Marcus Smart is one of the top point guards in the draft. But with point guards Elfrid Payton and Dante Exum being considered in the top 10, and the Suns having multiple picks to possibly trade up, could Marcus Smart be a consideration for Phoenix if he starts to slide?

Marcus Smart

School: Oklahoma St.

Position: Point Guard

Mock Draft Projections: NBADraft.net - 4, NBA Draft Insider - 4, Draft Express - 6, ESPN - 7,

Stats

Measurables

  • Height: 6' 2" without shoes, 6' 3.25" with shoes
  • Weight: 227 pounds
  • Age: 20
  • Wingspan: 6' 9.25"
  • Standing Reach: 8' 3"

Combine Numbers

  • Maximum Vertical Leap: 36"
  • Lane Agility: 10.82 sec
  • 3/4 Court Sprint: 3.26 sec
  • Shuttle Drill: 2.96 sec

Expert Analysis

Mike Schmitz - DraftExpress

Smart makes a living inside the paint, as he relishes contact and gets to the free throw line nearly ten times per-40 minutes, while finishing 57% of his shots around the basket in the half-court. The role he will play in the NBA appears to be well defined, as he's very good in transition and on the pick and roll, and is more than capable of creating shots for himself and others, something he appears to have improved on in his sophomore year. Smart's assist to turnover and pure point ratio both increased notably this past season, particularly his ability to avoid coughing the ball up, as his turnover percentage decreased from an alarming 19% as a freshman to a much more manageable 14%.

On the downside, Smart still sports a very inconsistent jump-shot, something that didn't really improve from his freshman to sophomore seasons. His shooting mechanics leave a lot to be desired, as he dips the ball violently, and fades forward and sometimes sideways on his release. That wouldn't be that big of an issue if Smart didn't take as many jumpers as he does—nearly half of his field goal attempts came from beyond the arc, and he hit just 30% of them, many being contested ones early in the shot clock. Smart is not a non-shooter by any stretch, but his poor decision making hampers his percentages significantly. He will have some very ugly low-efficiency nights in the NBA against better-organized defenses until he learns how to reel himself in and plays within his limitations.

Jacob Stallard - NBADraft.net

Strengths: Strong, heady point guard with great size and instincts…Uses his mixture of quickness, strength, instincts, and aggressiveness to get to the rim, then uses his big frame and excellent body control to finish through contact…In addition to his scoring ability, Smart doubles as an excellent passer and playmaker. He has great court vision and is willing to make the unselfish play to set up his teammates. Averaged 5.8 assists per 40 minutes last season...Very sound perimeter defender who has the length (6'8" wingspan), the strength, and the lateral quickness to keep his man in front of him. Plays hard and harasses ball handlers into making bad decisions. Great rebounding point guard due to his size and strength. Averaged nearly 6 rebound a game last season…His height and his strength also allow him to post up smaller point guards and finish inside...Loves to get out in transition and has the vision and finishing ability to make him elite at running the fast break…Can play with guard position and can also defend multiple positions due to his size/quickness combo

Weaknesses: Not a great outside shooter. Only made 29% from distance last season. Needs to polish his mechanics and hit on a more consistent basis. Struggles mightily on jumpers when guarded. Release slowed by bringing the ball down to his knees before rising up and releasing. Simply needs to be more consistent with his shot mechanics…Opponents will find it easier to stay in front of Smart because they don't have to guard him as tight and respect his jumper…Not a very efficient scorer. Needs to take smarter jump shots and not settle for pull-up threes…Could stand to be more patient and unselfish rather than forcing it and becoming dead-set on taking a shot at times…His assist/turnover ratio of 1.78 is not great. Could certainly cut down on turnovers and be more patient on offense. His aggression can sometimes be a weakness. It also leads to offensive fouls on occasion…Mediocre ballhandler, another source of his turnover problems.

My Take

Marcus Smart is a very good player and a top notch competitor.  Smart uses his great strength and good size as a point guard to attack the defense and create shots for himself inside, and also find teammates on the perimeter off the drive-and-kick.

Smart is an aggressive player with a very good motor, and he doesn't shy away from contact when driving to the basket.  He is another bulldog of a point guard in the same mold as Eric Bledsoe, and his style of play fits perfectly with the other two "Slash Bros." already on the Suns roster.

