EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

2022 NBA Draft targets for Phoenix Suns: Projected undrafted sleepers

Jun 23, 2022, 8:10 AM
Jamaree Bouyea #1 of the San Francisco Dons makes a move along the baseline while being defended by...
Jamaree Bouyea #1 of the San Francisco Dons makes a move along the baseline while being defended by Trae Hannibal #2 of the Murray State Racers during second half action in the first round of the 2022 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament held at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on March 17, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
(Photo by Jamie Sabau/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

The Phoenix Suns do not have a draft pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. There are a few reasons, however, to believe they could wind up with at least a player from this class, perhaps more.

For one, the rampant speculation surrounding a sign-and-trade for restricted free agent Deandre Ayton continues, and theoretical fits like the Atlanta Hawks (Nos. 16 and 44), Indiana Pacers (Nos. 6 and 31), Portland Trail Blazers (Nos. 7 and 36), San Antonio Spurs (Nos. 9, 20, 25 and 38) and Toronto Raptors (No. 33) all have draft picks that could be a part of a package for Ayton.

That deal, of course, would have to come through after the draft. Ayton can’t agree to sign with another team until free agency starts. Erm, at least to abide by the league’s rules. Tampering?! Who said that? I didn’t even bring it up! Regardless, a young player on a cheap deal would be of interest to Phoenix given the restrictions coming as a tax-paying team. Just depends on getting the right young player.

Secondly, Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro has been reporting on Burns & Gambo for a few weeks now that the Suns are interested in buying a second-round pick. Gambadoro has said to keep an eye on teams with more selections than they know what to do with, like Oklahoma City (Nos. 2, 12, 34 and the 14 million others they have this decade), Minnesota (Nos. 19, 40, 48 and 50) and Orlando (Nos. 1, 32 and 35).

Gambadoro’s reporting includes the possibility of the Suns including a player in a trade to get higher in the draft from there, and as we’ve covered, the Suns have their fair share of movable contracts.

The goal for this four-part series is to sift through this draft class and find a mix of the types of players that general manager James Jones normally targets with who they should be targeting in my opinion.

After covering the main areas of the draft, here are some guys that might be available as undrafted free agents on two-way deals.

(All statistics via sports-reference and hoop-math)

Jamaree Bouyea, PG, San Francisco. 22 years old

(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Measurables – 6-foot-2, 6-foot-7 wingspan, 170 pounds

Stats – 17.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 4.0 APG, 2.3 TPG, 1.8 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 47.0 FG%, 36.7 3P%, 75.5 FT%

Big board rankings – ESPN: 79, The Athletic: 99, The Ringer: NR

After my scouting love for Charlotte’s Grant Riller in the 2020 NBA Draft hit a snag, I’ve again fallen for the same type — an older, ultra-skilled offensive guard from a small school.

You might remember Bouyea from one of the best games of this past NCAA Tournament. San Francisco faced Murray State, one that inspired me to tweet, “Hey, is this an NBA guy? He looks like an NBA guy.”

Bouyea’s got that type of bounce to his game off the dribble where there’s enough craft, explosion and handle to be comfortable in any sort of situation, even though he’s not elite at creating separation. It’s one of those negatives helping produce a positive because he is really good at scoring and making decisions in tight pockets. Once he gets downhill, Bouyea can get to some sweet floaters or reach into his step-back bag that allows him access to his deep range on 3s.

The efficiency, as you can see, is great given the type of volume scorer Bouyea is. He shot 50% or better in 18 of his 34 games, and his percentage on 3s comes with nearly 65% of Bouyea’s deep balls as unassisted on nearly six attempts a night. He shared lead backcourt duties and managed OK assist numbers with a great lack of turnovers considering how often he is in attack mode.

Defensively, Bouyea is only covering one position and that plus the dynamic offense only going so far because he’s unable to generate space is why he’s a fringe dude. The plus-five wingspan is a nice bonus, at least, and the game tape I watched showed a guy that could be a plus defender with more work put in.

My obsession with Riller, Austin Reaves last year and now Bouyea comes from a general philosophy of thinking teams should start betting a whole lot more on skill with the ball plus intangibles and seeing what comes from there. Bouyea has it, and as we learned this postseason, the Suns need some more of it.

