EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

NBA Draft prospects for Phoenix Suns to seek out in 2nd round

Jun 21, 2023, 6:57 PM

Kobe Brown #24 of the Missouri Tigers celebrates after scoring during the first half of the game ag...

Kobe Brown #24 of the Missouri Tigers celebrates after scoring during the first half of the game against the Iowa State Cyclones at Mizzou Arena on January 28, 2023 in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images)

Welcome back!

In Part 1, we reviewed how the Phoenix Suns must be aggressive in the NBA Draft.

After covering the first-round bubble Phoenix could trade up to, here’s a look at a few prospects that could fall further and be available with the Suns’ 52nd pick or even on a two-way deal.

The draft guide from The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie will be assisting us along the way.

Marcus Sasser, G, Houston, 23 years old

Measurables – 6-foot-2, 196 pounds, 6-foot-7 wingspan

Stats – 16.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 1.6 TPG, 43.8 FG%, 38.4 3P%, 84.8 FT%

Big board rankingsThe Athletic: 31, ESPN: 37, The Ringer: 42

It’s time for a time-honored tradition in the NBA Draft! Is this skilled and seasoned point guard at the first-round bubble going to pan out?! Is he more like Jalen Brunson or Frank Jackson? Tyus Jones or Frank Mason III? Ayo Dosunmu or Ty Jerome?

I like Sasser’s game a lot. I think he should be a cemented first-round pick, but he finds himself on the edge of the first round, and those guys always have a chance of falling.

Sasser’s a hounding defender with some real scoring pop, thanks to a good dribble-pull-up game. Vecenie described Sasser’s handle as “sick,” and I gotta say I co-sign it.

Here’s the defense:

And some of the offense, which includes a highly encouraging 45.9% mark on catch-and-shoot 3s this year, per Vecenie:

I don’t get the drawbacks of projecting Sasser down this low. Vecenie’s noted weaknesses for Sasser are his size, lack of playmaking and rim pressure, with an emphasis on how Sasser has to adapt to a lesser role and not allow the ball to stick to him.

With that in mind, the guy can really shoot and defend with some serious scoring upside because of the way he handles the ball. Taking a swing on his adaptability could end with the Suns having the perfect guard off the bench next to Bradley Beal or Devin Booker.

Kobe Brown, F/C, Missouri, 23 years old

Measurables – 6-foot-8, 252 pounds, 7-foot-1 wingspan

Stats – 15.8 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 1.6 TPG, 55.3 FG%, 45.5 3P%, 79.2 FT%

Big board rankingsThe Athletic: 30, ESPN: 44, The Ringer: 48

We’ve gone over a few odd-balls in this range of the draft, and on the island of misfit toys, Brown is the headliner.

Vecenie puts it as Brown being one of the draft’s more “theoretically well-rounded players” and I like that. He’s got tremendous connector potential because of his feel, strength and passing ability. There’s a special role in the league today for guys that are modern 4s who can also tap in as small-ball 5s and it’s a solid premise for Brown’s NBA identity.

The smarts come in defensively. Brown was one of a few guys I was intrigued enough by to dip into some tape on and the dude really competes while getting to the right spot.

The wildcard is Brown’s meteoric bump in 3-point shooting. In his first three collegiate seasons, Brown made 49 of his 207 attempts (23.7%). On only 112 tries this year, Brown converted on even more! 51 (45.5%)! That’s always risky to buy in on, something Vecenie notes while also giving Brown credit for clean mechanics as a senior.

It’s compact and confident, two great signs.

To go back to the original hypothesis, it’s all “theoretical” and someone is going to be the team to find out the real deal with Brown. If he can shoot and his stocky frame still lets him move his feet well enough on both ends, Brown’s a steal. If either hamper him, particularly the shot, he will have to overcome a ton to pan out.

Jaime Jaquez Jr. was an earlier prospect we discussed the importance of connectors on alongside the Big 3, and Brown’s another shot at that.

