustment for him.”

Ennis, meanwhile, is an early entry candidate after helping lead Syracuse to a 25-0 start and second-place finish in the school’s inaugural season in the ACC.

“He was unbelievable in late-game situations this year,” McDonough said. “For a kid as young as he is to have that kind of composure I think is pretty rare.”

The Suns were Ennis’ eighth workout with one more scheduled in Orlando on Monday before heading to New York for the draft on Thursday.

Listed at 6-foot-3, Ennis was named to both the conference’s All-Freshman and All-Defensive teams.

“I think everybody kind of sees me as a pass-first point guard,” he said of a season he which he averaged 12.9 points and 5.5 assists per game. “What I want to show is that I can defend the point guard position … and show that I can shoot the NBA three. I want to show them I can knock it down off the dribble, catch-and-shoot and show them I can lead guys that are older than me.”

Back after his initial workout three weeks ago, Smith once again impressed the Suns with his ability to push the ball and create off the dribble thanks to seemingly never-ending energy.

“Some of these guys if you ask them to come back they kind of moan about it and complain and say how tired they are,” McDonough said. “Russ, I feel like, could play two more games and do three workouts tonight and be fine. He’s just that kind of well-conditioned athlete. That shows us something that he’s willing to come back and work even after coming to Phoenix the first time a few weeks ago.”

A year ago, the Suns had Archie Goodwin in for a second workout before they acquired him on draft night.

“This is great,” Smith said. “I like the pace. I like the style. I like the staff (and) what they’re about. I feel really good leaving today. I competed. I made shots. I played some ‘D’ so we’ll see when it comes on (draft night).”