EMPIRE OF THE SUNS
Dark horse candidates for Phoenix Suns at No. 6 in NBA Draft
Jun 12, 2019, 6:57 AM | Updated: 9:21 am
There’s a consensus group of five players ranked in the region of where the Suns land in the first round of the 2019 NBA Draft.
Jarrett Culver, Coby White, Darius Garland, Cam Reddish and De’Andre Hunter are heavily mocked in the 4-8 range of the draft.
But the unpredictability of this draft, due to the nature of an extremely underwhelming class, makes anything up for grabs once we reach No. 4.
With that in mind, let’s look at a few unconventional names the Suns could go with at sixth overall.
ESPN ranking: 10
Little is the most logical guy here in terms of how we arrive to a potential selection at sixth overall. He’s ranked in range, was hyped as a top five pick before the season started and is another versatile defensive option to play in-between Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges.
To understand that, we start with Little being 6-foot-6 with a wingspan over 7-foot-1. He’s got a chiseled 224-pound frame, so that length and muscle make you believe he can be a prime defensive option on any type of perimeter threat. Because of the way he plays defensively and the high motor, you talk yourself into it.
Here’s how that length and strength combination can help.
Little not only keeps up with a smaller guard but can take a bump while still easily getting vertical and using those long arms.
On offense, there’s the playmaking forward upside with his attacks off the dribble. There’s some skill there when you look in the right places. The key selection of wording there is “the right places” because it’s been a rough go for him this year.
Once again, the bump via the strength with the handle to get to that spot and touch on the shot is something.
To make what can be a complex discussion simple as to why the potential top five pick very likely won’t be one, when watching the Tarheels throughout Little’s freshman year, you couldn’t escape the feeling he didn’t know what he was doing out there.
Watch him here instinctively float away from his man after helping on an R.J. Barrett drive.
Erm where ya goin. pic.twitter.com/l7hIfvQGsN
— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) February 21, 2019
Little shot 26.9% from 3-point range on 52 total attempts, and as for him providing for his teammates, he had 24 assists to 43 turnovers.
You’re simply drafting Little for his athleticism and energy, basically hoping there’s something to his skill with the ball or value as a defender. I don’t see it in Phoenix.
ESPN ranking: 9
We put Doumbouya after Little on purpose because there isn’t much difference as to why they are ranked here. At 6-foot-9 with all the athletic checkmarks you want for a switchy wing, Doumbouya profiles to guard 1-4.
The Pascal Siakam comparison is as easy as it is obvious. On some plays, you watch prospscts and say, “man, if they could just harness that.”
A quick first step, decent enough handle and strong finish is a foundation for him to build off as a scorer.
More looks at that and the athleticism in action below.
Sekou Doumbouya. 18 y/o, moves like a gazelle, attacks like a panther. Streaky but improving shooter. Athletic, great body control. Shows flashes of high level handles and passing. Can play both on and off the ball. Really seems to get it…does a lot of stuff you can't teach pic.twitter.com/HWoTF0yUe3
— Key Sang (@Phantele_) May 17, 2019
But — and there’s always a but with these guys — the jumper is all over the place, he looks lost consistently and there’s little to no feel for him to capitalize that ball-handler potential off of.
You’ll see extremely questionable possessions like this on a consistent enough basis to make you cool off on any real hype.
Remarkably poor transition defense, with Sekou wandering into the lane, forgetting about his man who gets a wide open shot. pic.twitter.com/wGvmt1VZKC
— Ben Pfeifer (@Ben_Pfeifer_) June 2, 2019
For my money, Doumbouya is the easiest guy to forecast outside of the top-7 at No. 6. The ball-handler upside, defensive versatility and growth left since he doesn’t turn 19 until December add up to a sellable reach. Like nearly every team in the NBA, Phoenix doesn’t have anyone with his projected skill set.
ESPN ranking: 17
Bitadze’s got a whole lot going for him. He’s an absolute unit as a seven-footer, moves well, has skill out of the post and he was incredibly productive in the ABA League.
I will use my “one workout in a gym video per draft cycle” ticket on this quick peek at the skill/athleticism combination for his size.
Goga Bitadze getting ready for his Pro Day in NYC tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/c5RnEZMoCA
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) May 22, 2019
ESPN’s Mike Schmitz lays out the combination of skills together here, most notably the 3-point shot.
Really intrigued by Goga Bitadze’s combination of perimeter touch, passing feel and rim protection at 6-11. PnR drop defender who can improve his discipline on that end but he’s made great strides with his body and skill level. More on his game/background: https://t.co/AvxAr1b5Rb pic.twitter.com/yNnZFceF7s
— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) April 20, 2019
Now, I know what you’re thinking after seeing that. “He’s the next Nikola Jokic!”
When you see that passing over full stretches, it’s far more about his potential than showing any real ability to consistently make the right decision. His athleticism, unfortunately, does not translate to being able to hang laterally on the perimeter defensively, either. Teams target him constantly, ala Enes Kanter, to great success.
It has been a rough game on the perimeter for Goga Bitadze pic.twitter.com/CkS60nOY8Y
— Ben Pfeifer (@Ben_Pfeifer_) June 4, 2019
Ultimately, he’s stuck as a center because of the way he moves, and that makes it difficult to see why the Suns would want him. Deandre Ayton will command 28-36 minutes a night, and spending a top pick on a backup that doesn’t offer a drastically different skill set would be head-scratching despite Bitadze’s appeal.
ESPN ranking: 15
In what is the running theme of this group, Bol’s physical profile is the headliner of his scouting report. He’s nearly 7-foot-3 with a 7-foot-7 wingspan.
So, when you see the fluidity of his movement and skill offensively, he’s a top three pick.
.@BolBol set the college basketball world ablaze with an incredibly impressive performance at #MSG in mid-november vs. #Syracuse, looking like a potential top-three pick. He averaged 30 PTS, 14 REBS + 4 BLKS per-40 minutes in 9 GP @OregonMBB this season >> https://t.co/h0Hl7TNv95 pic.twitter.com/qjvruL5BLS
— DraftExpressContent (@DXContent) June 8, 2019
He only weighs 208 pounds, however, and before he broke his foot nine games into the season, he showed loads of concerns as a rim protector and post defender.
bol bol's lower body strength & reaction time are going to be a big issue for him going forward. it's just too easy to get him in a bad position.
a) moved too easily
b) slooow reaction
c) doggedness and effort to bridge that gap — is it there? pic.twitter.com/W10re3n6jg
— J. Kyle Mann (@jkylemann) December 27, 2018
And, honestly, there’s an unanswerable question as to how you use him in the NBA. Are you supposed to throw him the ball outside and want him to take two dribbles to pull up from 14? If he’s beating centers off the dribble, can he even finish at the rim when he gets there? What does he even do on defense?
Bol would be the biggest swing the Suns could take with the pick, especially after his foot injury (yikes) and what history has taught us about foot injuries for seven-footers (YIKES).
ESPN ranking: 13
Here’s our full profile on Clarke and how the Suns could think outside the box at six.