EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Empire of the Suns NBA Draft Big Board 4.0, Part II: New names rise

Apr 4, 2018, 6:11 AM | Updated: 12:42 pm
(AP photos)...
(AP photos)
(AP photos)
LISTEN: Empire of the Suns

The NCAA Tournament has ended and that means it is time for a big board update.

The Suns are potentially entering the 2018 NBA Draft with three first-round draft picks, and the placement of those picks makes the mid-first round the most interesting part of the draft for Suns fans.

With that, we extend the board to 20 spots and also factor in the Suns’ needs for the first time. In our previous three renditions of the board, you can find more extensive analysis on previously discussed prospects and the progression of our rankings. Keep in mind with this list that not all prospects have officially announced if they will be declaring for the draft, so we could be losing some of these players in that process.

With five tiers to go through and tier five covered in part one, part two covers some very enticing new names on the wing who could potentially go back to school.

Tier 4

15. Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama, 19 years old (▼4)

Like Mohamed Bamba and Robert Williams, I had Sexton ranked higher earlier in the process out of respect to his hype and placement from many experts, but I feel comfortable with moving him down around here now.

Sexton’s lack of clear-cut floor general vision and point guard skills show in the fact that he had over five assists in only four games this season. A full season of tape also shows his athleticism was overhyped, as he’s much closer to someone like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander than last year’s top prospects like De’Aaron Fox or Dennis Smith Jr.

I still like him enough as my No. 2 point guard prospect, though. His mindset is elite, he’s great as an attacker and while the jumper and shot selection is wild, he at least has a jumper he can somewhat rely on to score. Defensively, he holds a fair amount of his stock intact and that’s notable.

I’m not sure if he’s more of a super-scoring guard off the bench in the mold of Lou Williams or Jamal Crawford with less crazy handles and more in-your-noggin defense or still holds some potential as a lead guard, but I think he’s valuable enough to bump up a tier for teams in need of a point guard, like the Suns.

14. Zhaire Smith, G/F, Texas Tech, 18 years old (NR)

(AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)

The Red Raiders freshman has near Gerald Green-level athleticism that is all over the court. Tip dunks, rebounds that force an audible reaction and weakside blocks are energy plays he implants in his game.

What he lacks with individual pop in his game shines through in those key role player areas. He’s a sound passer and finisher, shows potential as an on-ball defender and he clearly has an above average feel for where pieces are moving on the court.

The thrill ride comes to a screeching halt when you see that Smith has no real offensive creation upside at this time, nor is he someone who projects as a solid 3-point shooter until his volume goes up.

That makes him basically an undersized small forward who would have to get by on savvy and top-shelf athleticism while those offensive parts of his game improve.

You’re basically buying into a whole lot of development left to be done on Smith if you rank him high, and I’m in that camp. The Suns could take him without having to worry about real playing time and give him spot minutes in select situations to see if his on-court awareness would warrant more time while he grows.

13. Troy Brown, G/F, Oregon, 18 years old (NR)

From a skill standpoint, Brown is essentially the opposite of Smith.

As a point guard in high school, Brown comes in at 6-foot-7 with advanced ball-handling and floor vision for your average athletic wing. When watching him, you can immediately identify that his passing ability is a plus skill.

He is essentially the dream for your 2018 two-guard from an aspect of accumulating a base set of attributes. Brown has great size (6-foot-6, 6-foot-11 wingspan), can move and see the floor well enough to pass effectively with consistency, and be a great team defender. He is a very good rebounder and looks the part of a shooter.

But a jumper that had promise for improvement as he came to Oregon yielded a disappointing 29.1 percentage from deep on 3.1 attempts a game.

For all the sizzle in his outlook, Brown scored more than 20 points only twice for the Ducks, and they were both 21-point efforts.

So, are we judging him more on the first bit of his prospect profile or the second bit where the results were mixed in Eugene? Is he a high upside all-around wing or more of a role player?

I’m leaning toward the former, once again citing the worth of 3-and-D, do-everything-right wings as I have in the past. Despite doing things that sound basketball players do well, Brown is a high-risk pick because if he doesn’t do much off the bounce and shoots poorly, does his other stuff really matter all that much?

In Phoenix, he could be eased in like a similar fashion to Smith, letting his positives contribute while the rest develops.

12. De’Andre Hunter, F, Virginia, 20 years old (NR)

(AP Photo/Nick Lisi)

Who?

That’s the question I asked when The Stepien, the NBA Draft website that should be your go-to, started pumping a wing out of the University of Virginia in the middle of the season.

I was not familiar with Hunter, primarily due to the fact that the Cavaliers play an extremely boring brand of basketball and lacked much NBA talent.

