2024 NBA Draft includes bigs who could complement Suns’ core

May 7, 2024, 10:38 AM

Marquette's Oso Ighodaro...

Oso Ighodaro #13 of the Marquette Golden Eagles controls the ball as Mohamed Diarra #23 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack during the 1st half of the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament game at American Airlines Center on March 29, 2024 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

(Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

If we’re to take Mat Ishbia’s and James Jones’ words for it, the Phoenix Suns will return their core five players next season: Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal, Grayson Allen and Jusuf Nurkic.

Adding a more traditional point guard via the draft would change the dynamic of the team to a large degree, even if that means drafting an experienced college player whose top end as a prospect is that of a career backup.

But adding a big is maybe the second most important thing.

Center versatility can come in many different forms after Nurkic was limited in the first-round sweep by the Minnesota Timberwolves and backup Drew Eubanks, who has a player option, was pushed out of the rotation by Game 4.

Drafting a rim-rolling shot-blocker with high starting potential is the target with the 22nd overall pick — but also a crapshoot. Do the Suns settle for a small-ball ball-mover? A floor-spacer? Or do they double down on what Nurkic provides with his size, offensive hub capabilities and reasonable enough defense?

As we did with the point guards, we’re preferring prospects who appear capable of jumping into an NBA rotation without developmental years. Here’s who could potentially fall to the Suns at No. 22.

2024 NBA Draft big prospects to complement the Suns

Zach Edey, Purdue

It’s a possibility the Suns are posed with whether to take the most dominant player in college basketball from this past season. Edey put up 25.2 points and 12.2 rebounds per game on 62% shooting, and his senior year answered some questions about his motor and defensive abilities. His awareness and drive to improve stood out, but it does not completely clear up whether the 7-foot-4 force can become more than a supplemental offensive piece in a pro game where floor spacing and rim-rolling is more important than battering opponents in the post.

Warts: Edey shot a ridiculous 82% at the rim, but notably 68% of those buckets were assists. That might be a good thing from Phoenix’s perspective if you’re talking about not taking the ball out of the Big Three’s hands. Still, the concern of whether they need a defensively limited big man who can score is warranted.

Kyle Filipowski, Duke

Two years at Duke in a similar role showed good steps forward from Filipowski, who as a sophomore saw bumps in his assists (2.8 per game), blocks (1.5 per game) and shooting splits. Listed at 7-foot and 248 pounds, he has a high motor and despite being somewhat of a limited athlete looks fluid as a basketball player. He’s comfortable bringing the ball up the court and even tapping into his handles, shiftiness and Eurosteps to avoid traffic in transition. Duke put him in plenty of defensive situations that saw him switch or have to fight over screens, and the results considering his size are things you can live with.

Warts: Like with Edey, Filipowski falling to the Suns would put the team in a surprising but curious position. Filipowski’s skillset is refined enough to believe he would be a solid pick for the long-term future, but Phoenix’s question would be whether a below-par finisher and ball mover with some stretch capabilities on offense is too redundant to Nurkic. Then again, perhaps taking him would give the Suns the ability to move off the veteran’s contract sooner rather than later. Either way, taking Filipowski is about adding offensive versatility, not defensive improvement.

Oso Ighodaro, Marquette

Big boards have Ighodaro, a Desert Vista High School product, as high as a lottery pick and as low as 67. He’s a highly efficient, complementary offensive piece but at 6-foot-11 and 235 pounds would function like a more athletic Dario Saric ball-mover in Phoenix’s offense. He shot 62% for his four-year career and averaged 13.4 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.3 blocks and 1.1 steals as a senior. With a team like Phoenix, he is a small-ball changeup center who can roll to the rim and spray out passes if the help comes. Is adding a different bench dynamic and more switchability high on the list of desires? Adding a selfless, smart teammate should be on the list.

Warts: Ighodaro didn’t take threes and shot just 62% from the foul stripe for his career, but there was some juice to his short midrange scoring thanks to an array of hooks and floaters. He hit 52% of his shots that were classified as two-point jumpers, and 46% of his shots came in that area, according to Hoop-Math.com. Obviously, his NBA potential would receive a dramatic boost if he could add a jumper.

DaRon Holmes, Dayton

Holmes tested the waters last draft but returned to improve again in his third year with the Flyers. His field goal percentages (54% in 2023-24) ticked down as he expanded his game, adding a 39% three-point shot on 2.5 attempts this past year. The free-throw figures (71% this year) ticked up each season, however. Holmes this past season peaked at 20.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. He blocked around two shots per game all three years at Dayton.

Warts: The 6-foot-10 big man who attended Goodyear’s Millenium High School and later AZ Compass Prep had some high-turnover games, but those tended to be ones where he was a focal point of involvement. His ceiling is limited because he’s a few inches short of 7-feet and not the biggest or most athletic, but improvements over time paint the picture of a reliable player in several aspects. Will he thrive in a reduced role?

Yves Missi, Baylor

A 7-foot-6 wingspan is where we start with Missi, who is the first of two prospects we’ll mention who hasn’t put together multiple strong college seasons. He’s got vertical and horizontal athletic traits to become a great defender and uses force in all aspects. At 7-foot and 235 pounds, there’s a physicality that will make him NBA-ready. As a freshman, Missi shot 61.4% from the field and just 61.6% from the foul stripe.

Warts: The 1.5 blocks in just 23 minutes per game hunting in Baylor’s zone defense is nice. But playing that little to average 10.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.4 fouls is probably not enough production to warrant a pick by the Suns. He makes the list, however, because he’s pretty unanimously viewed as a top-25 prospect and could still play immediately in spot minutes.

Kel’el Ware, Indiana

After playing as a backup with the Oregon Ducks in 2022-23, Ware blew up with Indiana to average 15.9 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. His athleticism will translate to the NBA. While he never took more than three triples in a game, the 43% accuracy showed something scary that pairs well with his 59% overall shooting. Ware is a true 7-foot rim-roller.

Warts: He’s more turnover-prone than assist-prone. His effort is why he’s not rated more than a late first-round pick. Are the block numbers representative of his true defensive impact? Probably not. The Suns would have to be sure his athleticism could impact the game and they can get a concerted effort. Big ifs there. The production is the only thing keeping him from being cut from this list.

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