What Smart lacks in is a consistent shot from outside, which is something he will have to work on as he makes the transition into the NBA.  But don't read into this that he can't shoot, or that is shot is "broken" in the sense that it is often used.  He can definitely shoot the ball and keep the defense honest.  His jump shot development will be more of a refining than an overhaul.

The other issue Smart will have to continue working on is his shot selection.  However, that may have been more of a symptom of trying to do to much at Oklahoma St. with lesser talent surrounding him than anything else.  He has shown he can make an effective floor general and leader, and when surrounded by other players who can help shoulder the load, he would likely improve in that respect.

As unlikely as it is that the Suns find themselves in a position to draft Marcus Smart, it could still happen.  Elfrid Payton has been climbing the mocks lately, and has reportedly gained interest as high as Sacramento who has the eighth pick overall.  With many other lottery teams looking to fill a need, rather than drafting the best player available, Smart could end up sliding under certain circumstances.

The Suns have the means to move up into the middle of the lottery, and have already expressed their intention to do so for the right player.  With Eric Bledsoe a restricted free agent this summer, and Goran Dragic in the last year of his contract before he can opt out, could Marcus Smart be the right pick for the Suns?

Poll
Should the Suns consider drafting Marcus Smart?

  191 votes | Results

Marcus Smart is one of the top point guards in the draft. But with point guards Elfrid Payton and Dante Exum being considered in the top 10, and the Suns having multiple picks to possibly trade up, could Marcus Smart be a consideration for Phoenix if he starts to slide?

Marcus Smart

School: Oklahoma St.

Position: Point Guard

Mock Draft Projections: NBADraft.net - 4, NBA Draft Insider - 4, Draft Express - 6, ESPN - 7,

Stats

Measurables

  • Height: 6' 2" without shoes, 6' 3.25" with shoes
  • Weight: 227 pounds
  • Age: 20
  • Wingspan: 6' 9.25"
  • Standing Reach: 8' 3"

Combine Numbers

  • Maximum Vertical Leap: 36"
  • Lane Agility: 10.82 sec
  • 3/4 Court Sprint: 3.26 sec
  • Shuttle Drill: 2.96 sec

Expert Analysis

Mike Schmitz - DraftExpress

Smart makes a living inside the paint, as he relishes contact and gets to the free throw line nearly ten times per-40 minutes, while finishing 57% of his shots around the basket in the half-court. The role he will play in the NBA appears to be well defined, as he's very good in transition and on the pick and roll, and is more than capable of creating shots for himself and others, something he appears to have improved on in his sophomore year. Smart's assist to turnover and pure point ratio both increased notably this past season, particularly his ability to avoid coughing the ball up, as his turnover percentage decreased from an alarming 19% as a freshman to a much more manageable 14%.

On the downside, Smart still sports a very inconsistent jump-shot, something that didn't really improve from his freshman to sophomore seasons. His shooting mechanics leave a lot to be desired, as he dips the ball violently, and fades forward and sometimes sideways on his release. That wouldn't be that big of an issue if Smart didn't take as many jumpers as he does—nearly half of his field goal attempts came from beyond the arc, and he hit just 30% of them, many being contested ones early in the shot clock. Smart is not a non-shooter by any stretch, but his poor decision making hampers his percentages significantly. He will have some very ugly low-efficiency nights in the NBA against better-organized defenses until he learns how to reel himself in and plays within his limitations.

Jacob Stallard - NBADraft.net

Strengths: Strong, heady point guard with great size and instincts…Uses his mixture of quickness, strength, instincts, and aggressiveness to get to the rim, then uses his big frame and excellent body control to finish through contact…In addition to his scoring ability, Smart doubles as an excellent passer and playmaker. He has great court vision and is willing to make the unselfish play to set up his teammates. Averaged 5.8 assists per 40 minutes last season...Very sound perimeter defender who has the length (6'8" wingspan), the strength, and the lateral quickness to keep his man in front of him. Plays hard and harasses ball handlers into making bad decisions. Great rebounding point guard due to his size and strength. Averaged nearly 6 rebound a game last season…His height and his strength also allow him to post up smaller point guards and finish inside...Loves to get out in transition and has the vision and finishing ability to make him elite at running the fast break…Can play with guard position and can also defend multiple positions due to his size/quickness combo

Weaknesses: Not a great outside shooter. Only made 29% from distance last season. Needs to polish his mechanics and hit on a more consistent basis. Struggles mightily on jumpers when guarded. Release slowed by bringing the ball down to his knees before rising up and releasing. Simply needs to be more consistent with his shot mechanics…Opponents will find it easier to stay in front of Smart because they don't have to guard him as tight and respect his jumper…Not a very efficient scorer. Needs to take smarter jump shots and not settle for pull-up threes…Could stand to be more patient and unselfish rather than forcing it and becoming dead-set on taking a shot at times…His assist/turnover ratio of 1.78 is not great. Could certainly cut down on turnovers and be more patient on offense. His aggression can sometimes be a weakness. It also leads to offensive fouls on occasion…Mediocre ballhandler, another source of his turnover problems.

