Empire of the Suns 2020 NBA Draft Big Board 2.0: Best pre-lottery options
The 2020 NBA Draft Lottery is Thursday and the Phoenix Suns have the 10th-best odds of getting the No. 1 pick, a 65.9% of sticking with the No. 10 overall selection (find the full odds here).
With that in mind, here’s an updated version of Empire of the Suns’ NBA Draft Big Board, this time taking into consideration the Suns’ needs and not just my personal rankings. What general manager James Jones has made clear he prefers, both through what he targets and what he says he targets, is reflected as well.
Some housecleaning to do before we get underway:
You’ll find much more in-depth breakdowns on the majority of these players in the first iteration of the board. You can find part one, two, three, four and five by clicking on those words for the numbers.
OK, tidied that up. Let’s get into it.
I believe there’s a drop-off right around where the Suns are slotted, and that extends to a board in specifically what they need. They’re getting fine value from anyone after this tier.
20. Tyrese Maxey, G, Kentucky, 19 years old (▼5)
All the freshmen point guards hit a certain level of being a “project,” and Maxey’s mesh the least well with the Suns.
Maxey’s moxie (heh) is the main reason to pick him. There’s not a lot of evidence the shot is believable enough to be paired with Devin Booker, nor the scoring efficiency and floor general savvy to run the show.
I don’t see it in Phoenix.
19. Jalen Smith, C/PF, Maryland, 20 years old (NR)
Smith has got some light Deandre Ayton stuff to his fluidity of movement at his size, and that weirdly includes shooting off the move?
Jalen Smith knocks down the off-movement 3 pic.twitter.com/lv8mlU8Gxq
— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) April 21, 2020
He improved as a three-point shooter this season to 36.8% on 2.8 attempts a game.
That’s the extra layer his game needs. Smith’s already got explosion and length around the rim that’s his bread and butter. He was averaging 10.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks a night to go with 15.5 points.
The individual scoring is mostly from posting up and then the occasional dribble drive that makes you jump out of your seat. The package isn’t super-well rounded yet and is going to take some time, but there’s some hybrid big man intrigue for sure.
The Suns don’t have much going for them behind Ayton, and having Smith as a depth piece you could maybe even put with the big fella at times if Smith’s shot gets good enough is an interesting thought.
18. Desmond Bane, G, TCU, 22 years old (NR)
Bane is the best shooter in this draft. He has shot 43.3% in his four-year college career from deep on 575 attempts, including 6.5 a game at a 44.2% clip in his senior season.
He has a slightly unorthodox release that’s less aesthetically pleasing but more effective in where he gets to release the ball and how quickly he gets rid of it. The man has range.
Desmond Bane has limitless range pic.twitter.com/IvI2r7D8kk
— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) July 24, 2020
Bane isn’t all that quick, and that obviously limits his upside as a ball-handler and defender. But he’s physical with his stocky 6-foot-6 frame on drives and can make some pretty neat plays out of them.
This is definitely a Cam Johnson-style of prospect, where you draft him for his one awesome skill and the hope that the solid-enough accentuating pieces develop even further in the NBA.
Playing Bane spot minutes with whatever combination of Ricky Rubio, Booker and Deandre Ayton is on the floor to space the floor could be another way of using the reserve guard minutes.
17. Precious Achiuwa, big, Memphis, 20 years old (▼4)
Achiuwa needs a reality check with the player he should be right now (he’s not Pascal Siakam), and Monty Williams does not seem like the type of coach who would have the patience to get that out of him. But if someone can convince Achiuwa to just eat glass on the boards and be a psycho rolling to the rim, there’s enough there while reeling in his enormous defensive upside.
16. Leandro Bolmaro, G, Argentina, 19 years old (NR)
Bolmaro’s a whiz of a passer, but the thing I love the most is that he’s your prototypical European guard who is a grinder and plays through contact on off-the-bounce attacks.
So I know the Bolmaro shooting numbers are bad but I love the way he plays. He's tough and aggressive on drives like all Euros should be. Faster than you think at his size. Moves pretty well on defense. I think there's enough there to go around the passing. pic.twitter.com/VSs6D7ZmEh
— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) June 27, 2020
Some of the quickness you see there does translate to his defense, where he’s pesky. Dude is just a gamer and I think he would fit in really well with how the Suns play.
His three-point shooting being around 28% is a mess and I’m not sure there’s any way around that. But it’s easy to see him running Phoenix’s second unit while doing enough off-ball with his size (6-foot-7) to warrant combo guard status.
15. Cole Anthony, PG, North Carolina, 20 years old (▲1)
Like Maxey, Anthony’s flaws would seem like a real pain for the Suns to get through while the strengths wouldn’t be worth the wait.
I fully expect him to be on the team’s radar, and if I had to pick five names as the potential selection if they stick at No. 10, he’s one. Because there’s a really great point guard somewhere in there.
14. Aaron Nesmith, wing, Vanderbilt, 20 years old (–)
If you discuss Nesmith enough, you sound like you’re talking about Johnson again. You can never have too many smart shooters, and Nesmith could potentially add a bit of scoring pop off the bench too.
He becomes more intriguing if the Suns already know internally Kelly Oubre Jr. only has a year max left in Phoenix, and that could very well be the case. Keep an eye on Nesmith.
13. Nico Mannion, PG, Arizona, 19 years old (▲4)
When you’re looking at effort and skill, Mannion’s got just about everything the Suns like and would want out of a point guard. The floor general chops, in particular, register strongly on the “0.5” scale.
The athleticism is an issue, and the combo of his shooting and touch showed at Arizona have to have been a fluke if he can survive in the NBA.
