Suns work out fast-rising scoring guard Okobo, WVU’s Carter

Jun 4, 2018, 3:54 PM | Updated: 4:47 pm

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns need bodies, at no other position more than point guard.

As owners of the Nos. 16 and 31 picks, their interest in 20-year-old French point guard Elie Okobo could be a conundrum.

The 6-foot-3, 180-pound guard for Pau-Lacq-Orthez in France’s Pro A league is the fastest-rising prospect in the last month thanks to a 44-point outburst in late May. That was among the triggers for draft expert Jonathan Givony to have him going 21st overall in ESPN’s latest mock draft.

Okobo would be a likely reach with the Suns’ No. 16 selection, but general manager Ryan McDonough said last week Phoenix would consider a few draft-and-stash options at 16 — McDonough said two unnamed players came to mind, and only Okobo and Dzanan Musa of Croatia seem like realistic options.

Okobo said he has a buyout in his contract and is ready to make the jump to the NBA. He’s worked out for Portland, which picks 24th, and has 10 more team workouts lined up.

The lefty has a compact, quick-release jump shot and uses changes of pace to manipulate defenses.

“Well, if you saw him a few years ago, he wasn’t a guy who passed it a ton,” said Suns assistant general manager Pat Connelly. “This year at Pau, he got the opportunity to be a point guard. His playmaking got a lot better, especially on the pick-and-roll. He’s got a good pace, he can really score, obviously, as evidenced by that 44-point game against Monaco … he’s had a nice year.”

In 34 games this year, Okobo averaged 12.9 points and 4.8 assists in 26.3 minutes per outing while shooting 48 percent overall and 39 percent from three-point range.

At a big 6-foot-3 with a 6-foot-8 wingspan, he’s in the mold of a high-upside defensive guard.

“I’m trying to show them that I can pass the ball, too, play as a point guard and then bring energy in defense and offense,” Okobo said Monday. “(Scouts and NBA executives) say they like the way I am on the court. They say I am very mature because I play against pros. They like my passing game, my scoring ability.”

Okobo was the highest-regarded prospect in a workout group Monday that also included defensive bulldog Jevon Carter of West Virginia, North Carolina guard Joel Berry II, Kentucky forward Wenyen Gabriel, Marshall forward Ajdin Penava and UCLA center Thomas Welsch.

Still, the stability of Okobo’s draft stock is more tenuous than most due to the backend of the first round being filled with mature, 3-and-D guard prospects from the college ranks.

The question for Phoenix: Is it worth risking a mid-round pick on such a young player who has experienced just spurts of overseas success?

“He’s getting there as a defender,” Connelly said. “He has the physical capability of getting there, just kind of has a scorer’s mentality, and now it’s being supplemented. It got a lot better this year playing in Pro A as a defender.”

Carter stands out

In a perfect world, Okobo could tumble to the Suns with their No. 31, making for a project selection with potentially two other rookies on the board.

In a less-than-perfect world, one that’s more realistic, the Suns are desperate to add ready-to-go point guard depth with their early second-round pick.

Carter might be the best option on the board when it comes to disrupting at the point of attack.

At 6-foot-2 and 196 pounds with a 6-foot-4 wingspan, the four-year player out of WVU is a pesky lead guard who averaged 17.3 points and 6.6 assists per game while shooting 39 percent from three in each of the last few seasons.

“Part of it is his intensity,” Connelly said of the defense-first lead guard. “Like even in a workout, I’ve seen him practice, it never turns off. He never backs down. He treated every drill here like it was an NCAA Tournament game.

“If I went out there and did a shooting contest, he’d probably try and rip my head off, which is probably a trait more than him putting it on (to impress).”

Carter will have to stand out among a group of more versatile lead guards. As his reputation suggests, he’ll do so by leaning on his defense.

“Just growing up, little kid out of Chicago, that’s just the way I was taught the game. You learn first about it on the defensive end, and then you go from there,” he said.

Penguin Air

Phoenix Suns

Ish Wainright #12 and Frank Kaminsky #8 of the Phoenix Suns react during the second half of the NBA...
Arizona Sports

Suns announce Summer League roster headlined by Ish Wainright

The Phoenix Suns released their 18-man Summer League 2022 minicamp roster Sunday evening which includes wing Ish Wainright.
1 day ago
Mikal Bridges #25 of the Phoenix Suns cheers from the bench during the second half of Game Five of ...
Haboob Blog

Suns’ Mikal Bridges shows no chill, dunks on kid at his basketball camp

No one is safe from getting dunked on by Suns forward Mikal Bridges. Even kids attending his own basketball camp.
1 day ago
Josh Okogie #20 of the Minnesota Timberwolves during the game against the Houston Rockets at Target...
Jake Anderson

Josh Okogie agrees to 1-year deal with Phoenix Suns, per report

The Phoenix Suns have agreed to a one-year deal with free agent wing Josh Okogie, according to The Athletic‘s Shams Charania.
2 days ago
Jock Landale #34 of the San Antonio Spurs drives against Willy Hernangomez #9 of the New Orleans Pe...
Jake Anderson

Report: Phoenix Suns trading for Atlanta Hawks center Jock Landale

The Phoenix Suns are trading for Atlanta Hawks center Jock Landale, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania.
2 days ago
Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets reacts during Game Four of the Eastern Conference First Round ...
Alex Weiner

The Athletic’s Hollinger: Suns trade for Kevin Durant likely needs 3rd team

NBA analyst John Hollinger devised five Kevin Durant trades, and the Phoenix Suns option became one of the more complex.
1 day ago
Bismack Biyombo #18 of the Phoenix Suns during the first half of the NBA game at Footprint Center o...
Kellan Olson

Report: Bismack Biyombo agrees to re-sign with Phoenix Suns

Unrestricted free agent Bismack Biyomba agreed to re-sign with the Phoenix Suns Saturday morning, according to Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes. 
2 days ago
Suns work out fast-rising scoring guard Okobo, WVU’s Carter