My Take

Marcus Smart is a very good player and a top notch competitor.  Smart uses his great strength and good size as a point guard to attack the defense and create shots for himself inside, and also find teammates on the perimeter off the drive-and-kick.

Smart is an aggressive player with a very good motor, and he doesn't shy away from contact when driving to the basket.  He is another bulldog of a point guard in the same mold as Eric Bledsoe, and his style of play fits perfectly with the other two "Slash Bros." already on the Suns roster.

What Smart lacks in is a consistent shot from outside, which is something he will have to work on as he makes the transition into the NBA.  But don't read into this that he can't shoot, or that is shot is "broken" in the sense that it is often used.  He can definitely shoot the ball and keep the defense honest.  His jump shot development will be more of a refining than an overhaul.

The other issue Smart will have to continue working on is his shot selection.  However, that may have been more of a symptom of trying to do to much at Oklahoma St. with lesser talent surrounding him than anything else.  He has shown he can make an effective floor general and leader, and when surrounded by other players who can help shoulder the load, he would likely improve in that respect.

As unlikely as it is that the Suns find themselves in a position to draft Marcus Smart, it could still happen.  Elfrid Payton has been climbing the mocks lately, and has reportedly gained interest as high as Sacramento who has the eighth pick overall.  With many other lottery teams looking to fill a need, rather than drafting the best player available, Smart could end up sliding under certain circumstances.

The Suns have the means to move up into the middle of the lottery, and have already expressed their intention to do so for the right player.  With Eric Bledsoe a restricted free agent this summer, and Goran Dragic in the last year of his contract before he can opt out, could Marcus Smart be the right pick for the Suns?

Poll
Should the Suns consider drafting Marcus Smart?

  91 votes | Results

The revenge of the stress fracture.

After a couple of foot injuries the NBA draft is having a big shakeup before this Thursday. Joel Embiid's stress facture and Julius Randle's "is it or isn't it?" foot injury has the #1 overall pick and some of the top 10 looking to change. This has changed the mock considerably, starting at number one.

#1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Andrew Wiggins, SG, Kansas

There have been very good cases made for Wiggins having both the highest floor and ceiling in this draft. His versatility at the two or the three as an elite defender and athlete has him already fitting seamlessly into a key role in the NBA at the very least. His potential as a scorer is clear, with performances such as his 41 points against West Virginia with 19 free throws or his 29 points against Iowa State on only 16 shots show his ability to get to the rim and also be efficient as an offensive player. The trait you got from Wiggins watching him all year was that he has those raw intangibles you want in a basketball player. He closed out some close games for Kansas by not only having the key offensive and defensive plays, but also hustling for loose balls and rebounds. He's a special player and I think he is going to be the real deal. For the Cavs, they can play him at the 2 or 3 depending on what they want to do with Dion Waiters.

#2. Milwaukee Bucks: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke

Parker is the complete package as an offensive player. His ability to score from virtually anywhere on the floor gets overlooked by his basketball IQ and passing ability that has him get in the best positions to score and also get out of it by setting up a teammate. Parker didn't get enough credit for playing way out of position at Duke all season, and that workload hurt his development a little bit in my opinion. Parker was a great teammate at Duke and showed that he has the motor to go out and do everything he can to win. The holdback on Parker is his average at best defending in college, and he will probably never be an average one in the NBA. Still, he's going to be a very good scorer in the pros and gives the Bucks a true offensive weapon.

#3. Philadelphia 76ersDante Exum, PG/SG, Australia

This is a tough break for the Sixers, who almost got their boy Wiggins despite falling a spot on lottery night. Still, they are very high on Exum and think that he could play with Michael Carter-Williams off at the 2 guard. The other thought is that the Sixers could trade MCW with his stock maybe never being higher. Exum is great with the ball at full speed, as his ability to get to the rim and finish with athleticism has him where he is in the draft. The Sixers get another really high potential guy here and continue to rebuild.

