The Phoenix Suns had some tough decisions to make in the 2013 NBA Draft. Three top prospects, Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore, and Alex Len, whom all had a good chance of being drafted before the Suns picked fifth overall, were all unexpectedly available when it was time for the Suns to make their first selection.
Noel, who was long rumored to be the first pick taken in the NBA draft, was hardly even mentioned as a serious consideration for the Suns...he was too far out of their reach.
Ben McLemore, who was touted by many as the preeminent wing of the draft was rumored to be one of Phoenix's favorites, was also there for the taking.
However, when the Suns made their pick, it was Alex Len, The 7'1" sophomore center from Maryland who unexpectedly donned the orange draft cap.
But the surprises weren't over yet. Late in the first round, the Suns traded up one spot to draft Archie Goodwin, another unexpected selection by many accounts, with players like Jamaal Franklin, Allen Crabbe, and Ricky Ledo still available.
Finally, the Suns capped off their draft late in the second round by taking Alex Oriakhi with the 57th pick...Once again foregoing more popular names like C.J. Leslie, Myck Kabongo, and Kenny Kadji to name a few.
Many fans and and experts alike seemed shoocked initially, but now that everyone has had a chance to digest what transpired, what is everyone else saying about the Suns draft?
Here is a look around the web:
Let's begin with one of the most popular experts, Chad Ford of ESPN. Here is an excerpt of what he had to say:
This year, Suns president Lon Babby hired one of the best scouts in the business, Ryan McDonough, as his new general manager. But the first draft pick of the McDonough era, in some ways, looked a lot like the draft picks the Suns have been making.
Ford made mention of Len's upside but also the Suns passing on Noel and McLemore to get him. He seems to like the Archie Goodwin pick however, and was rather neutral toward Alex Oriakhi.
Next up we have Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated:
The Suns got a center of the future in Alex Len, whose presence could make the coveted Marcin Gortat expendable. I thought Archie Goodwin at No. 29 was a reach; Goodwin has not shown me he can be an NBA three-point shooter and is on the small side for a 2-guard. Still, a lot of teams had him slotted in the lottery during the college season, when he struggled more than people expected.
Here's what Adi Joseph of USA Today had to say:
The Suns need a home run, particularly now with new management. They're counting on Len to become an elite defender and to develop his soft touch. Goodwin wasn't a reach but also wasn't the best shooting guard on the board. He could get a chance to start at a position of need. Oriakhi probably won't make the team but is tough and physical. The draft is underwhelming, but none of the picks were bad.
So far so good right?
Well, then there's Matt Moore of CBS Sports:
I'm probably being too harsh on him (Len). But I look at his pick and roll, I look at his strength at the basket, and I look at his upside to what he can possibly be, and I don't see a dominant player.
Moore was more complimentary of the other two selections, but he didn't offer an overall grade. Instead, he broke them up into the three picks:
Alex Len was a top prospect in his own right who was also mentioned as a possible first pick. But most people assumed the Suns' first priority was a marquee shooting guard...So when the Suns passed up on McLemore as well as Noel who was commonly thought of as the top prospect in the entire draft, it was more than a little shocking to many experts and fans alike, to say the least.
Conversely, the selection of Goodwin was viewed as a fairly big positive for the Suns, and Oriakhi...well, for a 57th pick it would be difficult to complain.
Regardless of what anyone thinks at this point, there is simply no way to accurately assess the draft yet. It will be at least a couple of seasons before we can look back at this draft and make that determination. The bottom line is that we just have to hope that the Suns did their homework and drafted the players that they saw as the best fit going forward.
Ultimately, only time will tell.
I know what you're all thinking. Doesn't Kris usually moderate these things? Yes, but since he's busy doing real reporting I stepped in to
steal his thunder help out. Anyway, you're stuck with me. Deal with it.
After the entire staff whiffed on Anthony Bennett (#1) and Cody Zeller (#4) ascending to the top of the draft board (how did we all miss such obvious selections?) it's time for us to e
mbarrass redeem ourselves again... I'm sure a lot of your mock's nailed the top 10. To ridicule ours, check out our pre-draft roundtable.
In a pseudo defense I can pretend I'm not a complete moron (even though you all know better) by taking my remarks from my Alex Len draft preview article completely out of context:
Having just turned 20 (June 16th) his growth propitiates an upside that could make him an elite big at the NBA level. All recent indications suggest that Len will likely be gone when the Suns are on the clock, but if he falls to five I'm guessing he won't fall further.
Told you I called it.
*P.S. that was under the belief that Noel and McLemore would be off the board if Len made it to five...
Now let's hear what the BSotS writers have to say in recapping last night's festivities:
Question 1: What grade do you give the Suns in this draft?
Jim Coughenour: B- *explanations below
Dave King: I would give the Suns a B. they didn't make sexy pics but the players are talented and have higher upside than recent picks. I remember hoping Morris could be a 10-year rotation player and maybe a starter some day. Same with Kendall. This time the Suns got a guy who really should be a starter in the league. And they took a low risk flyer on a kid who has a high ceiling.
Kris Habbas: Not to get all snobby with terms, but there is no "grade" this early, but I am not side-stepping. The moves the team made filled a few needs in terms of a future interior presence, athleticism, and general toughness. All the players fit needs. My only criticism is that they did not address perimeter shooting or secondary play-making, which were two of the biggest weaknesses this past season.
Sean Sullivan: Overall: C/D
Alex Len: Incomplete (Either a C+ or a D-)
There is some confusion as to whether the Suns' medical staff really red-flagged Noel or not. If so, drafting Len suddenly becomes a lot more palatable to me. However, I still would have preferred McLemore who shows more promise in my opinion.
