EMPIRE OF THE SUNS
After lottery, NBA mocks show how wild draft will be for Suns
It’s not just the top five picks in the 2020 NBA Draft that can’t be predicted right now. It’s the whole dang thing that everyone is struggling to project, this year more than most.
Even with the lottery order decided upon Thursday, there’s no telling how this will go. Georgia guard Anthony Edwards is a likely top-three pick. LaMelo Ball has fans to go first overall, and there are expectations that big man James Wiseman will crack the top-three. After that, Obi Toppin, Isaac Okoro, Deni Avdija and Onyeka Okongwu are among players who are viewed as top-five picks.
For the Phoenix Suns, who will draft 10th overall if they keep their first-round pick, the unpredictability at this point shows up in the initial mocks following the lottery.
Of eight mocks made by reputable writers, six different prospects end up with the Suns.
Part of that is because of what volatility lies before the Suns pick, and this is before we consider a team like the Golden State Warriors might be doing everything it can to trade the pick. Part of it is because there are many directions the Suns can go with this: They can fill needs from point guard to wing to big.
The tiers of prospects built by individual analysts are incredibly different — or as our Kellan Olson has explained, maybe there is just one very deep tier from high in the lottery to the end of it.
Below, you’ll find what experts mocked to Phoenix just after the lottery order was decided. Included are a few notes of what impacted their boards with the Suns up at 10.
ESPN’s Jonathan Givony
Aaron Nesmith, wing, Vanderbilt
Nesmith is arguably the best shooter in this class, especially off movement, and he would fit seamlessly into any situation. He also has an impressive physical profile at 6-foot-6 and 213 pounds with nearly a 7-foot wingspan. With the Suns in win-now mode, adding more shooting on the wing will surely be appealing.
Of players we can throw into the 3-and-D wing category, Nesmith is the second one off Givony’s board behind Okoro. Devin Vassell of Florida State and Saddiq Bey of Villanova follow immediately, going 11th to San Antonio and 12th to Sacramento.
How instant-impact can a rookie wing really be with Kelly Oubre, Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson all locked in to playing time in 2020-21?
The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie
Devin Vassell, wing, Florida State
Phoenix could very easily look to address the backcourt here. The Suns almost assuredly will be hoping one of Hayes or Haliburton will fall here. But with neither there, Vassell’s addition would give them even further flexibility with the lineups they can put out. I’d expect Vassell’s range is somewhere in the No. 8 to 20 area.
Vecenie loves the thought of pairing the 6-foot-5 Vassell with Bridges in a starting lineup. Like Givony, this aligns with the expectation that the Suns will want insurance if Oubre is not back with Phoenix after his contract expires following next season.
SB Nation’s Ricky O’Donnell
Tyrese Maxey, G, Kentucky
Maxey doesn’t run offense like a traditional point guard and lacks the size to consistently defend shooting guards, but it isn’t hard to see how his skillset could be effectively deployed next to a bigger offensive initiator in the NBA. The 6’2 freshman is at his best attacking the basket, where he showcases impressive body control and soft touch around the rim. He’s an active and attentive defender who plays bigger than his size with quick hits and good length with a 6’6 wingspan.
Notable prospects picked before the Suns are up who fit their needs are Vassell (eighth to the Knicks) and point guard Tyrese Haliburton (ninth to the Washington Wizards).
Maxey may lack true point guard attributes and has question marks as a shooter, but he’s got enough offensive creation skills and defensive competitiveness as a smaller 2-guard or bigger point guard to fit just fine next to Devin Booker. How high is his upside compared to the leftover wings is a question Phoenix would ask in this scenario.
Sports Illustrated’s Jeremy Woo
Killian Hayes, G, France
Phoenix’s roster is heavy on point guards but still devoid of a true long-term answer at the position (Ricky Rubio was a positive addition, but turns 30 later this year). Hayes has starting-caliber upside as a lead playmaker and would be a strong fit in Phoenix, where he can ease into rotation minutes. Some teams are still concerned long-term about his shooting and athleticism limiting his upside, and his range starts in the back half of the lottery. But his proclivity for using screens and attacking defenses situationally off the ball makes a lot of sense here.
Many draft experts don’t have Hayes falling this far, and Vassell comes just off the board before Phoenix is up in this mock.
The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor
Killian Hayes, G, France
Dynamic left-handed shot maker who’s made rapid progress at age 18, though he’s raw in some technical areas.
Vassell (sixth) and Haliburton (seventh) are gone when it’s GM James Jones’ time to pick. Toppin (eighth) and Okongwu (ninth) are drafted just before the Suns get their third guard at 10.
CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish
Saddiq Bey, wing, Villanova
The more I talk with front-office executives, the more I’m convinced Saddiq Bey has a chance to be a steal in this draft — especially if he slips out of the top 10. The 6-8 forward was merely a sub-125 recruit in the Class of 2018, the least-heralded prospect in Villanova’s four-player class. But he quickly developed into an intriguing prospect who averaged 16.1 points (while making 45.1% of his 3-point attempts) this past season for a Villanova team that shared the Big East title. He’s versatile on both ends and an ideal wing prospect for the modern NBA.
Parrish has his head more into the college basketball world than most, so it’s interesting that he’s citing NBA front offices in addition when mocking Bey to get drafted before Nesmith and Vassell, who Parrish has falling to 14th and 15th.
Also notable: The Suns sure benefited from drafting and developing Bridges two years back. If you’re talking instant impact players, someone who spent time under coach Jay Wright is never a bad thing, even if they have room to grow.
CBS Sports’ Kyle Boone
Kira Lewis Jr., PG, Alabama
Kira Lewis is a speedy mad man who can change directions, get to the hoop and create his own look. As scouts have told me, he’s sometimes too quick. Learning how to stop and go and control tempo is his next growing point. But the physical tools, solid shooting mechanics and creation abilities are worthy of a flier for the Suns who need depth at guard to pair with Devin Booker and an intriguing young core.
Boone goes with a big swing pick, as Lewis may be short on size but tall in upside. While drafting undersized point guards in the lottery might be against the grain considering the modern NBA, this is a draft where you might take the risk on a player who has all three of shooting, athleticism and playmaking talent.
And who’s to say Lewis can’t pack on weight as he gets older?
Sporting News’ Jordan Greer
Devin Vassell, wing, Florida State
Vassell could be the best 3-and-D prospect in the class. He shot 41.5 percent on 3.5 3-point attempts per game last season and was a huge reason Florida State had one of the toughest defensive units in the country.
With Mikal Bridges emerging as an elite wing defender, the Suns would be wise to select Vassell and make life miserable for the Western Conference’s top scorers.
Greer has Okoro going two picks before Vassell. Haliburton and Hayes are already long gone in his mock.