EMPIRE OF THE SUNS
Suns will have limited draft-and-stash options in 2018 NBA Draft
Jun 15, 2018, 6:55 AM | Updated: 11:09 pm
(Martti Kainulainen/Lehtikuva via AP)
The Phoenix Suns have always valued flexibility with assets, cap space and their roster, and that might come into play again during the 2018 NBA Draft.
With four selections in the draft, we can safely rule out the No. 1 overall pick as a potential draft-and-stash selection, but the Suns could save some money and roster space at Nos. 16, 31 and 59.
Monday afternoon saw the league’s deadline for international players to stay in the draft pass and left with it a very limited amount of options.
Two players are considered in the range of both the mid-first round and early second round are point guard out of France Elie Okobo and Bosnia’s scoring wing Dzanan Musa.
A quick note here: Sports Illustrated’s Jeremy Woo reported that Musa wants to come over right away and Okobo said the same when he was in a Suns workout. So, even if these guys are “draft-and-stash candidates” they could be on the roster next season.
Let’s start with Okobo, who has been picking up lots of momentum the past few weeks after a 44-point performance in the French League’s playoffs.
Okobo has good size for a point guard at 6-foot-3 with a 6-foot-8 wingspan. His biggest strength, like Musa, is his scoring acumen. Okobo can get buckets, using some crafty lefty moves and having lots of comfort handling the ball and shooting with defenders right on him. When he gets hot, he’s a lethal shooter and that ease goes into his jumper as well.
Athletically, Okobo moves well and chooses his angles even better, which he’s used to show some upside as a defender.
His overall point guard traits, though, need more seasoning. He’s prone to forcing things and is more of a combo guard than a point at this stage in his career.
Okobo worked out for the Suns and said he wants to come over right away, but he’s still only 20 years old and a year or two overseas wouldn’t hurt. On the flip side, he could also provide instant scoring, shooting and athleticism at the guard spot.
In Phoenix, a more natural point guard is a better fit next to Booker, but maybe Okobo is more of a super-third guard anyway. Having a player developing off the roster who could address a team need when he comes over is the best-case scenario for the Suns taking an international prospect.
Based on his buzz at the moment, Okobo doesn’t seem likely to fall to the second round, but ESPN ranks him outside the top-20.
Musa is a prospect that’s not difficult to like the more you watch him.
At 6-foot-9, he moves and handles the ball better than he should, which is important for his slashing game offensively.
Musa has a projectable three-point stroke, but we have to use the term “projectable” because he has been a gunner for Cedevita and his shot selection will have to improve greatly.
Strength-wise, Musa is one of the most underdeveloped prospects in this class. Almost by default, the 19-year-old will have to spend a few seasons overseas to grow his frame.
The Suns don’t have much of a need for Musa, but he’s an asset that could hold value and free up space for the Suns. Musa isn’t seen as threatening for the end of the lottery or a lock for the top-20 and could slip to No. 31, like Okobo.
It is quite the drop-off after those two prospects, to say the least.
ESPN’s highest-rated international prospects after Musa at No. 20 and Okobo at 22nd are in the 40s.
That makes it hard to see anyone else in play at the beginning of round two.
At No. 59, there are options aplenty.
Rodions Kurcus out of Barcelona is the next highest-rated prospect on that list, a former potential first-round pick in last year’s draft. He, though, failed to take that placement with him into his next season and improve on it. A stretch forward, Kurcus will have to knock down perimeter shots while the rest of his game comes together.
Some years, Germany’s Isaac Bonga would have serious hype. In some mold of a point guard and point forward, Bonga is 6-foot-9 with long arms and ability to score and pass off the bounce. He’s one of the rawest players in this process and at 18 years old, would spend a while away from the NBA.
Lastly, Tryggvi Hlinason was in for a Suns workout on Tuesday and would be a project center. At 7-foot-1, Hlinason moves well and has upside as a rim runner and protector. Five years ago, Hlinason was living the farm life and had zero basketball experience, so there is also a chance for upside in the 20-year-old. He’s a real dark horse at No. 31 and a legitimate option at 59.