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Vecenie’s 4.0 NBA mock draft: Suns snap up Kentucky G Tyrese Maxey

Kentucky's Tyrese Maxey celebrates a play during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Missouri in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Jan 4, 2020. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

The Phoenix Suns’ needs are clear, though what players will be available in an already difficult-to-project NBA Draft class and where the Suns pick remain up in the air.

They could use a third guard capable of shooting and taking some ball-handling duties off Ricky Rubio and Devin Booker. Another forward could also be needed if restricted free agent Dario Saric walks — though a starting-caliber power forward might not be found in this class.

If the Suns draft 10th overall as currently projected in the lottery order, they could have their choice of guards.

The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie’s fourth mock draft, which is based on his NBA sources’ big boards more than his own opinion, bears out that promising possibility. He has Phoenix selecting freshman Kentucky guard Tyrese Maxey.

Maxey remains one of the most polarizing draft prospects of this cycle. Some teams have him as a top-eight guy, whereas other teams have him clearly outside of the lottery.

There are some real positives, though, if you buy the shooting turning around (most teams do think he’ll be a shooter at some point). His in-between game is terrific, as he possesses a killer floater package and repertoire. Defensively, he’s a monster on-ball due to the fact that he’s tenacious and built like a free safety. Plus, he’s also known to be a terrific kid who is hyper intelligent, a hard worker and a great locker room presence. The Suns could use an interesting third option at the guard position who could play with both Devin Booker and Ricky Rubio. Maxey fits that billing perfectly.

The negatives come down to his inconsistencies for Kentucky.

Maxey shot 29% from three-point range — even though 88% of his makes were assisted — and 43% overall. While he averaged 14.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists, he also spent the majority of his minutes off the ball.

For someone who is not hyper-athletic and stands 6-foot-3, he’s more of a combo guard. Still, as Vecenie mentions, he has enough stuff to project as a solid third guard if his shot progresses as scouts think it will. His 65% shooting at the rim attests to his ability to finish.

What’s more interesting in Vecenie’s mock draft is who is still available for the Suns at No. 10.

While Georgia’s Anthony Edwards (first pick), NBL product LaMelo Ball (second), North Carolina’s Cole Anthony (eighth) and Germany’s Killian Hayes (ninth) are off the board, Iowa State point guard Tyrese Haliburton is left at 10 for the Suns to take.

Haliburton is the best pure point guard in the draft class, though his quirky shot technique and limited scoring abilities could hamper him at the next level. The Suns would have to view him as Rubio’s successor at point guard.

It’s easy to make the case that Haliburton is the top five of this class in terms of pure feel for the game, and it should help him affect winning at a high level. I’m also not sure that he’s a full-stop lead guard, though. He might be more of a guard who needs to play next to a playing-making guard who can get his own shot, because that’s something he’ll struggle with early in his career.

It should be mentioned that it’s entirely possible both Maxey and Haliburton go in the top-five at this rate. Lots can change from now until the draft, which, by the way, might be an uncertain time period away.

The draft could be disrupted due to the league suspension to stamp out the spread of coronavirus.

The regular season, if it resumes in any form, must close to lock in lottery odds. The draft lottery must then take place, and an NBA Combine could potentially be thrown into the mix before the draft that was scheduled for June 25.

Whenever the Suns resume regular operations, draft prep is likely to accelerate into full gear.

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