#4. Orlando Magic: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State

Now in this scenario the Magic do not need to decide between Exum and Smart and can just go with the best choice in my opinion. After this draft, they will have a clear cut group of young players that are their core for the future. They still don't have a leader yet, and Smart will be that. Like Julius Randle, he has disappeared a bit due to the star appeal of the top four rated guys in the draft and that's not fair. Smart is a power guard in every sense of the term. He is superb at getting to the basket, finishing, and working on the boards for a 6'3 guard. His steal numbers in his two seasons at Oklahoma State were absurd and he should be a very good defender in the NBA. He's the best pure leader and competitor in the draft and that's what you want in your future point guard. He still can't shoot consistently, but neither could a lot of great point guards at this stage of their career. This is a great pick for the Magic.

#5. Utah JazzAaron Gordon, SF, Arizona

The Jazz have their core young group completely figured out (if they resign Hayward) except for a small forward. Gordon is the best fit here and can bring some much needed lockdown defense to a very bad defensive team. Trey Burke will find Gordon in his spots, and Gordon will continue to work on his offensive game and corner 3 while he wreaks havoc defensively, on the boards, and in transition. He has the tools as a ball handler and a passer to become a very good overall offensive player, and that potential combined with being the best defender in the draft (can guard 4 positions) is what has him in this spot.

#6. Boston Celtics: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas

If there is one team that has no idea where they are headed and can afford to take a risk on a big time talent like Embiid it's the Celtics. The more analysis we get on Embiid's injury in regards to the history of his problems to big men in the past the more pessimistic we get on Embiid. The fact remains that he's a unique 7 footer in the way he moves, his feel for the post, and his shooting ability despite only playing basketball for four years so far. His play as a defender with that athleticism and height obviously has him as a prime shot blocker, but that offensive potential is what had all of us wanting to jump in front of oncoming traffic after hearing the news of his stress fracture in his foot and requiring surgery. The Celtics are a very good match (besides a certain team with a fantastic training staff).

#7. Los Angeles Lakers: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky

The Lakers are really high on Exum and Smart, but if they both aren't here Randle is the only considerable pick left despite the injury. Randle is a monster inside who will demand a double team in the NBA down low with his ability in both face-ups and with his back to the basket. He's skilled on the boards and is a workhorse with his incredible motor. His ballhandling is good, but Kentucky was a little too content with him attacking the basket from the perimeter, which hurt his stock a little bit in my opinion. His jumper fell off the face of the earth, as he was supposed to enter Kentucky looking like a power stretch 4 that we have very rarely seen. His potential down low is enough for him to be in this spot, but keep an eye on his jumper.

#8. Sacramento KingsNoah Vonleh, PF, Indiana

Vonleh's two-way potential as both a stretch 4 and a shot blocker is what has his appeal met by so many teams. For the Kings, they could use both. I don't know if you heard, but DeMarcus "BOOGIE" Cousins averaged 23 and 12 last year. Despite those monstrous numbers from Boogie, he still needs help defensively. Vonleh's insane length will help Boogie on that end and Vonleh's ability to stretch the floor with his great shooting will help Boogie get more space on the other end. Protect Boogie at all costs. Don't discard the rebounding numbers these two could put up, as Vonleh is a very good athlete at 6'10 who can really work the boards. Vonleh's potential is clearly there on both ends, it's just going to take a while. Luckily, the Kings are not in a hurry out West.

#9. Charlotte Hornets (from Detroit): Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan

This pick all depends on how high you are on Stauskas. If you aren't that high, you go Doug McDermott here. I'm high on Stauskas though, so the best shooter not named Doug comes off the board. Gerald Henderson was a mess against the Heat in the playoffs and the Hornets are relatively set across the starting five if Josh McRoberts (MCBOB) comes back except for Henderson's spot. Insert Stauskas, whose overall ability offensively gets overlooked a bit in my opinion. He did well in his stints at point guard and understands the way the floor works. His concerns defensively are well deserved, but boy can this kid shoot, and the Hornets need it.

#10. Philadelphia 76ers (from New Orleans): Dario Saric, PF, Croatia

The Sixers have been high on Saric for quite some time and he fills in another gap left on the Sixers roster. Saric has unreal court vision though and he's as much of a point forward as there's ever been before. I'm not sure how he would work on the floor with two point guards, but if any team has time to figure this out it's the Sixers.

