Gambo 3: Darius Garland, Coby White among Suns’ options at No. 6 in draft
Most would agree that the number of instant-impact prospects in the 2019 NBA Draft can be counted on a single hand.
That means the Phoenix Suns, who learned Tuesday in the lottery that they will select sixth, will add either a project or a role player if they remain in their first-round draft slot.
Starting with the NBA Draft Combine this week, there’s still much time before the June 20 draft for evaluators to reshape opinions of this draft class. That said, John Gambadoro of 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station has three realistic prospects for the Suns to watch at No. 6.
And to nobody’s surprise, Gambadoro’s list of three players includes two point guards whose scoring abilities can, in theory, take the pressure off Devin Booker.
Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound freshman appeared in just five games for the Commodores in 2018-19 before suffering a season-ending meniscus injury to his knee. He averaged 16.2 points, 2.6 assists and 3.0 turnovers per game in that limited amount of action, showing his range by shooting 54% overall and 48% from three on 4.6 deep attempts per game.
His shot and his handles stand out, as he has a skillset that could have potentially pushed him out of Phoenix’s reach at No. 6 if he’d played a whole year. Despite his talent, there are questions about his point-guard abilities.
Can he learn to make the right reads and protect the ball more?
Coby White, PG, North Carolina
More of a combo guard at 6-foot-5 and 185 pounds, the freshman started all 35 games he played as the point for Roy Williams at North Carolina. While he is a primary ball-handler more apt to hunt his own shots, White did average 4.1 assists to go with 16.1 points per game.
White shot 42% from the floor and 35% from beyond the three-point line. He also hit 80% of his fouls shots and showed the ability to attack the rim.
His ability to push the ball aggressively was both a positive and a negative, as he put pressure on the opposing defense. But White struggled with efficiency on pull-up jumpers — he was in the 27th percentile among college players — and turned the ball over nearly a fifth of the time in transition, according to ESPN.
His improvements as a lead guard as the year went on was a positive sign.
Jarrett Culver, G/F, Texas Tech
While he’s not a point guard, Culver does have ball-handling abilities at the shooting guard or small forward spots.
At 6-foot-6, he has the potential to add to his frame and become a versatile defensive presence like he was at Texas Tech.
Culver averaged 18.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists his sophomore season in 2018-19, leading the Red Raiders to the national title game. While his shot is a question mark, he did make a massive leap from his freshman to sophomore seasons, hitting 38% of his threes compared to 30% a year ago.
He flashed high-level vision, but his shot creation for himself and others could be limited due to his lack of elite athleticism, wiggle and handles.
With the Suns, Culver would obviously add to the logjam at wing with Mikal Bridges, Josh Jackson, T.J. Warren and potentially Kelly Oubre Jr. returning.