EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

ESPN’s latest NBA mock draft has Suns gunning for PG

Apr 9, 2020, 9:21 AM
Iowa State guard Tyrese Haliburton celebrates after making a three-point basket during the second h...

Iowa State guard Tyrese Haliburton celebrates after making a three-point basket during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma State, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020, in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State won 89-82. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The biggest problem for the Phoenix Suns before this season was the hole at point guard.

So isn’t it nice that their biggest hole now is finding a capable backup?

It’s something that general manager James Jones could address in the 2020 NBA Draft, and ESPN’s Jonathan Givony has two names that come to mind in his updated mock. Assuming the Suns stick at 10th in the drafting order through the lottery process, he has them selecting French combo guard Killian Hayes.

But the best fit, he says, is Iowa State point guard Tyrese Haliburton, who is taken off the board a pick before Phoenix is up.

Finding a guard who complements Devin Booker has long been a priority for the Suns, who made progress this past season. Ricky Rubio is a strong fit, but he turns 30 this offseason.

A versatile backcourt player like Haliburton, who can play on or off the ball, will likely be a priority. And if Haliburton is off the board this late in the lottery, Hayes is a solid second choice.

Both Haliburton and Hayes have potential to develop into a backup lead guard but have the size to match up with shooting guards.

Haliburton is a wiry 6-foot-5 player who projects more as a point guard. He averaged 15.2 points, 5.9 rebounds and 6.5 assists as a sophomore this season before a broken wrist ended his year prematurely.

A high-IQ passer and heady defender who like Rubio might be limited by his athleticism, Haliburton averaged 2.5 steals per game.

He also has value as a shooter who hit 43% of his threes in two college seasons. Despite a hitch in his form, he shot 41.9% on 5.6 attempts per game in 2019-20.

While Haliburton weighs in at a listed 175 pounds, Hayes has more defensive positional flexibility at 6-foot-5 and 216 pounds. In 26.8 minutes per game for Ulm, which played in the EuroCup, he averaged 12.8 points and 6.2 assists while shooting 39% from three-point range.

A bit turnover prone and an average athlete, he is still 18 years old but has 52 games of pro experience in the German league last year and with Cholet in France’s top league the prior two years.

Of course, the Suns already have plenty of options at point guard.

But it’s hard to argue they feel good about all those options.

Elie Okobo’s contract is not fully guaranteed for 2020-21, and Jevon Carter is a restricted free agent. Ty Jerome is entering the second year of his rookie deal, as is G League developmental prospect Jalen Lecque.

None of Okobo, Carter and Jerome could win the backup point guard role in 2019-20 despite head coach Monty Williams’ opportunities presented to them. A couple of them — Carter and Jerome — might project more as shooting guards due to skill and physical limitations.

At the end of the day, some of their futures on the team will be at risk if the Suns have a chance to draft either Haliburton or Hayes. Both have the potential not only to back up Rubio but eventually slot in as a starter when his contract comes to an end after the 2021-22 season.

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ESPN’s latest NBA mock draft has Suns gunning for PG