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ESPN NBA mock draft has Suns selecting Arizona’s Nico Mannion

Arizona's Nico Mannion, left, drives the ball against California's Paris Austin (3) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

As the Phoenix Suns’ chances of slipping into the eighth seed continue to fade and are currently the lowest they’ve been all season, eyes naturally turn towards the 2020 NBA Draft.

Considering what we know about Phoenix Suns general manager James Jones’ draft precedent of older, proven players with a certain list of intangibles, this is not the draft for him.

Of ESPN’s players going in the top-20 in their latest mock draft, only three of the selections are at least 20 years old, and none of them are juniors or seniors.

That will give us more to learn about Jones’ preferences in player acquisition, but there’s also the fact that five of ESPN’s top 10 picks are freshman ball-handlers, where Jones could look to get that extra playmaker behind Ricky Rubio and Devin Booker. Of course, if he wants to go that route.

That’s the road ESPN’s Jonathan Givony has them going down with Arizona point guard Nico Mannion 10th overall.

Mannion, 18, has underwhelmed as a Wildcat, not quite being the blazing hot offensive force that most expected. He’s averaging 13.6 points, 2.5 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.2 steals per game. Noted for his scoring touch coming out of the Valley’s own Pinnacle High School, he’s shooting only 39.3% from the field and 32.0% at three-point range.

And perhaps the most discouraging element of Mannion’s game is how he doesn’t shoot much at the rim. He only takes 19.9% of his shots there, per Hoop-Math, For comparison, that number for past point guards selected in the top-10 like Ja Morant (53.1%), Trae Young (32.7%) and Collin Sexton (35.6%) is much higher.

That threat of getting into the teeth of the defense and scoring there for point guards is crucial, and Mannion might compare to someone more like Coby White (22.5%) if that’s the case, where he would need to be a plus-shooter.

Mannion’s athleticism and top speed at the next level is a question mark that also factors into him getting inside, but to be fair, that’s something we’ve seen Jones not worry about by selecting Cam Johnson and Ty Jerome.

Those points aside, Mannion is a very intelligent player when he chooses to be. Mannion’s two clearest influences are Stephen Curry and Steve Nash, and impersonating the latter is when he’s far better for the Wildcats.

While what Mannion maxes out as an athlete in is a red flag, his quick bursts are effective as a ball-handler.

And to be fair, we should not just gloss over the potential Mannion has when he tries to channel Curry, either. The technique he shows on pull-ups like this at his age is impressive.

 

Overall, Mannion does have the type of skill and IQ combination that would entice the Suns.

The wonder, however, is if the rawer elements of his game (that have already shown in college) are something the Suns would want to remain patient about. That, too, would come at a position of need where Jones is surely trying to add another ball-handler this offseason. The reported trade discussions for Detroit’s Luke Kennard line up with that.

Would Jones wait on Mannion’s game to come along, do so in a rotation spot and also to the expense of someone’s playing time like Jerome? A mix of those things would happen if the Suns went with Mannion.

Elsewhere, Arizona’s Josh Green (No. 17) and Zeke Nnaji (27th) make it three first-rounders for the Wildcats in the mock.


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