Tracking This Year’s NBA Draft: Phoenix’s Best Options

Each Wednesday, we’ll be assessing how the top prospects of the 2013 NBA Draft are faring in college and overseas. Stick with us each week for assorted thoughts, including the biggest risers and fallers, the standouts, the sleepers and what we know and don’t know about the next NBA Draft class…

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All season they have been lumped in the middle of the lottery, but it is pretty clear that the Phoenix Suns are going to be drafting in the Top 5 this year. They have a lot of needs after voiding their roster of any credible scoring and general NBA talent. Thus, here’s the NBA Draft Fast Five, all about the Suns.

ONE: What Do We Know About The Phoenix Suns?
In the process of rebuilding teams need to do three things.

First, they need to clean house of the past to move forward 100 percent into the future of the team. Over the past year the Suns did just that by trading Steve Nash, letting Grant Hill go, and firing Alvin Gentry.

Second, add role players. The team has those in spades with pretty good defenders, situational shooters and players comfortable with not being the “guy.” Heading into the 2014-2015 season the team will have Goran Dragic, Channing Frye, Jared Dudley, Michael Beasley, Markieff Morris, Luis Scola, and Kendall Marshall under contract. That group, without Frye for health reasons, would be exceptional around a superstar. Speaking of that…

Third, find your superstar. That takes time, or assets, or high positioning in the NBA Draft. That is the goal for the team in this draft and future drafts to come. The Suns are built with role players, have little direction with their front office, and are in denial about the fact that they are at the bottom of the NBA standings because of poor team management.

TWO: What Do They Need?
In a word, talent.

There is not a specific position of need because they could plug in a Top-5 pick into the starting lineup at any position or at worst near the very top of the bench rotation. Getting a franchise center would make a lot of sense with Marcin Gortat‘s contract up after next season, but talent in general has to be the goal. In the last two drafts the team selected Morris and Marshall at No. 13, neither of have made a significant impact on the team.

THREE: Stock Rising
Some role players emerge out of the shadows of their star counterparts, or show their value next to NBA talent, much like what Baylor’s Cory Jefferson has done this year. He is not a lottery pick or a guy that will get you 18-20 points nightly at the next level, but he is a hard worker that does all the dirty work for his team.

Jefferson is a good rebounding compliment at the four that will find a place in the NBA regardless of his actual draft position, which could be anywhere in the second half of the second round today.

FOUR: Stock Falling
As a freshman Dwight Powell came in with a lot of hype as a stretch-four with great athleticism. Since then he has not played up to his potential as a four that drifts out to the perimeter all too much. His best assets are highlighted as a four, but he is sold on the notion of being a three and playing on the perimeter full-time. As I have talked about before, knowing your role and position at the next level are almost as important as having the talent to play at the next level.

FIVE: Quick Hitter
The myth that teams do not draft upperclassmen or only take them only in lesser talented drafts is an intriguing one. Then there is the argument that teams only began taking upperclassmen after the rule changed to the “one and done” system of today.

Neither theory is accurate. I went back and looked at the drafts between 2008-2012 and 2002-2006 for an accurate portrayal of the trends.

Looking back at the past five NBA Drafts that included the likes of Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin, John Wall, and Kyrie Irving there were a total of 61 seniors or juniors selected. That is a total of 12.25 a year, or 40.8 percent of the first round. All of those drafts came after the “one and done” system was installed. To have a comparison, looking at the five drafts that led up to the rule change there were 74 upperclassmen selected for an average of 14.8 a year, or 50.6 percent of the first round.

Then, freshmen were chosen over for the high school senior and there was a major increase in the selection of sophomores. That is the noticeable change and trend to watch out for. Not that freshman make up 23.3 percent (before 17.1 percent) of the draft, internationals 11.3 percent (before 20.5 percent), but that the sophomores are up to 24.6% after being an afterthought at 11.6 percent just 10 years ago.

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Top 5 Fits For Phoenix Right Now

Ben McLemore: 6-5, 185 pounds – Fresh., Kansas
Stats: 16.7 PPG 5.5 RPG 1.9 APG 51.1% FG 43.4% 3PT
He is not an elite scorer with the ball as a play-maker, but McLemore is a silky smooth shooter that gives the team a potential go-to scorer for the future.
Nerlens Noel: 6-11, 216 pounds – Fresh., Kentucky
Stats: 10.5 PPG 9.5 RPG 4.4 BPG 59.0% FG 52.9% FT (55-104)
Despite the injury Noel is easily one of the Top 1-2 players in the draft on pure talent alone. He will not be back when the season starts, which is a benefit as the team will be bad next year as well positioning themselves for the 2014 NBA Draft.
Alex Len: 7-1, 225 pounds – Soph., Maryland
Stats: 12.7 PPG 8.0 RPG 2.1 BPG 55.7% FG 67.3% FT (72-107)
With Marcin Gortat potentially on his way out Len is a quality replacement as a legit 7-footer with potential and skill on the block.
Marcus Smart: 6-4, 200 pounds – Fresh., Oklahoma State
Stats: 15.8 PPG 4.5 APG 5.8 RPG 41.8% FG 31.6% FT
He is not a one or a two, just a basketball player that is beginning to show he has the potential to carry the load on the perimeter, a cross between James Harden and Baron Davis.
Isaiah Austin: 7-0 200 pounds – Fresh., Baylor
Stats: 13.6 PPG 9.2 RPG 1.4 BPG 47.6% FG 32.8% 3PT (21-64)
There was a lot of doubt with Austin heading into his freshman year as the previous Baylor prospects had not panned out and he is rail thin. Well, he is still rail thin, but proven to be a better prospect than his predecessors.

Adding a center that can fortify the paint for the next 7-10 years is mathematically feasible with anywhere between 5-7 centers in the Top 14 of the draft. The team needs to take the best player available no matter position to improve the roster and add more talent to the now depleted roster.

Who’s the best fit for Phoenix?

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