EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Empire of the Suns’ 5×5 NBA Draft Preview: Darkhorse wings for 2020

Nov 3, 2020, 6:55 AM
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The NBA has had more than enough time to scout the 2020 NBA Draft class, and despite that, there is still a lacking consensus on the group outside the top-three.

Point guard LaMelo Ball, guard Anthony Edwards and center James Wiseman are the prospects widely assumed to fall no further than five, and then there’s a scattered group that should stick in the lottery.

After that, outcomes range from lightly expected to completely unknown. With under three weeks to go, prospects’ stocks still feel fluid, particularly once you get outside those lottery locks. This is strengthened by the positional depth of this class, with guards, wings and bigs available in most parts of the first round.

This applies specifically to the Phoenix Suns with the No. 10 overall pick, as they are right on the border of those lottery-level guys being gone, and could go in almost any direction with the position they choose to draft.

Based on that, Empire of the Suns will review the three position groups and try to nail down the 25 guys (!) to keep an eye on, which is quite the juxtaposition from a typical draft being down to a handful of prospects.

Through a five-part series, we keep going on wings in part four with a few that should be in the discussion for Phoenix despite the depth of the position in this range.

All statistics via Sports-Reference and Hoop-Math.

Saddiq Bey, F, Villanova, 21

Rankings – ESPN: 17, The Ringer: 18, The Athletic: 15

Measurables – 6-foot-8, 6-foot-11 wingspan, 216 pounds

Statistics – 16.1 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.4 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 47.7 FG%, 45.1 3P%, 76.9 FT%

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

For all the reasons teams like Deni Avdija, who we covered in our first look at wings atop this draft, they will also fall in love with Villanova’s Bey. He comes in a package with less straight-line speed, more girth and better shooting.

Bey is good at a lot of things but must prove he can be great at one or two. If his three-point accuracy and defense carry over, then his upside is enticing.

But his standout strength is his passing in a sturdy frame with a 6-foot-11 wingspan. Not only was he capable of initiating offense for the coach Jay Wright’s team, but Bey operated as a passer both out of the post and in ball-handling situations.

Like it was for past Villanova prospects like the Suns’ Mikal Bridges or the Mavericks’ Jalen Brunson, Bey gets a gold star for playing within himself. He’s heady, and that will have to help him make up for any physical limitations.

Bey doesn’t explode off the bounce and defensively will get by with effort, size and length. Is he versatile enough to hang with elite wings or lightning-quick scoring guards? If so, his ceiling improves.

He’s got to rebound at a higher rate because he’s closer to a true power forward than a wing.

Again, if he can be that good of a jump shooter, things open up immensely in terms of his play-making.

His feel for the game and personality would just fit on this Suns team. You can imagine him winning many interviews with teams if you read a transcript of this one with HoopHype’s Bryan Kalbrosky– Kevin Zimmerman

Desmond Bane, G/F, TCU, 22

Rankings – ESPN: 34, The Ringer: 20, The Athletic: 20

Measurables – 6-foot-6, 6-foot-5 wingspan, 215 pounds

Statistics – 16.6 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 45.2 FG%, 44.2 3P%, 78.9 FT%

As I did with Kira Lewis Jr., let’s focus more on the limitations of Bane with how much we’ve propelled him in this space the past couple weeks.

The crux is his athleticism as a whole. Bane’s measurables, particularly the short arms, hamper his versatility to really go up and down the chart as a wing.

He’s more of a guard in that regard, so now he’s gotta be quicker, and the burst question is a big one.

Skeptics see a dribble-drive getting shut down here as opposed to the impressive desperation heave.

Are NBA defenses going to leave the corner for this awesome skip pass when Bane’s man is still well in front of him?

Defensively, to be honest, is where you see it less. He’s ultra-alert off the ball and sticks decently enough on it.

And when he’s not getting all the way by his defender as a ball-handler, he can still rise and fire.

