Leading up to the 2014 NBA Draft, we are going to preview each team in the lottery for their needs. We’ll be taking a look at the teams individual strengths, weaknesses, roster, and what prospects would fit in with the current and future plans.
*** *** ***
Why not get things started with the darlings of the 2013-2014 season, the Phoenix Suns. After winning an NBA record 48 games and missing the playoffs, the Suns are in a position to draft in the lottery rather than in the 20s to add to this scrappy, impressive young team. Let’s dive into the team sitting right in my backyard.
Here is the NBA Draft Fast Five.
ONE: 2014-2015 Potential Roster Review
Every player on this current team is under contract to return next year for certain except Channing Frye (player option), Ish Smith (team option), Eric Bledsoe (restricted FA) and P.J. Tucker. Unless there are better options for the team I would expect Smith to get his option picked up. Frye is not getting 6.8 million elsewhere and the NBA collectively should understand by now the Suns are matching any offer Bledsoe might entertain or sign. Deja Eric Gordon Vu all over again.
The big question is Tucker and how the team handles his free agency. He is a 29-year-old defensive specialist that will get a lot of looks out on the open market if he is interested in cashing in for the his final big payday. Tucker is the team’s heart, he and Frye respectively, and is more than just points per game to this team. With three first-round picks, he might be more replaceable than other parts on this roster.
TWO: Biggest Strengths
Youth, overall shooting efficiency, and system are the biggest strengths for this team. They have a good collection of young, talented basketball players that will be under contract for a while, giving them flexibility with the draft. Adding more youth and talent is never a bad thing. Overall this team shot the ball well from close (55.5 percent), midrange (43 percent) and three (36.6 percent) this past year, all top-10 marks in the league. Also, the system is open and inviting for great athletes to thrive in. If you work hard on defense and on the glass, you can get easy looks with the way this team likes to run (18.7 PPG) on the break.
THREE: Biggest Weaknesses
In a word: Toughness.
In two words: Interior toughness. This team needs a gritty, high-energy, and tough interior presence that can rebound, defend, and resolve some of the team’s nagging weaknesses from this past year. They were abysmal in the paint in terms of opponents points (45.5 PPG, 26th in the league), opponent’s second chance points (14.2, 28th), and opponent’s offensive rebounding percentage (26.3, 22nd). Frye and Markieff Morris stretch the floor well with their offensive abilities, but are not going to win many battles with the towers out West. Miles Plumlee was a great story this past year as an athletic big man that came out of seemingly nowhere, but he has his shortcomings inside as well.
Another word. While Tucker is a borderline great defender, he is limited to put-back and corner threes on the offensive end. He is a great energy player for this team and does a lot of dirty work, but is not getting any younger or more prolific on the offensive end. An upgrade there couldn’t hurt.
FOUR: Odds In The 2014 NBA Draft Lottery
The Suns have a 0.5 percent chance (five total combinations out of 1,000) and a 98.2 percent chance of drafting exactly where they stand. Not the best odds in the world considering the No. 14 overall pick has drafted at No. 14 every single year.
FIVE: Recent History of the No. 14 Pick
Do names like Shabazz Muhammad, Ronnie Brewer, Rashad McCants and John Henson intrigue you? They are a few of the players selected at No. 14 overall in the past nine years, delivering, on average, an average NBA player. The league average for PER last year was 13.46 while the last nine players drafted at No. 14 overall averaged a PER of 13.8. Just an average pick.
Five Prospects That Make Sense For The Phoenix Suns At No. 14 Overall
1. Adreian Payne: 6-10, 240 pounds – F/C, Michigan State
Stats: (In 28.1 MPG) 16.4 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 42.3 percent FG
Payne fits the description of what the Suns need in terms of a forward that can rebound and defend, but he is also more of a stretch four, which they have a few of already.
2. Tyler Ennis: 6-2, 180 pounds – PG, Syracuse
Stats: (In 35.7 MPG) 12.9 PPG, 5.5 APG, 35.3 percent 3PT
Another point guard? Well, Goran Dragic is not a guarantee to be here much longer (either free agency or a trade) and this two point guard lineup is a system that is becoming more and more relevant in the NBA. Ennis is a pure point that can set up the offense, allowing Bledsoe to play off the ball more.
3. Marcus Smart: 6-4, 220 pounds – C, Oklahoma State
Stats: (In 32.7 MPG) 18.0 PPG, 4.8 APG, 29.9 percent 3PT
Another point guard? Same thing as above, but Smart brings more toughness, defense and versatility to the backcourt. Can you imagine a full-court press with Bledsoe and Smart at the top putting pressure on the ball?
4. K.J. McDaniels: 6-6, 198 pounds – SF, Clemson
Stats: (In 33.7 MPG) 17.1 PPG, 2.8 BPG, 30.4 percent 3PT
While he might not be the offensive upgrade at the wing described above, McDaniels is an elite athlete that might ease the burden of losing Tucker this summer. He showed off his offensive game this year and might be a two-way player at the next level.
5. James Young: 6-6, 215 pounds – G/F, Kentucky
Stats: (In 32.4 MPG) 14.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 34.9 percent 3PT
Here is the offensive upgrade on the wing, but it comes with a cost. Young can shoot, finish, slash, and get to the free throw line, but could not defend my fingers on this keyboard right now if he wanted to. So there is some give and take with Young.
The Suns might have their answer at center on the roster with the fifth overall pick from the 2013 NBA Draft, Alex Len. He will need to make a significant jump in terms of health, strength, and consistency next year to leapfrog Plumlee in the starting rotation. The biggest needs for this team now and long-term are interior toughness and offensive punch from the wing.
Who should the Suns take this year?
Follow Kristofer on Twitter at @NBADraftInsider.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.