Experts bash the Phoenix Suns’ 2019 NBA Draft haul
The 2019 NBA Draft has come and gone, adding 60 players to the NBA landscape.
Looking at the Phoenix Suns’ total haul from Thursday night, it’s safe to say there are still some question marks looming over the franchise.
With the team’s selections in mind, here’s a look at how those around the league graded Phoenix’s draft.
I’m not sure where to begin here. The Suns traded T.J. Warren and a second-round pick to the Pacers for cash, and then traded the sixth pick to the Timberwolves for Dario Saric and the 11th pick, which they then used to draft sharpshooting guard Cameron Johnson from North Carolina. They already have Devin Booker, which makes the Johnson pick a head scratcher, especially when he went way higher than any of us thought he would. Most of my Rotoworld colleagues suggested I give the Suns an F- or even a G, but I didn’t take the bait. The embattled franchise and fanbase has been beaten down enough, and a simple F should suffice.
Johnson is the oldest player expected to go in the first round and simply doesn’t have enough upside to warrant a pick this high. He’s arguably the best shooter in this draft class, as a 6’8 forward who shot 46 percent on threes in his fourth year of college ball. He doesn’t offer much else outside of his shooting, though. Johnson lacks the physicality to make an impact defensively and will also struggle to finish through contact in the NBA. He also doesn’t create much off the dribble.
The Suns still don’t have a point guard, though it’s possible they target someone like D’Angelo Russell in free agency. Paired with Mikal Bridges, the Suns now have some shooters on the wing to surround Devin Booker. It might sound good on paper, but Johnson is simply too one dimensional to get picked this high.
This pick was made by the Suns, who traded 6 for 11 and Dario Saric. The Suns did this because they’ve got all this youth. Johnson’s a guy who’s as ready to play. But what a stunning move. No one expected him to be this high. Johnson was not even one of the 24 players invited to the official draft green room. This is wild to me. (Gary Parrish)
The Phoenix Suns must be desperate for shooting. Cameron Johnson, taken 11th overall, can supply that in spades, but good luck getting anything more from him.
He is the anti-upside prospect of this class. His college career spanned five years and two schools. His 23rd birthday is already behind him, meaning he’s older than Devin Booker and Ben Simmons. In other words, any flaws in Johnson’s game—his handles and athleticism are suspect—are unlikely to be corrected. It’s a strange investment for a club that appears nowhere close to the playoff picture.
But his lethal long-range shot is a safety net, both for his career and the Suns offense, which, it’s worth noting, finished 28th in three-point makes and 30th in three-point percentage last season. With good size (6’8½”) and better understanding of off-ball movement, he’s the early favorite to pace this class in spot-up splashing. This past season, he buried nearly three triples per night at a 45.7 percent clip.
The Suns had enough frontcourt clutter that they effectively salary-dumped TJ Warren onto the Indiana Pacers earlier Thursday, per Wojnarowski. Johnson just crowds things again, only with far fewer scoring tricks up his sleeve.
Well, this is unexpected. Johnson is actually headed to Phoenix along with Dario Saric for the rights to draft Jarrett Culver at No. 6, which begs the question… Did the goats make this pick? Johnson was largely projected as a late first-rounder in most mock drafts.
I actually like Johnson quite a bit. I thought he would be an excellent selection for a team in the early 20s as a player who could come in and help right away. He’s probably the best shooter in the draft, and he has positional size. He’s able to get his jumper off over most defenders. There’s a ton of value in that alone.
But Johnson is also already 23 years old. He’s a limited to non-existent on-ball creator. He’s skinny and almost certain to struggle defensively at the next level. He also has an extensive injury history and had reportedly been flagged by multiple teams for those injury issues. His best case scenario is a 3-and-D combo forward.
Phoenix, a team drastically in need of a point guard, passed up the chance to draft a good one at No. 6 in Coby White in exchange for a fine role player? This selection is frankly awful.
This is an extreme reach for the Suns, who are grabbing a player most teams expected to be available in the 20s here at No. 11 after trading down from No. 6. This is hard to explain—Johnson is one of the draft’s best pure spot-up shooters, but he’s already 23 years old. It feels like the Suns are drafting for need here, and this is an extremely high juncture in this draft to do that. Phoenix would seem to be trying to accelerate its rebuild, but this decision is questionable, given the way this draft seemed slated to fall. The choice itself makes some sense, but the execution here is the issue I have.
The Suns have suddenly become conservative with their lottery picks. A year after they traded up to no. 10 to take Mikal Bridges, an experienced wing with a proven 3-point shot, they took a similar type of player in Johnson, a fifth-year senior from North Carolina with one of the best 3-point shots in this year’s draft. Johnson isn’t as good defensively as Bridges, but his size (6-foot-9, 205 pounds) should at least allow him to survive on that end of the floor. Johnson will have an immediate role in the NBA, which means he is a pretty safe bet to give them solid minutes off the bench, even if he never ends up as a high-level starter. He hasn’t shown the ability to do much on offense beyond shoot, but he won’t need to if he’s playing with Devin Booker and D’Angelo Russell, the latter of whom they may target in restricted free agency.
Johnson was the reach of all reaches, a 23-year-old sharpshooter projected to be taken as late as the second round. Jerome, however, was a quality selection, a heady floor general with a winning DNA, which is much-needed in Phoenix.
Phoenix continues to be Phoenix. On the bright side, Cam Johnson is perhaps the best shooter in this draft and it helps to have a legitimately skill. Unfortunately, that is the only above-average trait that Johnson brings to the table and, value-wise, taking him at No. 11 is very, very aggressive.