PHOENIX — From the moment the first mock drafts were released post-NBA Draft Lottery, this name, Frank Kaminsky, has been the one most often associated with the Phoenix Suns.
It was with that in mind that the Wisconsin senior center took the US Airways Center practice court on Thursday as part of a star-studded pre-draft workout that included two other first-round prospects in Kentucky freshman forward Trey Lyles and Kansas freshman forward Kelly Oubre.
Lyles and Oubre have also been linked to the Suns, who hold the 13th pick in the June 25 NBA Draft, but it’s been Kaminsky who has appeared the most on Arizonasports.com’s Phoenix Suns 2015 Mock Draft Tracker.
For Kaminsky, it was a memorable workout as he butted heads with Georgetown senior forward Greg Whittington and required five stitches to close a cut in his left eyebrow.
“It was his first workout and he gets stitches, so welcome to the NBA,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said chuckling, before adding, “they butterflied it up and he still shot, so we saw that. We saw some of the early 1-on-1 stuff; we just didn’t see the 3-on-3.
“He showed that he’s got great skills. He’s a big man who can handle the ball, he can pass it, he can step back and shoot it; and from what we saw even in the 3-on-2s and 2-on-1s, he just knows how to play the game.”
Kaminsky was not made available to the media.
The consensus national player of the year and first-team All-American, Kaminsky was the only Division I player to average at least 17 points, eight rebounds, two assists and 1.5 blocks per game last season.
With good touch around the rim, post-up game and a mid-range jumper, Kaminsky also proved proficient as a 3-point shooter — a rare skill set for a 7-footer — leading Wisconsin with a 41.6 percentage.
“I think that’s going to be a growing trend,” Hornacek said. “Obviously, in the NBA with most teams trying to shoot 3s and always looking for those stretch-4s. Big guys coming up through the high school and college ranks are shooting a lot of those. I know that’s a commodity in the NBA, so I think we’ll start to see more of those big 7-footers that can shoot like that.
“It’s good to see because obviously the way the league is with the rules with hand-checking; the point guards are pretty dominant out there now with those rules. They can get in there and break things down and you need those guys out there to shoot the ball.”
Overall, Kaminsky led Wisconsin in points (18.8), rebounds (8.2), assists (103), blocks (57), field goal percentage (54.7), free throws (156) and free throw attempts (200) to return the Badgers to the Final Four, where they came up short against Duke in the National Championship game.
Rounding out the six-player group Thursday, the eighth the Suns have held since May 26, were second-round hopefuls in New Mexico State senior guard Daniel Mullings, Green Bay senior guard Keifer Sykes and Whittington.
Of the two 19-year-old freshmen, most predict Lyles getting his name called ahead of Oubre.
Both offer good size and length — Lyles is 6-foot-10 with a 7-4 wingspan, Oubre 6-6 and a 7-2 wingspan — that NBA teams crave at the forward position.
In his one season at Kentucky, Lyles averaged 8.7 points and 5.2 rebounds in 36 games, including 21 starts, to earn All-SEC Freshman Team honors.
The former Indiana Mr. Basketball made the Suns his first pre-draft workout, hoping to display his versatility “and show a lot of stuff that I wasn’t able to at school last year and just show that I’m an all-around ballplayer.”
Specifically, he said, his shooting, passing and making plays off the dribble.
“You see out here — you probably would get surprised about how well he can shoot the ball and how easily he shoots,” Hornacek said. “He’s a big strong kid. He’ll step out there a half-step behind the 3-point line and he’s just flicking his wrist when he shoots it. He does have some shooting ability.”
Lyles made just four 3s in 29 attempts last season.
“Just have to get a lot of reps up,” he said, adding he’s more comfortable playing power forward as opposed to small forward as he did at Kentucky. “The (3-point) line difference from high school and college on the floor, there’s a lot more space when you’re playing in the NBA, so it’s something I have to work on but it’s something that I feel I can excel at.”
Oubre, too, understands he needs to improve his outside shot after going 34-of-95 from 3 in his one and only year at Kansas.
He was a 44.4 percent shooter overall with averages of 9.3 points and 5.0 rebounds, plus showed quick hands with the second-best steal total (41) on the team.
Named All-Big 12 Honorable Mention, Oubre had a previous workout in Indiana before visiting the Suns.
“My main goal is to make these team fall in love with me and want me to be a part of their program for the long run,” he said.
Oubre added he hoped the NBA game would allow him the space on the floor to create scoring opportunities for himself and others, an ability he said was limited in college.
“It’s definitely something that I thrive in, just getting out in transition, having the ball in my hand in transition or even running the wings with big guys that are athletic and that can run is something that I can thrive in in the NBA,” he said.
Compared to the 22-year-old Kaminsky, Lyles and Oubre are still young kids. Neither turns 20 until the fall, so forecasting their potential becomes more difficult.
“Most of these guys, the way they’re brought up, they’re star players through college,” Hornacek said. “These guys matured more than maybe we were matured at 18 or 19 years old. You still see that they’re going to learn a lot and they’re going to mature even more. But, they’ve got a pretty good grasp of hey, ‘you’re a big boy now, you’re going to be playing in the NBA.’ The goofiness that the normal 19-year-old has, these guys don’t have much of that.”