Empire of the Suns NBA Draft Big Board 5.0, Part I: Favorites at No. 31
May 21, 2018, 10:43 AM | Updated: 3:21 pm
The NBA Draft season is really year-long, but it picks up in a hurry this time of year. In less than a week, teams officially know where they will pick in the lottery and we’ve got loads of information coming out of the NBA Combine in Chicago.
With that in mind, it’s time for another big board update for Empire of the Suns.
If you’re new around here, first of all, welcome. Nice to meet you, I’m Kellan.
We’ve had four different versions of our big board since November. Part one was our debut board with lottery rankings, part two was our mid-season update, part three was our pre-tournament look and part four was post-tournament, extended to 20 prospects and factored in both the Suns’ needs and tiers.
If you’re looking for more extensive analysis on some of the biggest names, you’ll find it there.
In part five, we decided it was only right to extend the list to 30 players considering the Suns, in addition to owning the Nos. 1 and 16 picks, select 31st and 59th overall as well.
Let’s get into it.
(* indicates that player has not hired an agent yet, which means they could still return to school before the deadline on May 30).
Where we start today is with experienced college players that could play key NBA roles, but lack any real ceiling outlook beyond that.
30. Jevon Carter, PG, West Virginia, 22 years old (NR)
Carter is only 6 feet tall, but has a quick and bulky frame that he uses to be a defensive pest.
He got better every year under Bob Huggins, especially as a shooter, where he hit 39 percent of three-pointers the past two seasons on five attempts a game.
Carter is a good example of what men can do to boys in college basketball. He absolutely worked Marshall in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
His offensive upside isn’t great but as a trustworthy backup point guard who is a workhorse on defense, there’s always the potential for him to thrive in an NBA setting. Is he the next Fred VanVleet or Malcolm Brogdon?
Carter in Phoenix would be a weird sequence of events. If the Suns have not picked a point guard yet at No. 31 and they don’t have plans for Tyler Ulis or Shaquille Harrison, they could do worse than Carter.
29. Keita Bates-Diop, F, Ohio State, 21 years old (NR)
Bates-Diop is one of the most volatile prospects in this class.
See him on the right night and you’re wondering why he isn’t a lottery pick.
See him on the wrong night, and you’re wondering why he’s a first-round pick.
He’s a mix of limited engagement and promising modern NBA tools for a forward.
He scored and shot at a high level for the Buckeyes and defended well occasionally. All it takes is the right team unlocking his skills to get the steal of the first round, so he’s definitely going to play for Gregg Popovich or Brad Stevens.
Bates-Diop is seasoned enough to play right away under a coach with who knows how to use him, and maybe that’s Igor Kokoskov.
28. Melvin Frazier, G/F, Tulane, 21 years old (NR)
Frazier is the guy in this tier I could see teams falling in love with and reaching on a bit.
As a 6-foot-6 guard, his wingspan is nearly 7-foot-2, a ridiculous added bonus to his high intensity on defense.
He can handle the ball a bit better than you might expect, so he can pull out stuff like this from time to time.
— Tulane Basketball (@GreenWaveMBB) December 4, 2017
The NBA athleticism is there but his shot will swing his career. After shooting 28.6 and 26.4 percent from three in his first two seasons for the Green Wave, he hit 38.5 percent of his 3.0 attempts a game last year.
Want to bring another two-guard off the bench to guard ones so Devin Booker can run some point? Frazier is an option who can do that.
27. Josh Okogie, G, Georgia State, 19 years old (NR)
One of the biggest winners of the NBA Combine, Okogie is an absolute load at 6-foot-5 and 211 pounds. That, a 42-inch max vertical, terrific agility scores and a 7-foot wingspan help support tape that suggests he could be an absolute nightmare for opposing guards to try and get by.
That’s because he plays tough with that frame and has the ability to hit some jumpers off the dribble, too.
Teams could do worse than an absolute unit defensively that’s still figuring out his feel as a scorer. That’s actually underplaying his scoring potential too. He averaged 16.1 points per game as a freshman and 18.2 last season while shooting 38 percent from deep.