Julian Strawther, F, Gonzaga, 21 years old

Measurables – 6-foot-7, 209 pounds, 6-foot-9 wingspan

Stats – 15.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 1.5 TPG, 46.9 FG%, 40.8 3P%, 77.6 FT%

Big board rankingsThe Athletic: 46, ESPN: 48, The Ringer: 37

Strawther is one of the handful of guys I went over in this list that I’ve actually seen play a fair bit and it feels like he’s 10-15 spots too low on a lot of these boards.

Dude can really shoot, armed with one of those jumpers that holds consistency no matter the movement and gets it off in a hurry. Good size for a wing to shoot over closeouts.

Vecenie notes Strawther’s got strong movement off the ball and can drive more than given credit for too.

It’s hard not to think of Cam Johnson when reading the rest of the scouting report. To be clear, Johnson was a much better prospect, but still! As Vecenie goes on about Strawther, “not an awesome athlete,” “does not have a ton of lateral quickness” and “really struggles with off-ball defense.”

That is a real red flag, however, coming from awesome Gonzaga teams where 1) those fundamentals should have seeped in and 2) Strawther wasn’t a primary option offensively. But with the way Strawther shoots it and moves off the ball, taking a flyer on him while hoping the defense becomes a not-disaster makes a lot of sense.

Jaylen Clark, G/F, UCLA, 22 years old

Measurables – 6-foot-5, 204 pounds, 6-foot-9 wingspan

Stats – 13.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.9 APG, 2.6 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 1.2 TPG, 48.1 FG%, 32.9 3P%, 69.8 FT%

Big board rankingsThe Athletic: 51, ESPN: 53, The Ringer: 49

With Jordan Goodwin on the way to Phoenix, Ish Wainright’s team option likely getting picked up and the potential return of both Torrey Craig and Josh Okogie, perhaps it would be overkill to add another lethal defender.

But I’m sure Frank Vogel would disagree, and with where Clark is projected to go in the draft, getting someone who is arguably the best at what they do in their class this late seems like a worthwhile investment.

Clark is an absolute terror defensively on and off the ball. A chaos agent. Wreaker of the havoc. The only thing keeping him out of the first-round discussion is his size. If he was a few inches taller and longer, like former first-round pick Matisse Thybulle, he’s getting a nod because of how good he is as a perimeter defender.

Despite the questionable jumper, Clark’s not a zero on offense. He plays smart and can make plays off the dribble with space, whether when that’s in transition or when the defense gives him slashing opportunities.

Here’s a sizzle reel of the whole package:

Vecenie on the offense:

Has good instincts on that end. An impressive straight-line driver who can get downhill and cover ground. Very crafty as a below-the-rim finisher with some creative moves.

Like Andre Jackson Jr., Vecenie acknowledges this would have to be a niche role in the vein of Gary Payton II or Bruce Brown. But if it’s not enough redundancy for the Suns with the skill-set, he should be high on the rankings for the late second-round pick.

Jordan Miller, G/F, Miami, 23 years old

Measurables – 6-foot-6, 192 pounds, 7-foot wingspan

Stats – 15.3 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 1.3 TPG, 54.5 FG%, 35.2 3P%, 78.4 FT%

Big board rankingsThe Athletic: 50, ESPN: 55, The Ringer: 46

Miller is similar to Clark and Jackson as well in the non-shooter department. The catch-and-shoot knockdown rate Vecenie cites at 32.5% is concerning.

But there is just a ton to like about his game. As far as strengths on Vecenie’s scouting report, he notes his “awesome” tools for a wing, some of the best finishing in the draft, impact as a driver and functionality as a “sharp passer and playmaker” while being a “solid defensive player” to boot. Again, this guy is a basketball player.

Miller’s explosiveness and strength will not melt your face off. It will put him in compromising spots against the best the world has to offer, which is what will determine how his career goes, especially if his jumper doesn’t get to an average level of efficiency.

Defensive highlights:

And the offense:

Rinse and repeat with the themes we’ve presented throughout. The bottom line is that he’s an impact two-way player if the weaknesses are not as glaring as they initially appear.

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