#11. Denver Nuggets: Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State

The only roster spot the Nuggets aren't severely financially committed to is shooting guard, and although they had Randy Foye play relatively well last year, Harris has to be the pick here. Harris is a good defender and a very good overall scorer who can handle the ball and has some teams even wondering if he could play point at the next level. If he can get some consistency to his jump shot he will be a steal.

#12. Orlando Magic (from New York via Denver: Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton

The power forward and small forward position are now an uncertainty for the Magic after the post trade deadline Tobias Harris (averaged 17/9) disappeared and Mo Harkless didn't show much till the end of last season. McDermott gives them a proven offensive threat who can stretch the floor and score from anywhere. Our own Jacob Padilla covered McDermott at Creighton, so I feel better about linking you to the draft profile he did more than my own analysis. Seeing three of the top players in college basketball in 2013 on the same team together (Smart, Oladipo, McDermott) would be fascinating.

#13. Minnesota TimberwolvesAdreian Payne, PF, Michigan State

That Kevin Love fella appears to be on his way out and the Timberwolves could use a replacement for him. Payne could be that guy with his complete play as a stretch 4 coming out of nowhere this past season. He's already showed over his college career how explosive he is and how solid of a defender and rebounder he can be. The shooting put him over the top, and he could help the Timberwolves a lot.

#14. Phoenix SunsElfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana

As I said last time, just take the best player and move on. I think that's what Payton is, and minus his shooting he's a complete basketball player. He's a great defender and believe it or not was the one tasked with guarding Doug McDermott at times in their NCAA tournament game. Payton is one of the best players in the draft in terms of getting to the basket and his unselfish play as a point guard adds even more to that skill. He's a tough and very good leader on the floor who could help run the second unit for the Suns. The uncertainty surrounding Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe in the future also gives the Suns some very good insurance.

#15. Atlanta HawksJames Young, SF, Kentucky

The Hawks need more shooters and Young could help there. DeMarre Carroll is the only small forward that is due to come back for the Hawks next year, and Young gives them someone with more potential who could help off the bench to start.

#16. Chicago Bulls (from Charlotte): Rodney Hood, SG, Duke

The Bulls are desperate for another shooter and that's the one thing that Hood is great at. He's a good scorer in terms of getting to the rim and his 6'9 height really helps him at the 2 guard. He is a very bad defender though and will take quite some time to even be adequate. That makes it somewhat of a poor match for the Bulls, but they just need to go for offense here.

#17. Boston Celtics (from Brooklyn): Zach LaVine, PG/SG, UCLA

As far as possible growth goes, LaVine and Embiid probably have the two biggest gaps in terms of where they are as players now and where they could be at their peak. LaVine is an incredible athlete that has the speed and hops to warrant a first round selection. He did more than that in the first half of the season as a scorer and a shooter, as he was looking like a top 10 pick until his production dipped tremendously in the second half of the season. In his last seven games LaVine shot 3-21 from three, killing the belief that he could at the very least come in the NBA and be able to shoot right away. He's got a long way to go before being a good basketball player, let alone a complete one. However, a rebuild under Brad Stevens is one of the best fits he could have in this draft.

#18. Phoenix Suns (from Washington): TJ Warren, SF, North Carolina State

This one took me a while. I think Cleanthony Early and KJ McDaniels are better fits, but this is a little too high for them. Warren is the only small forward ranked in this range, so I've got the Suns taking him. He is a complete scorer who is tough and understands how to get buckets. The tweener concerns as a shooter and a defender are very real though, and I'm not as high on him as some are. For the sake of value he goes.

#19. Chicago Bulls: Jordan Clarkson, PG, Missouri

Derrick Rose insurance is ideal and a player who could be lightning off the bench is even better. Clarkson is a long 6'5 and he uses that well to score when smaller point guards on him either from the post or in attacking the basket. He's never going to put someone on a poster but he's a smooth player who is a great finisher at the rim. He's not as pure of a point guard as others in this draft as a playmaker but can really score. He's been one of the workout wonders of this process and if he shoots it as well as he has been in workouts he is worth it around this range.

#20. Toronto RaptorsTyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse

Ennis might be the most pure point guard in this draft. He's an incredible passer with great floor vision and understands how to manipulate the defense. He's proved himself at Syracuse in terms of being able to shoot and finish at the rim. He's not as attractive as some of the other point guards in this draft which is why he slips to down here, but the Raptors have both Kyle Lowry and Grevis Vasquez leaving. The hometown kid would be a good replacement for either.