This is a smooth look from the corner.
— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) March 2, 2018
Ditto with the same point on Frazier in terms of a Suns role for Okogie.
26. Jacob Evans III, G/F, Cincinnati, 20 years old (NR)
Another 3-and-D prospect, Evans is perhaps the most steady of this group.
He’s rather boring, actually. He can shoot, he can defend and he has an NBA body. Is he a terrific athlete? Not really. Is he a good scorer that can handle the ball? Not really.
He’s got a little something to create a jumper. Hitting a tough shot off the dribble he can do from time to time.
— Cincinnati Men’s Hoops (@GoBearcatsMBB) January 5, 2018
For the lack of sizzle, Evans is a very smart and instinctual player that the right team could turn into a very valuable piece. This is the type of prospect all teams should be willing to take a chance on, including the Suns.
25. Shake Milton, G, SMU, 21 years old (NR)
When I tell you Milton is a guy who can handle the rock a bit and you read the next bits, you’re probably asking why he isn’t in the lottery discussion.
Milton is 6-foot-6 with a nearly 7-foot-1 wingspan. He shot 42.7 percent from 3-point range on a ludicrous 5.1 attempts a game in his Mustang career. Now that’s consistency. Oh, yeah, and he hit nearly 50 percent of his guarded catch-and-shoot threes last season.
Where I hesitate to push all my chips to the middle of the table is his ball-handling skills and defense. There’s a real lack of separation and wiggle to his scoring game, but he can also make some decent reads — it’s not like he’s a zero there.
Scouts also likely wrote down that his defense was more of a “he could be” rather than “he was” as they continued to wait to see if he put together those great physical tools.
That’s where I hesitate to put him in the mid-first round mix. A guy of his size, who shoots like he does and handles the ball at a decent level, is a first-round pick and makes a lot of sense to play with Booker.
We will put a dent in tier five today. We’ve got a fascinating mix. It includes upside players who underperformed in college or sat out this year, the best draft-and-stash unless Luka Doncic gets drafted by Sacramento (Kidding! Kind of) and three different perimeter players who could be good enough as impact starters if all goes well.
24. Khyri Thomas, G, Creighton, 21 years old* (NR)
We just ran through a fair amount of 3-and-D guys, and Thomas is the cream of the crop.
He is, perhaps, the best scorer of the bunch as well. He shot 53.8 percent from the field for the Bluejays to average 15.1 points per game.
Thomas might have the best hands in the draft. He’s a thief, seizing any opportunity the opposing ball-handler gives at exposing the ball. The man has his own hashtag (#Khyrifense) for goodness sake.
I mean, what else can you call this?
— Matt DeMarinis (@mjdemarinis) February 4, 2017
Robbery, I say!
On 323 3-point attempts in his collegiate career, Thomas shot 40.5 percent, so we aren’t so worried there, either.
Put Thomas on a team like Portland or Phoenix with multiple guys who can initiate offenses and he’d be great. He’s one of the few guys outside the top 15 where I try hard and fail to figure out how he doesn’t succeed in the NBA.
23. Dzanan Musa, F, Cedevita, 18 years old (NR)
Trying to peg a spot for Musa in the 15-30 range is tough.
Just watch the first three clips in this highlight video.
At 6-foot-9, my guy hits a catch-and-shoot three while fading on purpose to look cool in the air, splits a pick-and-roll with ease and then takes a bump on the baseline for an and-one.
Musa’s scoring chops are legit. He’s a bit of a gunner, has to grow into his frame to survive on both ends and develop consistency with his jumper because of the aforementioned gunner tendencies.
He’s more of a slasher and less of a shooter than someone like Bogdan Bogdanovic but is a good overseas option.
That immediately makes him a real candidate for the Suns at No. 16. They have a whole lot to figure out this offseason from a roster construction perspective, so taking Musa as a fail-safe to preserve roster space and the $2 million-plus they’d be paying that pick next season is logical.