EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

2022 NBA Draft targets for Phoenix Suns: Lottery fits

Jun 20, 2022, 6:55 AM
Ochai Agbaji #30 of the Kansas Jayhawks cuts the net after defeating the North Carolina Tar Heels 7...
Ochai Agbaji #30 of the Kansas Jayhawks cuts the net after defeating the North Carolina Tar Heels 72-69 during the 2022 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament National Championship at Caesars Superdome on April 04, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Graythen/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.

We begin with the slim chance Phoenix winds up acquiring a player that was selected in the mid-to-late tier of the lottery.

(All statistics via Sports-Reference and Hoop-Math)

Ochai Agbaji, G/F, Kansas, 22 years old

(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)

Measurables – 6-foot-6, 6-foot-10 wingspan, 217 pounds

Stats – 18.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.6 APG, 2.1 TPG, 0.9 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 47.5 FG%, 40.7 3P%, 74.3 FT%

Big board rankings – ESPN: 16, The Athletic: 16, The Ringer: 17

Why not just keep going back to the well?

Agbaji is the type of decorated and proven four-year player the Suns like. The consensus First Team All-American and Most Outstanding Player of the last Final Four, Agbaji’s resume as a sharpshooter is impressive when you consider the type of defensive attention a player with his status receives.

Bill Self worked in a handful of wrinkles across his offense to get Agbaji on the move off the ball and the senior’s proficiency there with a lightning-quick release can’t help but remind you of the Suns’ Cam Johnson.

The shaky free-throw percentage in the low 70s for his collegiate career and streaky shooting patches from 3 across that time have me hesitate to compare him to a shooter of Johnson’s caliber, but Agbaji is certainly one of the best in his class.

Elsewhere across the floor, Agbaji’s size, length, NBA athleticism and energy allow him to be a fingerprint guy, a.k.a. someone who is consistently making their presence felt on a game.

The type of seasoning you expect to see on defense from someone who spent four years in a great program is there, plus some solid passes.

Agbaji’s blocks in this video below really showcase the physical profile he’s working with.

The question is if there could be some scoring pop here at the next level to push him beyond getting pigeonholed into a 3-and-D label.

Agbaji shot 71.5% at the rim (!) but a 50.4% rate of those buckets being assisted is pretty high. He loves dribble pullups and the 32.3% shooting on two-point jumpers has to get better. Furthermore, 85.6% of his triples were assisted.

This type of investment in Agbaji would come down to the Suns always having a reliable and trusty two-way perimeter player when Devin Booker and Mikal Bridges need breathers — having someone who packs a bit of an offensive punch would be rather useful, too.

Dyson Daniels, G, G League Ignite, 19 years old

(Photo by Joe Buglewicz/Getty Images)

Measurables – 6-foot-8, 6-foot-11 wingspan, 195 pounds

Stats (15 GP) – 11.9 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 5.1 APG, 3.0 TPG, 2.1 SPG, 0.7 BPG, 45.9 FG%, 34.5 3P%, 38.4 FT%

Big board rankings – ESPN: 6, The Athletic: 10, The Ringer: 7

You know when you’re starving on a road trip and trying to convince the driver going over a mile off the highway for an S-tier food selection is worth it as opposed to the D-tier quick grab right next to the exit?

That’s the type of argument I’m trying to craft together for this Phoenix regime drafting someone under 20 years old.

That extra couple of minutes (or years) out of the way will be worth it! Come on! They have waffle fries!

Daniels is an easier case to pitch than most 19-year-old top point guards. He’s another fingerprint guy like Agbaji, especially defensively.

The heights the Aussie reached there, along with the literal height he has with an in-season growth spurt the NBA Combine confirmed, create the type of upside for a multiple All-Defense type of player.

The consistency wasn’t there 100% of the time for what is going to be his biggest calling card, and that’s where I shrug and stare into the camera like Jim Halpert. Daniels is playing in the G League (yes, that’s Mario Chalmers and Lance Stephenson in the above photo) and we have countless examples of toolsy defensive prospects still being rather great in the NBA even though there were red flags present on the pre-draft tape.