The question is if Jones wants to roll the dice again on athleticism in a lead ball-handler for the second straight year. Based on how Ty Jerome looked this season, I’d guess no!
12. James Wiseman, C, Memphis, 19 years old (▼4)
There’s too much of an unknown on Wiseman for me to be sold on him as a fair “value pick” for the Suns in the next tier. I’m fairly low on him as is, and I don’t see what you’d be getting in him as Ayton’s backup. The similarities with those two, in fact, is why I’d stray elsewhere.
To me, I don’t see much of a clear split from second to 12th in this draft for the Suns. And as you’ll see with the guys we’re going to cover, with the exception of Anthony Edwards, everyone could slot into some sort of need for Phoenix. This is randomly a really great draft for the Suns fit-wise.
11. Deni Avdija, F, Israel, 19 years old (▼6)
It’s hard to picture what exactly Avdija could be in Phoenix, which is why I drop him so low.
He has good supplementary pieces to his game except his shot, and boy do you need to be able to shoot if you want to be a perimeter role player on this team. The numbers are scary enough to move him this far down even though the role player aspects of his game fit perfectly in Phoenix.
10. Devin Vassell, wing, Florida State, 19 years old (▼1)
On getting a good third guard in the offseason front, that’s how you maximize the value of someone like Vassell in the second unit, a defensive specialist that can hit open threes enough for defenses to respect him. That third guard could set Vassell up in his spots and make life easier.
Again, smart shooters. Not a bad thing to keep drafting.
Booker and Mikal Bridges command so many of the minutes, though, and are crunch-time guys that prevent Vassell from holding too important of a role.
9. Patrick Williams, F, Florida State, 19 years old (▲3)
I’m fascinated to know how much the Suns are willing to develop with this pick, because they could really get something out of Williams if they are about it.
The “power wing” archetype being able to go down to a small-ball five a la P.J. Tucker is a rare type, and Williams could be it. He’s got the offensive skill to be a complete “0.5” player, and the defense looked great with the Seminoles.
8. Kira Lewis Jr., PG, Alabama, 19 years old (–)
Booker and Oubre have taught Suns fans a lot about the value in a young player that improves every year, and Lewis’ freshman-to-sophomore jump reeks of a point guard who has only just gotten started at getting better.
Some parts are more developed than others, but there’s a very good well-rounded point guard in there. For now, Lewis is about speed, playmaking and defense. That’s good enough off the bench if Williams could trust him, and I think that’s a possibility.
7. Grant Riller, PG, Charleston, 23 years old (▲3)
Riller is a bucket. He scores at the rim to get to the foul line, pulls up comfortably in the mid-range and has deep range on the jumper. He had terrific efficiency as a three-level scorer in college and another guy outside of Booker with that skillset could do wonders on the Suns’ roster.
He played this season with a few guards, so Riller’s used to sharing the ball already, and that’s helped him develop his passing beyond being on the ball running the main actions.
Riller is the best plug-and-play fit for the Suns outside of the best big man in this class.
6. Anthony Edwards, G, Georgia, 19 years old (▼3)
This is tough to do because Edwards is a top-3 talent, but I just don’t know what the Suns could get out of him both short and long term. A young low-efficiency scoring two-guard is not what Phoenix needs, and that’s what Edwards was as a freshman.
5. Obi Toppin, big, Dayton, 22 years old (▲6)
For everything wrong with his defense, Toppin as an impact player off the bench and production machine to start wouldn’t be all that bad.
He’s gotta be a long-term center with the way he moves, but he could spend some time at the four with the right second-unit matchups. Have him dive, dive and dive again with Rubio, Booker or that third guard and the Suns will see immediate results offensively.
Toppin’s got a real chance to be a tremendous offensive player, and with the minutes Phoenix could have available at both big spots, he deserves to be up here.
4. Onyeka Okongwu, big, USC, 18 years old (▼1)
You probably shouldn’t play Okongwu with Ayton, so that limits how much he could play in Phoenix.
But Okongwu seems like a very safe bet to be at least solid, and as we’ve seen with Brandon Clarke in Memphis, that can be valuable. The Suns should keep getting good basketball players, and Okongwu is the one guy I’m betting on more than anyone else to be that in this class.
There’s a place for his energy in the second unit, and I think the value is too good to pass up even with limited space.
3. Killian Hayes, G, France, 19 years old (▼1)
A lot of Hayes’ instant productivity hinges on how much better he’s got since April. Everything the Suns have done under Jones strays away from projects, and Hayes could be one, especially as a guard you want with the ball in his hands to get the most out of. His shooting, defense and handle need work.
There’s a ton of upside as a combo you could play with either Rubio or Booker. The question is if the Suns want to wait on that to deliver, and I’m not sure it’s that great of a fit despite the long-term promise.
2. Tyrese Haliburton, PG, Iowa State, 20 years old (▲4)
This has gotta be the guy the Suns are zoned in on.
Outside of drawing fouls, scoring around the rim and being a bucket-getter in general, Haliburton does nearly everything else. His passing is so good because of the angles he creates for himself at his size to make the simple play. The shot goes in on catch-and-shoot and he brings it defensively, so with his size, he works off the ball.
The more tape you watch, the more Haliburton’s just that guy who keeps making plays. He’s a smart player and could serve as an under-control floor general in training behind Rubio that they could find extra minutes for.
1. LaMelo Ball, PG, USA, 18 years old (–)
Ball is the most talented prospect in this class and the Suns need a long-term point guard. On top of that, Ball’s tremendous basketball sense, passing and potential as a shooter could make him a dynamite “0.5” guy.
His decision-making needs to be significantly reined in, but they should take the swing and trust Williams and Rubio as the guys to get the most out of it in Ball’s rookie year.