#21. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Dallas): PJ Hairston, SG, North Carolina

The Thunder need a guard who can hit open threes and PJ Hairston would love that job. He has a bulky body that is ready for the NBA right now and uses that to attack the basket very well. His shooting is what has him here though and the Thunder would love him.

#22. Memphis Grizzlies: KJ McDaniels, SF, Clemson

This is a perfect match. McDaniels has the look of a lockdown defender in the NBA and has the all-around tools in that department to succeed. Like I said last time, McDaniels and Jamal Franklin could continue to develop while the Grizzlies make a couple more runs in the West.

#23. Utah Jazz: Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia

The Jazz are concerned about Enes Kanter entering restricted free agency so having Nurkic overseas would be an insurance policy. I'm not that high on Nurkic, but his size and touch inside is enough for him to be rated around here.

#24. Charlotte Hornets: Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland

Capela is extremely raw but has all the physical tools to become a very good player. If the Hornets resign Josh McRoberts they should have Capela be ready by the time his contract runs out.

#25. Houston Rockets: CJ Wilcox, SG, Washington

The Rockets relied on Troy Daniels during the postseason to be their extra shooter on the floor and Wilcox could do that and more. It's a very hefty comparison but he reminds me of Ray Allen with less offense and more defense. He could help Houston right away.

#26. Miami Heat: Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut

Mario Chalmers is an unrestricted free agent and LeBron is a fan of Shabazz. This is highly contingent on whether or not they plan on resigning Mario of course, but if they don't Napier is the pick.

#27. Phoenix Suns (from Indiana): Damien Inglis, SF, France

The Suns will not bring in three rookies so here is the international pick. Inglis has the potential to be a great defender with his great strength and length. He uses this on the boards and in finishing at the basket as well. He's only 19 so the Suns could have him overseas for a while. It's a slight reach but he could pay off.

#28. Los Angeles ClippersKyle Anderson, PF, UCLA

Leave it to Doc Rivers to figure out how to use Anderson. With Darren Collison possibly on the way out Anderson could run the show for the second unit with Jamal Crawford. I'd pay to see that.

#29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan

Robinson has proved in workouts that he can indeed shoot the ball, which adds onto his great athleticism and scoring ability already. He's a good rebounder and at his size (6'7) you assume he could become a good defender.

#30. San Antonio Spurs: Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State

This makes too much sense. I love Early. He can fly high in transition, bang inside, or knock down the open three. He embraces contact and loves to attack the boards. This is your typical Spurs steal.

The Phoenix Suns have only three players under contract for more than the next 13 months. To keep or replace most of their roster, the Suns can pay market price in free agency or bring on more rookies. Here's an argument for the latter.

The Phoenix Suns don't want three rookies on their team this year alongside Alex Len and Archie Goodwin. That makes a ton of sense. If you're looking to win more than a few games and you want to properly develop young players, you can't handle five relative rookies at once.

And I am not advocating turning away from the playoff chase just yet. But the Suns might want to take heed from lessons learned by other teams who rode their cinderella team for too long and ended up right back in the mire of mediocrity. You have to keep cultivating youth on rookie contracts at the same time you're trying to increase the talent base of your veteran roster.

Just look at the San Antonio Spurs, who had only one lottery pick on their championship team this year (Tim Duncan). Otherwise, they wisely used the draft the retool their team on the fly. Most recently, they hit on Kawhi Leonard in the 2011 draft after getting booted in their last two playoff series.

Kids (2)

A year ago, the Suns only had two very young players on rookie contracts - Archie Goodwin and Alex Len at 19 and 20 years old respectively. Everyone else on the roster was 24 or older.

Let me repeat that for those who believed this Suns team was really, really young last year: Only Len and Goodwin were under 24 years old. Sure, the Suns had the second-least NBA experience in the league, but they were just middle of the pack in average age of its rotation players (26.1 yrs old). They're no spring chickens.

Len and Goodwin both have 3 more years on cheap rookie contracts before hitting free agency.

Tweens (4)

GM Ryan McDonough recently said that the best teams have three levels of players on their roster - the really young guys not yet ready for the rotation, the mid-20s guys who get the most run and the 30-ish veterans who lead the locker room.