Daniels’ combination of size and passing ability as a ball-handler is alluring. I keep bringing up how big he is because he’s nearly 6-foot-8 for a guard. That matters now more than ever with how freakishly athletic the everyday NBA player is, and if Daniels is never going to be a lead initiator, he still could be a playmaking wing.

There’s an obvious Tyrese Haliburton comparison that will follow Daniels but while Haliburton’s jumper looked even more funky than Daniels’ at this stage, it was going in a lot. Daniels’ hasn’t been. And if he’s going to be more of a combo guard/wing, he needs to be able to shoot even more.

Haliburton was an underrated scorer in the pre-draft process as well. Daniels’ skill with the ball in that regard just isn’t quite there right now with needing to overcome a lack of explosiveness physically. His tape is also littered with passive moments, something a ball-handler can’t have issues with.

But all of that is to say the experts who really know this stuff cite a tremendous amount of improvement in Daniels’ game over the last calendar year, on top of the aforementioned physical growth he had since joining the Ignite and steps forward with the form on his jumper. He’s still really young, and if he gets better at that rate for two more years, now we’re talking about one of the better lead guards in the league. That’s why Daniels is one of the biggest risers in this draft class.

An heir to Chris Paul who gets small doses of minutes as a defensive irritant until he’s ready to take the reigns from Paul is an obvious long-term commitment that makes sense.

Jeremy Sochan, F/C, Baylor, 19 years old

(Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

Measurables – 6-foot-9, 7-foot wingspan, 230 pounds

Stats – 9.2 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.6 TPG, 1.3 SPG, 0.7 BPG, 47.4 FG%, 29.6 3P%, 58.9 FT%

Big board rankings – ESPN: 15, The Athletic: 9, The Ringer: 13

Sochan is a fascinating young player to come across at this time in the league. He is a modern basketball prospect. Except he can’t shoot. Or score in bunches. He passes well but doesn’t produce a ton of assists, either.

He’s also probably the best defensive prospect in this class. I can’t say that with certainty given how unfamiliar I am with the totality of this group but Sochan is a true five-position defender. We should start talking about these guys like five-tool players in baseball. It’s rare and wings who can pull it off are immensely valuable.

Sochan is one of them through a relentless motor that immediately convinces me he’s a Suns guy even though he’s 19 with clear cons to his game. There are a handful of sequences from his freshman year where you see his grit and skill swing a game.

If he’s not on Phoenix and you’re a Suns fan, get ready to be upset by the way Sochan plays. He only needed one year of college ball to own multiple apartment complexes in the heads of the majority of fanbases and teams he came up against. Patrick Beverley and Draymond Green might fight over who can be his mentor.

Suns head coach Monty Williams would glow when talking about the value Frank Kaminsky and Dario Saric provided his offense as “connectors” from the big spot, and Sochan would be terrific in that role.

The pitch made by Portland Trail Blazers assistant general manager and former ESPN draft whiz Mike Schmitz is that Sochan is a Boris Diaw-esque offensive contributor with all the defensive appeal and intangibles added on.

Sochan shot an awesome 75.0% at the rim with 35.4% of his makes there unassisted, two encouraging shot creation numbers for a part-time big. His dribble drives and handles on the first couple bounces will surprise you. By then, he can finish or throw the right pass.

He also knocked down 42.4% of his two-point jumpers and 67.9% were not assisted, which, again, is not worth batting an eye at.

If Sochan could shoot at an average clip, he’s essentially what today’s version of a “power forward” should be, because he’s a great rebounder too. The poor percentages from deep and at the foul line will scare some teams off.

But the thing is, there’s a version of Sochan that still works in the NBA if the jumper doesn’t come around. Yes, the margin of error creates an incredibly tight window but it’s still technically open.

And if Sochan can hit that incredibly tight window, the team that drafts him has suddenly stumbled upon one of the most unique and valuable players around. For the way the league is headed where offensive on-ball versatility and defensive positional versatility reign supreme, I’d be confused if teams outside the top-4 of this class haven’t been pondering a selection of Sochan.

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