EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Jarrett Culver will be best prospect available for Suns at No. 6, if he’s there

Jun 6, 2019, 7:45 AM | Updated: 5:02 pm
Jarrett Culver #23 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders shoots against the Virginia Cavaliers during the f...
Jarrett Culver #23 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders shoots against the Virginia Cavaliers during the first half in the 2019 NCAA men's Final Four National Championship game at U.S. Bank Stadium on April 08, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
(Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

The Phoenix Suns could potentially be up at No. 6 in the 2019 NBA Draft with the best prospect available playing the only position where their roster has depth.

But given what Texas Tech wing Jarrett Culver provides as a basketball player, that should not be a problematic factor in their decision-making process.

Outside of Zion Williamson, Culver is the most balanced player in the 2019 class.

He can make plays off the dribble for both himself and his teammates. He can finish at the rim. He sees the floor well. He can defend. There’s hope for his jumper.

To be frank, there isn’t much Culver can’t do on the floor.

Where the dissension grows for Culver’s outlook is how much of that translates, how much doesn’t and how much can he continue to develop at the next level.

For my money, the combination of Culver’s skills off the dribble is enough to consider him as an All-Star waiting to happen.

Culver’s footwork, crafty instincts, finishing ability and vision all add up to a potential 20 point-per-game scorer.

I’m not quite with my Twitter colleague David Nash below on the first step concerns being overblown but there are glimpses of explosion in Culver’s drives.

Check out how smooth the hop to his right is on the first finish.

Those are two drives I’d like to label as Culver’s “apex,” but where he really begins flirting with star potential is how much he showed shooting off the dribble this past season.

Mold all that up together and you got a night or two during the Red Raiders’ season where he was that star.

It’s fair to assume that Culver may never become that guy, though.

Well, now what do we have if that’s not the case?

To start, the jumper is hot-and-cold. His numbers fell off a cliff after nonconference play. He shot 30-of-119 (25.2%) once conference play began after hitting over 40% in the games prior and  38.2% of his attempts as a freshman. Alarming!

Some of it can be attributed to how much individual offense he was asked to create. As a secondary wing, he’s not going to be asked to do as much and will spend a good amount of time standing in corners.

While he needs to speed up the windup a bit on his form off the catch, the shooting pocket is cash.

But the high arc and long buildup are concerning in projecting NBA range. Per The Stepien’s shot chart, Culver shot 29.7% on NBA-ranged three-pointers this season.

So, the jump shot is a question. That’s a worry.

That worry, however, is supplanted by Culver’s basketball IQ and his knack for being in the right spot and making the correct decision.

Mr. Nash compiled all these passing reads by Culver off one game.

His instincts are there defensively too.

This below is a perfect “winning plays” sequence from Culver. Instead of lollygagging around on transition defense and floating, he’s active in assessing where everyone is and keeping his eyes on the ball-handler. He reads the entry pass and then pushes it forward quickly to set up more on the other end.

There’s enough of a body of work there to ease fretting about his foot speed laterally. He by no means projects to be a lockdown defender and he’s going to need that effort and intelligence to be effective on that end in the NBA.

In the end, Culver zigs where Suns wing Mikal Bridges does as well. The similarities there, particularly in the way they make their presence felt on the game. Add that up to another player that feels comfy sliding in between Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton for the Suns’ long-term plans.

At the least, he offers something different than nearly everyone on the roster: a potential secondary ball-handler who makes heady plays across the floor and has positional versatility.

That should trump any point guard aspirations the Suns have among the available prospects if Culver is on the board with the sixth pick.

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Jarrett Culver will be best prospect available for Suns at No. 6, if he’s there