I don’t know, man. As you can tell, I can’t get far enough into this exercise to really do it justice. The dude is just good, and something would have to really go wrong mentally or somewhere else for him to not be a reliable rotation player. – Kellan Olson

Jaden McDaniels, F, Washington, 2o

Rankings – ESPN: 23, The Ringer: 26, The Athletic: 44

Measurables – 6-foot-10, 7-foot wingspan, 200 pounds

Statistics – 13.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 2.1 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.4 BPG, 40.5 FG%, 33.9 3P%, 76.3 FT%

(Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

We haven’t hit on McDaniels yet anywhere and that’s because he’s your annual Kelly Oubre Jr./Romeo Langford/James Young athletic wing that didn’t do much in his freshman year but here he comes with those great measurables!

The 3.2 turnovers a game were not fun!

To put it simply, he consistently did dumb things as a ball-handler for the Huskies. There was no way to watch and have trust in him consistently making the right decisions against NBA defenses.

More fun, though? When the athleticism really popped.

Here’s what it looked like when it all came together for him in games, including his jumper, which isn’t all that bad looking.

He’s a fun dart throw for a team that doesn’t see much else appealing in this draft. That will not be the Suns. – Kellan Olson

Josh Green, G/F, Arizona, 19

Rankings – ESPN: 21, The Ringer: 25, The Athletic: 29

Measurables – 6-foot-6, 6-foot-10 wingspan, 210 pounds

Statistics – 12.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 42.4 FG%, 36.1 3P%, 78.0 FT%

If you had to put money on a player who might have been over-qualified for his role in college, Green might be your guy.

Arizona head coach Sean Miller asks his best wing athletes to play defense, and the bouncy freshman probably didn’t get enough credit for accepting that role and running with it.

He not only was an engaged on-ball defender with lateral quickness but a conscious off-ball help man playing in a defense that requires strongside help on drives, forcing him to recover to his own man often.

He can smother bigger players like below or hang with smaller ones thanks to his length.

He’s an ideal 3-and-D wing in stature, and his shot shows promising signs that it can be above average. Green struggled finding a rhythm within Arizona’s offense too often, but he should be prepped to contribute with spot shooting and basic attacking at the NBA level immediately.

I mean, look at this.

The wonder about Green’s upside lies in how much of a contributor he can be on the ball. He was not especially turnover prone and didn’t force things in college.

Green’s vision is pretty solid in terms of making basic reads, but that will be further enhanced if his ball-handling abilities improve several ticks where he’s able to survive on pick-and-rolls as an initiator. It’s hard to say if he has it or not at this point, but there’s enough IQ and shot-making ability to believe he’ll become more dynamic as an offensive threat down the road.

– Kevin Zimmerman

Robert Woodard II, F, Mississippi State, 21

Rankings – ESPN: 26, The Ringer: 22, The Athletic: 28

Measurables – 6-foot-7, 7-foot-1 wingspan, 235 pounds

Statistics – 11.4 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.1 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 49.5 FG%, 42.9 3P%, 64.1 FT%

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Woodard’s smart on both ends, can shoot, makes plays all the time and his ball-handling chops aren’t half-bad. Sound familiar?

He’s in the player archetype of a couple players ranked higher than him (Devin Vassell, Desmond Bane, Saddiq Bey), so why is he further back?

For one, the year-to-year progression on his jumper was dramatic. He rose from 27.3% on 44 attempts from three-point range as a freshman to 42.9% on 70 attempts this past season. A number like 70 isn’t a ton to go off, just 2.3 a game, and he shot 61.7% from the foul line over two years.

There’s enough of a crutch banking on continued growth in his shot that hurts his draft stock as a high-value role player.

But what Woodard does have going for him is being one of the few guys in this draft with legitimate length, and he uses it well.

You know when we talk about guys being great team defenders? This is what it looks like.

Woodard’s got some bounce to that frame. He’s not necessarily a hyper-explosive guy, nor a prospect without much pop to him. He’s somewhere in the middle.

Let him jump off one foot on the run or get set with two feet and he’s gonna cause problems.

He’s perfectly fine as a guy in the second half of the first round but there’s not a lot of upside and enough concrete about his game to go any higher. If this draft was lighter on Woodard’s archetype, perhaps he’d be someone for the Suns, but Phoenix’s range in the draft just has too many guys they’d prefer more. – Kellan Olson

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