The Phoenix Suns need help at every single position. If you had to pick one position not to bother with at the moment, it might be point guard. But shooting guard, small forward, power forward and even center are major question marks for even the near future of the franchise.
The Suns lineup does boast a starting quality, veteran center in Marcin Gortat. Gortat can give you a double-double and protect the paint with good weak side and help defense. A team can do a lot worse than Gortat.
The problem is that the Suns are rebuilding, while Marcin Gortat is 29 years old and has only one year left on his contract. Re-signing Gortat to a long term contract when he is 30 years old is a ploy by a playoff team, not a rebuilding team. Letting him go next summer without compensation would be folly too.
So it's time to trade Gortat. Either during the draft or during the summer.
But who would replace Gortat in the Phoenix Suns lineup? Of the league-high 45 players who have visited Phoenix in the past nine days, only four have been first-round caliber centers: Alex Len (ranked Top 5), Cody Zeller (lottery), Mason Plumlee (lottery/mid-first) and Rudy Gobert (lottery/mid-first).
Len might be gone by the time the Suns draft at #5 on June 27. Besides Nerlens Noel, Len is the best center prospect in the draft yet has a lot of need to grow his game. He is no finished product, by any means. But he has the frame, the skills and athletic ability to potentially become the best player in the Draft.
Zeller might be better suited at power forward than center. The Suns are still evaluating Markieff Morris at that position, and just might prefer to employ a stretch-four in their offense rather than the traditional power forward anyway. Zeller did very little shooting in college, only displaying his shooting ability in workouts for the first time this spring. It's a stretch for teams to translate that to game action.
However, Zeller is a multi-talented 7-footer who would be hard to pass up. And, he's got the Suns-ian advantage of being one of an NBA brother tandem. Older brother Tyler, a lottery pick in 2012, plays for the Cavaliers while older-older brother Luke is a fringe NBA player ("outside of games, best shooter in the world"). The Suns love them some brothers.
Rudy Gobert has the longest reach in the history of "reach", measuring a wingspan of 7'9" at the Draft Combine. He is very raw, and even himself said he might be ready to play "10-15 minutes a game in January". That's two months into his rookie season, folks. He's a reach. Potentially though, Gobert might just be the best defender of the group and his 7'2", 238 pound frame looks tailor-made to add weight.
That leaves Mason Plumlee, an athletic freak who doesn't have the classic offensive skills needed in the NBA but rebounds like a demon and runs fast.
Mason Plumlee, like Cody Zeller, is one of three brothers on the NBA track. Older brother Miles was drafted a year ago in the first round by the Pacers, while younger brother Marshall still plays at Duke. Last year, all three were on the Duke 12-man roster.
Will Mason Plumlee be the better brother?
Ryan McDonough sang Plumlee's praises after Mason's workout yesterday in Phoenix.
"I know Mason in the NBA right away will be able to rebound," McDonough said. "He will be one of the better bigs running the floor. He plays above the rim. He rebounds above the rim. There were a number of times today where he got loose and the guards threw the ball up to the rim and he caught it and dunked it."
Plumlee is active, that's for sure. Check out the Draft Express scouting report on Mason, including the video. On offense, Plumlee lives without plays being called for him. He dives and cuts to shake defenders, gobbles up putbacks and lobs. He would be good diving to the basket on pick and rolls. But he does have weaknesses.
"Areas of improvement - he's worked on his shooting and he will keep working on it," McDonough said. "But he's ready to play. Coming out of that Duke system, with his age and his body, he's a guy I can see sliding in and being on the floor pretty quickly in the NBA game."
Plumlee is extremely active, but has limited lateral quickness to defend the pick and roll - a staple in the NBA. But he's a worker, and this team needs workers.
"As far as centers in this draft, he's up there. That's a tough position to find a guy who can rebound the ball like that is attractive to me. A guy who runs the floor. I wouldn't be surprised at all if he went in the lottery somewhere."
Too bad the Suns don't have a late lottery pick to use on him. Right?
Then again, the Suns do have assets. Such as a veteran center ready to help a team make the playoffs as their fourth or fifth best player. A team like Portland, with the 10th pick, or Oklahoma City, with the 12th, could really use a guy like Gortat.
Plumlee is the kind of guy McDonough might want, in a trade for the 10th or 12th pick in the draft. So is Cody Zeller. Or even Rudy Gobert, whose potential is greater than either Zeller or Plumlee at the 5, but may never reach even the level these two already possess.
Whether its Gobert, Zeller or Plumlee, if the Suns take a perimeter player at #5 it would behoove them to take a center with a second lottery pick, using Gortat as the bait. Two top picks at separate need positions seems to be the way the Suns are leaning.
"For a guy like him, what is that range?" he says of the decision-making process with Plumlee. "And if we're interested in him, what pick do we have to get to get him?
"He's one of the more ready-made guys in the draft who can come in and play as a rookie."