Suns NBA Draft notebook: Hart, Motley and Kuzma intriguing in deep second round
PHOENIX — The 2017 NBA Draft has a great crop of prospects because of its depth in two places — at the top and bottom.
After the lottery, there aren’t many clearly defined mid-first-round prospects, but there is a plethora of 20-35 players that could go anywhere from 15th overall to 50th. This is especially relevant for the Phoenix Suns, who own two second-round picks at 32 and 54.
A few of those players on Monday worked out for the Suns in the team’s first draft workout session.
— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) May 29, 2017
Villanova senior guard Josh Hart and Baylor junior big man Johnathan Motley are two All-Americans who were in attendance. Most experts expect each to be drafted in that 15-50 range.
Hart shot at least 50 percent in all four of his collegiate seasons and in his senior year put up shooting percentage splits of 51-40-75 while averaging 18.7 points per game.
He lacks the next-level athleticism for all of his offense to translate, but he’s a sound defender and good shooter who works hard. He has all the makings of a solid NBA wing for a decade.
Hart’s work ethic showed in the Suns’ infamous end-of-workout, three-minute run when he was the only player sprinting the last few seconds, trying to get an extra point in the drill.
“If I started [sprinting] 15 seconds sooner I probably could have got 30,” Hart said while smiling and laughing.
The jumper will be the big question for Hart. According to Krossover, Hart shot an incredible 83.7 percent on his 74 three-point attempts in catch-and-shoot situations. He has a slight hitch in his jumper but has shown the range; Hart also noted he’s attempted to eliminate the hitch from his jumper since the end of the season.
“I think I’ve got more range and more consistency,” Hart said of the change.
Like rookie of the year candidate in Milwaukee guard Malcolm Brogdon last year, Hart can sell teams that he’s the 22-year-old who is ready to contribute immediately.
“You don’t have to groom me two, three years and sit me on the bench and say ‘OK let’s see what happens in a couple years,'” Hart said. “You know what you’re going to get with me. You know you’re going to get that toughness, (those) intangibles.”
That’s precisely why Hart would fit in well in Phoenix, providing the team with decent shooting and defense from the jump in the wing rotation with Devin Booker and T.J. Warren.
Like Hart, Motley is a promising NBA prospect because he improved over his three years at Baylor.
His frame stood out in person. Motley is undersized down low at nearly 6-foot-9 but he is a shredded 238 pounds. Motley has many intangibles similar to Hart such as his worth ethic and team defense that give him high upside as a role player.
An extremely long (7-foot-4 wingspan) energy player, he grew as a scorer in his junior year, averaging 17.3 points a game after many older players on the Bears graduated or went to the NBA.
“I always had the skills but once you get that time, it really shows,” Motley said.
Motley was understanding about waiting to be “the guy” for the Bears since the team’s leader for Motley’s first two years was Atlanta Hawks forward Taurean Prince, who was picked 13th overall in last year’s draft.
“We have a guy who started in the playoffs now who was in front of me so you just gotta wait your turn,” Motley said.
If there’s any doubt about Motley’s will on the court, he tore his MCL in the Sweet 16 against South Carolina and kept playing. He had surgery in early April, according to DraftExpress’ Jonathan Givony, and was expected to be out 4-8 weeks. Motley participated in the three-minute run and also mentioned playing in 3-on-3 drills.
While he is already 22 years old, Motley has upside at both big man spots and could give the Suns another strong interior presence. That is, of course, if the team doesn’t bring back both restricted free agents Alex Len and Alan Williams at center, which is complicated since free agency begins after the draft.
Kuzma was one of, if not, the big winner of the NBA Draft Combine 5-on-5 scrimmages. The 6-foot-9 stretch big out of Utah showed the steadiness in his three-point range, finishing his first day of action with 20 points, five rebounds and two assists.
“Coming out here and trying to compete against guys that are really above me on the (pecking) order so it’s good just to get out there and show people what I can do,” Kuzma said.
Despite not shooting over 32 percent from three in his three seasons at Utah, scouts are optimistic about his stroke and so is the 21-year-old.
“I didn’t really shoot it too well in college and I felt like I’m a better shooter than what I did at college,” Kuzma said. “From the end of the season to the combine, I really worked tirelessly on the shot discipline of my shot.”
If Kuzma can maintain his jumper’s high stock, he could play well for NBA teams as a stretch-four off the bench, which is why his stock has raised to the middle of the second round. Draft Express has Kuzma ranked at No. 42.
It’s a tough sell to see Kuzma’s future in Phoenix since power forward is so deep already for the team but they could always use another shooter, and Kuzma speaks like a young player who knows what his role would be.
“I’m not gonna be a first, second, third, fourth option for a long time in the league really,” Kuzma said, “so with me being in the NBA, just to be able to stretch the floor and stand in the corner while other people make plays and hit wide-open shots, I feel I can do that at a very high level.”