EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

22 for 22: Best-case prospects to slip to Phoenix Suns in NBA Draft

Jun 23, 2024, 8:47 AM

Jared McCain #0 of the Duke Blue Devils controls the ball during the 1st half of the Sweet 16 round...

Jared McCain #0 of the Duke Blue Devils controls the ball during the 1st half of the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament game against the Houston Cougars at American Airlines Center on March 29, 2024 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

(Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

As much as we can sit here and speak in guarantees, so sure about what prospects slot where in the NBA Draft, there is always a possibility guys fall.

Cam Whitmore was a highly touted prospect last year out of Villanova who took a bit of a tumble, going 20th after being considered a potential mid-lottery pick.

With that said, the cut-off becomes pretty clear. Every draft class is different and this one has a fairly standard drop around the mid-to-high teens. It would be a genuine surprise to see the first 15 picks not be the expected 15 guys in some order. The Phoenix Suns pick 22nd, so that would be a decent slide for any of those names.

Here are a few to keep tabs on as Wednesday night progresses. We will also briefly note once again that Phoenix on draft night can begin dealing its 2031 first-round pick, and if it becomes enamored enough with a prospect, could use it to move up if a team in the lottery is intrigued by a pick seven years away.

Think of this as a multipurpose list then, while also noting a use of the pick like that would only be wise for a hike up several spots, somewhere into the back of the top-10. There is just about no shot for Providence’s Devin Carter or Colorado’s Cody Williams to drop to 22nd, nor be available in the mid-teens, so those are two obvious names to target with only looking at trading up.

As far as some players that could drop…

Nikola Topic, G, Serbia, 18 years old

This will be somewhat of a controversial sales pitch to make because Topic partially tore his ACL recently, which is why he’s the first name to go over as a potential faller. There is a solid chance Topic sits out the entire season, and for a Suns team that wants an instant contributor, that is seemingly not a match at all.

But Topic is a rarity in this class, a raw wing (in terms of his size) that actually has some projectable skill on the ball immediately. Earlier in this process, he was on the radar to go No. 1. He may just be a point guard when it’s all said and done but Topic is a shot creator who scores at the rim better than anyone in the lottery.

Topic could not only be found money for the Suns either late in the season or next year but also a great trade chip to use down the line. They could also just keep him as a rim pressure guard and level of talent that is never available in the 20s. One important note here is per the new collective bargaining agreement, only teams in the top-15 have access to Topic’s medical, so that could affect things as well.

Jared McCain, G, Duke, 20 years old

McCain is truly the best-case scenario in multiple ways and most of the reasons for that is why it would be shocking to see a handful of playoff teams pass on him in the high teens and let him drop to 22nd.

In our classic shtick, McCain would be a borderline top-five pick if he was 5 inches taller. His attribute package as a wing is all there. He shot 41.4% from 3 on 5.8 a night, grabbed five rebounds per game at 6-foot-2 and had nearly a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in a low usage role. The intangibles are there when you watch him.

Because of his size, McCain has to show a little bit of promise as a ball-handler, and Duke didn’t want to take the training wheels off. He stayed away from most playmaking duties. And if there was more of a guarantee that McCain would be an impactful on-ball defender, his stock would be more secure.

Phoenix would like that defensive role but an off-ball guard knocking down open 3s while doing glue guy stuff with upside for more does the trick too.

Ja’Kobe Walter, G, Baylor, 19 years old

It is convenient for Walter and McCain to be slotted right around each other in this class because it is essentially two wings that are the size of guards.

Walter is different in that he projects as more of an overall scorer and that was a role he took on in college more prominently. Like McCain, he was a high-volume shooter, but Walter was down at 34.2% on over six triples a night. The degree of difficulty he was going for had something to do with it.

He also got the line a whole lot for a guy taking 11 shots a night, with a knockdown rate of 79.2% on 5.2 free throws per game. A positive indicator for his ability to contribute as a role player was his energy rebounding, where he grabbed 1.3 per game on the offensive glass. You have to defend at Baylor and he showed some decent chops to indicate he should be fine at the next level.

The Suns would want that energy crated first into a 3-and-D focus before expanding the scoring and shooting but the potential of those two offensive skills with the other stuff would be alluring.

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22 for 22: Best-case prospects to slip to Phoenix Suns in NBA Draft