Little did I know, Hunter was lurking in the shadows off the bench, possessing true five-position defending upside with some potential shot creation that screams, “Yo, is this dude Kawhi?”

Instead of going on about Hunter, I cannot point you more toward Jackson Hoy’s extensive breakdown on The Stepien of what could make Hunter so special and how his talent wound up being so hidden.

Like Smith, there’s a chance Hunter comes back to school, especially because a broken hand kept him from showing out in the NCAA Tournament and helping his stock in a similar way Shai Gilgeous-Alexander did with Kentucky.

If he were to stay in, though, Hunter’s skill set is 100 percent what the Suns need to start adding on the wing.

11. Jontay Porter, C, Missouri, 18 years old (NR)

(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

The other Porter at Missouri is an absolute delight and don’t let the first impression guide you astray.

More because of the fluidity in his skill than his physicality or quickness, Porter is an undersized five at 6-foot-11 and 240 pounds. He lacks explosion around the rim and is right on the verge of being a step slow as a perimeter defender.

But, we need to talk about his lefty release. It’s fast, it’s compact and it makes him a legitimately good shooter in a center’s body.

Much more importantly, putting him on the perimeter unlocks his passing more, which will maintain the flow of the offense and allows him to find guys in the right spots. He’s a very smart player and has shown a complete understanding of where his passing options are from his standard positions, like the low post, high post and out on the 3-point line.

I also said he was more about fluidity than quickness, but Porter has a bit of speed to his off the dribble game. My favorite detail I’ve picked up on watching him extensively is his handle. It is really good for a big man, and since he’s one of the youngest players in this class, it’s expected for him to fill out his frame and get stronger and faster. He could use it because I would not leverage your mortgage on his finishing around the rim.

As Hoy has tweeted me, there’s some type of mold in Porter’s game that resembles bits of Boris Diaw and Al Horford.

Porter will need to survive on the glass, prove he can do rim protection in stretches and improve his quickness, but his offensive upside is extremely appetizing.

Like some of the other youngins previously mentioned, it’s not a certainty that Porter declares.

In Phoenix, Porter could help further unlock the team’s offense with shooting and passing at the five. They really need a player like him, and even if the Suns draft a big with their own first-round pick, I’d still have Porter as the No. 1 option in the mid-first round and a couple spots higher on a Suns-centric board.

10. Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State, 19 years old, 20 years old (–)

Bridges is going to be a “get drafted by the right team” type of guy and I’m not sure that’s Phoenix. He needs to be on a team with good stability that can let him play both the three and the four while dealing with his high-energy pros and cons all over the floor.

At the moment, that does not exist with the Suns, but Bridges is still a strong enough prospect the Suns would be stupid to pass on in a “best prospect available” scenario, such as the unlikely event of him slipping to that 15-17 range.

Bridges stands alone in tier four as the only true established player outside of Collin Sexton. The combination of a low possible All-Star outcome for those two and the development required for the other prospects in the tier brings our cut-off here to move on.

Empire of the Suns

Stephen Curry #30 is congratulated by Juan Toscano-Anderson #95 of the Golden State Warriors after ...
Kellan Olson

Suns put up a fight against Warriors before taking 1st loss in over a month

We often hear the saying of "not going down without a fight," and boy, is that apt for the Phoenix Suns' franchise-record winning streak.
7 hours ago
Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors attempts a three-point shot over Cameron Payne #15 o...
Kellan Olson

What to watch for in Round 2 of Suns vs. Warriors

After the Phoenix Suns beat the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday, the two sides face off only three days later.
1 day ago
Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) steals the ball from Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham (2) du...
Kellan Olson

Suns use balanced scoring attack to win franchise-record 18th straight

The Phoenix Suns were without Devin Booker for the first time this season and used several contributions to beat the Pistons.
1 day ago
Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns watches from the bench during the second half of the NBA game a...
Kellan Olson

Suns have multiple players capable of stepping up in Devin Booker’s absence

The Phoenix Suns will be fine without Devin Booker and have multiple players that can step up while he recovers from a hamstring injury.
2 days ago
Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns high fives Devin Booker #1 after scoring against the Dallas M...
Kevin Zimmerman

17 reasons why the Phoenix Suns remain top title contenders

The Suns are respected. Teams want to go at them. It has not worked. And Phoenix has won 17 in a row. They are contenders.
2 days ago
Mikal Bridges #25 of the Phoenix Suns during the first half of the NBA game at Footprint Center on ...
Kellan Olson

Mikal Bridges’ energy, All-Defense-worthy skillset have yet to miss games for Suns

Phoenix Suns fourth-year wing Mikal Bridges has not missed a game yet and has done so in a role that requires more energy than any other.
3 days ago
Empire of the Suns NBA Draft Big Board 4.0, Part II: New names rise