Jeenathan Williams, F, Buffalo, 23 years old

(Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)

Measurables – 6-foot-6, 7-foot wingspan, 207 pounds

Stats – 19.1 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 2.9 APG, 2.9 TPG, 1.4 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 49.0 FG%, 45.1 3P%, 69.0 FT%

Big board rankings – ESPN: NR, The Athletic: 95, The Ringer: NR

Sometimes you get frustrated watching this range of prospects because they are so close to not only being guys that should be drafted but also could go in the first round. If Williams had a quicker first step, better defensive instincts and was two inches taller, he’s there.

Williams has that type of length you notice more in the way he moves. He maximizes his strides and has a nice arsenal in the Euro department of creating that extra bit of space near the rim to get to floaters. Williams slashes at will, registering 44% of his total shots around the basket, and does so because he possesses just enough wiggle to gain the initial advantage on his defender. From there, it’s some of the usual herky-jerky goodies you see from lefty attackers.

There’s a five-minute stretch in the second half of this game at Michigan where he single-handedly got Buffalo back in it.

A pleasing development has been Williams’ jumper. While it slowly loads up the ball into a catapult-like Sam Perkins shot, you can see the amount of work he put in through four years of college ball to convert on 42.5% of his 3s in his last two seasons. It’s mostly a catch-and-shoot weapon, but he can come around off movement and take an extra dribble if he needs to, something that usually hampers unorthodox shooting motions like Williams’.

Defensively, the tape I watched flashed a guy who is not fully connected to the possession. Things like his digs, help and screen navigation were a step off in a direction you don’t like for a four-year guy. The potential, however, is there with his length and knack for getting a hand on the ball.

If he could clean that up and limit his turnovers (some of his dribble drives are an adventure), there’s an NBA-caliber wing in there. Williams plays like he is one already, a level of confidence you love to see from someone who is going to have to fight to just make a roster, let alone earn minutes.

We already saw how valuable it was for the Suns to hit on Ish Wainright this past season, and you can never have enough versatile wings on the depth chart.

Vince Williams Jr., F, VCU, 21 years old

(Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)

Measurables – 6-foot-6, 7-foot wingspan, 207 pounds

Stats – 14.1 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 3.0 APG, 2.9 TPG, 1.6 SPG, 1.1 BPG, 47.7 FG%, 38.7 3P%, 81.4 FT%

Big board rankings – ESPN: 76, The Athletic: 72, The Ringer: NR

I promise these are two different basketball players. Just two fun, seasoned, left-handed 3-and-D prospects that are the same size with the same last name and do the same-ish stuff with similar-ish stats.

Williams, like his counterpart, has evident hard reps with his jumper paying off. He attempted a total of 55 triples in his first two years as a Ram before a 39.7% knockdown rate on 272 tries the last two years. Unlike Jeenathan, Vince’s improvement as a free-throw shooter, from 68.8% as a freshman to an 81.4% senior number, backs that up even further.

Again, the footwork on some of Vince Williams Jr.’s successful tosses I watched is encouraging despite the unconventional form, like these two in semi-transition without being set.

Players in Williams’ role don’t need an overwhelming amount of playmaking chops, just a pinch or two. I liked the passes he found off the bounce in those situations, even though the turnovers are worrisome for him too.

Defensively is where Williams separates himself. VCU’s principles on that end really helped iron out a great defender. While on the ball is where you see a lack of burst for Williams, he’s got a feel for making an impact off it and is still pretty darn good marking dribble penetration.

All of those skills together on a minute sizzle reel look pretty sweet to me:

Williams’ stuffing of the stat sheet is rare.

Looking at his percentages for assists, steals and blocks over a full season for current NBA players coming out of college since 2010, Williams would join New Orleans’ Herb Jones, Memphis’ De’Anthony Melton, Golden State’s Gary Payton II and Draymond Green, and Atlanta’s Delon Wright if he sticks, per Sports-Reference.

Is Williams on the level of those guys pre-draft? No. One or two below.

But can he be the sixth player of those 40-plus to reach that level of production and be an NBA mainstay? I think he’s got a great shot, and he makes sense for Phoenix in all the same ways that his basketball doppelganger does as well.

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