EMPIRE OF THE SUNS
Already heavy with them, Suns could have choice of wings in NBA Draft
Jun 18, 2019, 6:57 AM | Updated: 2:52 pm
The Suns’ problem: They need a point guard and certainly not more wings with Mikal Bridges, Josh Jackson, T.J. Warren and potentially Kelly Oubre Jr. back on the team for 2019-20.
Their bigger problem: There’s a good chance the best available player at No. 6 in the 2019 NBA Draft is a wing.
There’s a reason that, as of this writing, ESPN has three versatile forwards ranked fifth, sixth and seventh on its top-100 list of the best prospects. Virginia 3-and-D specialist De’Andre Hunter, Texas Tech playmaker Jarrett Culver and Duke high-ceiling sniper Cam Reddish, are right around Phoenix’s draft slot.
Let’s play a game to consider what Suns general manager James Jones and the front office might consider if they believe those three players are indeed ranked in a cluster on their big board — and that the team’s biggest need, at point guard, isn’t on the table with the No. 6 pick.
Most simply, the question we’re asking is this: Which wing best fits the current Phoenix Suns?
Measurables: 6-foot-8, 208 pounds, 7-foot wingspan
Stats: 13.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 35% FGs, 33% 3-pointers
Nobody in the lottery carries the boom-or-bust label like Reddish. From his stride to his dribbles to his attack modes that create space for his effortless looking shot, everything about his game is smooth when you see it on the right night.
The shooting percentages are worthy of huge red flags, but it means something that Reddish can get off his shot at any point with his fluid combinations of moves.
Even Reddish’s natural physical gifts flashed on defense, where he averaged 1.6 steals per game and showed that same limberness moving side-to-side.
But what about Reddish is real? According to ESPN’s database that’s tracked him during his high school career, he’s a 32% three-point shooter. Reddish shot a miserable 28% on two-point jumpers at Duke as a freshman, and he somehow managed to still take 12 shots a game and 7.4 from deep.
The potential is there. It’s conceivable Reddish could be picked by a team like the Cleveland Cavaliers at No. 5, where he would be able to spread his wings and play often. But with the Suns as their roster is currently constructed, it’s difficult to imagine how Phoenix could develop him.
Fit with Suns: Not great considering the Suns’ urgency to win now and their glut of wings on the roster.
Measurables: 6-foot-7, 225 pounds, 7-foot wingspan
Stats: 15.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 52% FGs, 44% 3-pointers
De’Andre Hunter is the prevent defense your favorite NFL team is playing up six points with more than two minutes left. He’s the Toyota Corolla, reliable but probably not very exciting or surprising.
A bulky forward with decent enough athleticism, Hunter projects closer to a power forward compared to Culver or Reddish. He’s trustworthy on defense and slides his feet well, but he’s arguably too rigid to excel switching onto guards or even handling elite small forwards. He doesn’t produce a whole lot of blocks or steals.
Offensively, Hunter is a capable line-drive scorer who has enough handles to be trusted to create a little. His three-point shot improved a good deal over his two NCAA seasons, and it’ll be utilized to space the floor even though the motion is a little slow-developing.
Fit with Suns: Phoenix could use a stretch power forward, and he would give them another rotation piece to solidify a team defense. There’s something to be desired, however, in his lack of rebounding and lower ceiling offensively. And is he really that switchable? The Suns already have a few players who do similar things and nothing he does is all that urgent to add to this roster.
Measurables: 6-foot-5, 194 pounds, 6-foot-10 wingspan
Stats: 18.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 46% FGs, 30% 3-pointers
Arguably the most well-rounded player in this range, Culver’s shooting stroke leads to whatever variance there is regarding his potential. With an above-average shot, he could even push into All-Star territory. Even without it, he has too many things working for him not to be a good NBA player.
Culver showed near-elite passing skills off the dribble, and he did so playing for a Texas Tech team without many other create-off-the-bounce players. He played well on one of the nation’s best defensive squads, and though his shooting numbers fell off once conference play hit, he flashed enough potential — and a lot of improvement — in his two college seasons to believe there’s a lot of untapped potential left in him.
Fit with Suns: Not too shabby. Culver might add to a wing logjam, but he’s a secondary ball-handler who can help Devin Booker and brings enough basketball IQ to keep head coach Monty Williams’ mind at ease on either end. He’s easily the best fit of the three top wings after likely No. 3 overall pick R.J. Barrett.