Among the pure shooting guard prospects, three players stand out from their competition as the best of the bunch. Who might the Suns draft?
Let's assume that the Phoenix Suns will execute at least one of their draft picks at the 14th and 18th selections in the June 26 Draft, rather than trading both away for a star.
Let's also assume that the Suns want a shooting guard as some insurance against trading away one of Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and Archie Goodwin in the next year in an effort to improve the talent on their front line.
This year's draft has a better talent level than last year's, in general, but the best pure shooting guards are all currently ranked in the 10-25 range of most mock drafts - right where the Suns are picking.
A year ago, the Suns moved up a spot to nab what they saw as an undervalued player in Archie Goodwin. Statistically, Goodwin ranked poorly against the shooting guard competition in his draft, but he was one of the youngest players in college basketball (just 18 all season) and he played out of position all year (PG) at one of the highest profile programs in the nation (Kentucky).
On KTAR last week, coach Hornacek remembered being highly impressed with Goodwin when he visited for a pre-draft workout. Archie's quick first step and overall aggressive demeanor got him a second look and eventually a draft pick to move to the valley.
Goodwin impressed us all in summer league, dropping 13+ points per game in the VSL and then later 25+ PPG in a couple stints in the D-League.
But should the Suns hitch their wagon to a kid who still can't shoot straight from range? Let's take a look at the draft alternatives.
The best pure shooting guards in the Suns 14-18 draft range are Gary Harris (19 years old, one month younger than Archie), Nick Stauskas (20 years old), and P.J. Hairston (21 years old). Zach LaVine is also a possibility, but his draft stock profiles so closely to Archie - all promise, little college production - that I'm leaving him out of this conversation. LaVine comes out horribly in this statistical comparison.
*Note: This analysis excludes small forwards (Hood, Young, etc) and combo guards (
Based on pure scoring ability, P.J. Hairston looks like the most ready to contribute of these three as a rookie. He spent the past year in the D-League, so his competition was generally higher than Stauskas or Harris faced. Though the D-League isn't known for intricate offensive or defensive schemes, so you have to take that into account.
Among all shooting guards in this draft, here are the comps, per Draftexpress.com:
DX does these statistical comparisons every year.
Last year, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was the P.J. Hairston of the bunch in terms of being the pure scorer who couldn't pass. But KCP was younger than Hairston (19 vs. 21), longer and had the better defensive chops. KCP eventually went 9th overall and had an up-and-down rookie campaign for the Detroit Dysfunctionals.
Victor Oladipo passed everyone's eye test with flying colors, but he profiled similar to Gary Harris this year - not a high-volume scorer, but the best all-around player. Harris is younger than Oladipo was (19 vs. 21), while Oladipo was the better passer and better overall athlete. Oladipo eventually went #2 overall and had a very good rookie campaign, though he got 82 games to prove he's not a point guard.
Nick Stauskas might be the next coming of J.J. Redick, or the shooting guard version of Gordon Hayward. He's a highly efficient scorer and good passer who plays with a high basketball IQ. Scouts are lately talking about Stauskas being a better athlete than college indicated and passable defender. He will have to defend well to make a long starting career in the NBA.
Stats don't tell the whole story, though.
A year ago, Archie showed terribly in these statistical comps. He was the youngest player in his conference and played the entire year out of position at point guard. The Suns loved what they saw and ignored the stats. Archie played similar to what the stats showed - great at getting to the basket, bad at shooting, too young to make much difference - but showed potential to be so much more than he was at Kentucky.
When Gary Harris visited in May for a pre-draft workout, GM Ryan McDonough said that Harris should not be penalized for his poor shooting last year, that a lot of factors played a part in Harris regressing in that area.
All are 21 or younger, so none of these three shooting guards are anywhere near their NBA ceiling. They all had better college careers than the Suns young prospect Archie Goodwin, though Goodwin is STILL almost the youngest of the bunch (Harris is younger by a month).
If you're looking for a rookie contributor, then P.J. Hairston is your man. Push for him hard. He's ready to make the All-Rookie team.
If you're looking for long-term potential who might just be an All-Star some day but might not contribute as much as Hairston as a rookie, then look at Stauskas and Harris. Their ceilings are higher than Hairston, in my opinion.
But if you'd just rather Archie Goodwin get all those minutes next season, then pray he really does straighten out that shot and that the Suns skip the shooting guard position altogether in this draft.