The Suns had some breakthrough years from their mid-20s guys in 2013-14. Fourth-year PG Eric Bledsoe (24) proved he's a difference maker in the starting lineup with 18 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds as his new baseline. Third-year players Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris (both 24) put up career high numbers. Markieff came in fourth in the Sixth Man of the Year award. And second year player Miles Plumlee, the oldest of this group at 25, proved himself a starting caliber center in the league.

The great thing about these guys and the young guys is how cheap they are, thanks to the rookie scale contracts for their first four years.

Bledsoe and Morrii are up for extensions in the next 13 months, potentially skyrocketing their cap hits. Bledsoe could get 600% raise, while the Morrii could easily double their contracts.

Their collective cap hit could rise from just under $7 million to a whopping $30 million in the next 13 months.

Plumlee still has two more years before he's due an extension, but at that point his salary could increase tenfold. Rim-protecting centers get paid.

In their prime, outplaying their contracts (3)

I won't say old, because this group includes 27-year old Goran Dragic and 28-year olds P.J. Tucker and Gerald Green. Let's call them...veterans.

This group is not on rookie contracts and all are looking for big raises in the next 13 months. Tucker might quintuple his $800,000k contract (or more) this summer, while Dragic and Green could both get 50% raises as soon as they hit the market in 2015.

These three could see their current cap hit rise from a collective $12 million per year to $20-25 million.

Old-ish guy (1)

Sorry Channing Frye. You're still 15 years younger than me, but you're old in NBA years. Frye is the only guy on this team with a downhill view of his NBA future.

Still, Frye is free agent either this year or next, depending on whether he picks up his player option. HIs decision is due Monday.

Turnover is inevitable

Just simply keeping the band together could cost way too much, given that it's hard to see this current team's ceiling much higher than 50 wins and a first-round playoff trip. Maybe 55 wins and a second round appearance? But not contender-worthy.

The Suns have to expect turnover, and have to keep churning out guys who are outperforming their contracts. You can't do that without bringing in new, young blood.

By July 2015, every player on this roster not named Goodwin, Len, Plumlee or "2014 and 2015 first round pick" will be a free agent looking for a new contract.

Screen_shot_2014-06-21_at_11.29.56_am_medium

Black and blue: Numbers denoted in black are guaranteed salaries, while the ones in blue are rookie scale team options almost certain to be exercised.

Green and red: The items in green are player options, and the items in red are non-guaranteed years or 5th year qualifying offers unlikely to be signed in lieu of restricted free agency.

While we only talk about Bledsoe and Tucker this summer, just seven players have guaranteed deals for next season. And then a year later every other player could leave either at their discretion or the Suns'.

This is not to say there will be complete roster turnover in the next 13 months. It's to say that if these guys stay, they will be a lot more expensive.

Frankly, if every Suns free agent signs a deal to stay in the valley long-term, the Suns will nearly double their salary obligations in the next 13 months and almost reach the salary cap without adding a single new player.

Rookies

That's why you need to keep bringing in guys on the 4-year rookie scale contracts. Otherwise, you'll never be able to afford that top end guy you want to put you over the top. The Suns won't bring in three first round picks simply because of logistics and difficultly in proper player development alongside Archie and Alex.

And they won't be down to 3 players next summer because this summer they will commit long-term money to a couple of veteran free agents and, no matter what, they figure to have at least 2 draft picks out of this year and next even if they trade most of them away.

But rookies are cheaper. And in a year, your entire PG, PF and SF rotations could be gone to other teams. They won't be gone en masse, but they COULD.

It would be smart for the Suns to draft players who could someday earn those minutes so when a free agent leaves there is a replacement already in-house for them.

It's easier to let Channing Frye and/or Markieff Morris leave if you've got a stretch four who can replace them for the next four years (such as Adreian Payne). It's easier to let Eric Bledsoe and/or Goran Dragic take bigger money elsewhere if you've got Tyler Ennis, Elfrid Payton or a shooter like Nik Stauskas ready. And it's easier let P.J. Tucker and/or Marcus Morris leave for the moolah if you've got T.J. Warren or Rodney Hood in the fold.

Just keep that Suns' contract situations in mind when you suggest trading away draft picks. Draft picks are cheap. Market-price free agents are not.

Strengths K.J. McDaniels has all the measurables an NBA team could want at his position. He’s 6’6” and just under 200 pounds with athleticism oozing out of his pores. While his max vertical at...

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