Archie Goodwin: B+
While I would have preferred Ledo, Franklin, or Crabbe at the moment, there's no doubt that Goodwin is by far the most naturally talented and gifted player of the whole group. At only 18, he was often erratic in his play at Kentucky last year, but his athleticism, ability, and size as a young guard make him a very tantalizing prospect if our staff believes they can develop him. He's a very good boom/bust pick for a rebuilding team like the Suns who have the time to invest in his development. He could pay off big time.
Alex Oriakhi: C-
He's the definition of a role player. A big strong guy who can come in, bang down low, and gobble up rebounds in limited minutes...that is, if he even makes the team. Still, I would have preferred guys like CJ Leslie, Myck Kabongo, Kenny Kadji, and even Jacob's guy Gregory Echenique over Oriakhi overall.
Richard Parker: Although grading it at this point is pretty much useless, I give them a B. They got two solid players with good upside, so I'm happy with that aspect. However, I do with they could have traded Gortat (in which case their grade would have been higher). I'm sure it wasn't for the lack of trying though...I hope.
Question 2: Do you like Len with the #5 pick?
JC: I like Len with the #5 pick since he was 4th on my personal "big board" (in a tossup with McCollum), especially considering it's being reported on twitter that Trey Burke was next on the Suns' wish list, but I felt that the Suns settled on a safer pick rather than a high ceiling guy. He wasn't my first choice.
DK: I really do. Doesn't bring a tear to the eye or anything. But he has a very good upside. DX had Len #1 on their big board over Noel and McLemore. That says a lot. We need to give the guy a chance to be Alex Len, and not spend all our time comparing him to anyone until we have seen him play.
KH: With Ben McLemore and Nerlens Noel both on the board it is easy to say they could have gone in a different direction. Len will be in an amiable position to learn for a year under Marcin Gortat while getting his NBA legs under him and could be one of the better bigs in the league in a few years.
SS: I don't love it. Len reminds me of a mix between Meyers Leonard and our own Marcin Gortat. He has the size of a modern day prototypical center, but seems much too passive and finesse for my liking. Still, he is young and played on a team in Maryland who certainly didn't seem to try to maximize his talents, so the jury's still out on how effective he can really be. I would love to be proven wrong, but so far I just haven't seen anything from Len that makes me overly optimistic.
RP: I like Len a lot, actually. I think he projects to be a very solid big man who has skills on both ends. He's young (both in terms of actual age and basketball age) and he really has some solid upside.
Question 3: Were you surprised that the Suns chose Len considering who was left on the board?
JC: Very. My thought process when the Suns were on the clock was that they were taking one of Noel, McLemore or Len (in that order). I would have been completely floored if it wouldn't have been one of them. Like I've said before, if Noel was still on the board at five I would sprint to the podium... The Suns big board was obviously disparate from mine.
DK: Not really. I guess I thought they really wanted a shooting guard but I give them props for taking who was #1 on their board. Noel was red flagged by the Suns doctors on some level greater than we thought.
KH: Not surprised he was selected over Noel because he never came here and the vibe his camp was sending out was very unflattering. This will now be a game for Suns fans for the next 5-10 years picking apart the statlines of Len, Noel, and McLemore to see if they got the best player.
SS: That would be an understatement. Let's just say I heard the sounds of trumpets blowing, teeth gnashing, and women and babies weeping.
RP: I'd be lying if I said no. My pick was Noel but I can understand choosing Len. Like I said, I like him a lot so I'm going to give McDonough the benefit of the doubt at this point.
Question 4: Do you like Archie Goodwin with the #29 pick?
JC: High ceiling is a good way to go there. I personally liked Tony Mitchell (who went #37), but Goodwin has the same category of boom potential. While on the subject, is there really such a thing as a "safe" pick at #30? Don't guys at that slot have a pretty low success rate regardless?
DK: The #30 pick is rarely a quality player so I think the worst thing you can do is take a "safe" guy. Fill a specific need or draft for upside. Suns took the latter.
KH: Yes. Had that pegged for weeks actually, but was one of the few picks anyone got "right" based on the way the draft played out. The kid has talent, but he is immature like any 18 year old is. If the Suns can max out his potential... Look out.
SS: I do. At first I was a little disappointed given the other players who were still available, but I understand exactly why they drafted him. They are swinging for the fences here, and there's a pretty good chance we'll hit this one out of the park.
RP: Yes. I like it a lot more now than I did initially. I was hoping for Franklin or Crabbe but looking at it now, I really like the Goodwin pick. He's only 18 right now (!!) and he already has some solid talent. He just needs to develop his skills and get more polished. So good luck Hornacek...hopefully you can help Goodwin fulfill his very high potential.
Question 5: Should the Suns have been more active with trades?
JC: Absolutely. They pulled off the vanilla draft except for the shocking development of moving up one spot from #30 to #29. I don't agree with the rationale of Gortat being on the roster moving forward (hopefully that's not the intention). I would have loved to hear the internal discussion to help explain the lack of activity. Is it possible that other teams value our "assets" even less than I do?
DK: Of course I think so. Yes. But I don't blame them for not completing much if the demands were too high. I do expect a lot of activity in July. This team cannot return as constituted with just adding a couple of kiddies.
KH: Only if it positioned them well going forward. I was never in favor of giving away Jared Dudley or Gortat just to get another lottery pick. That is too risky and the player could easily be like a lot of recent late lottery picks, below average. Sometimes the best trades are the ones that do not happen.
SS: Absolutely. But we don't know what their options were either. Gambo reported we were trying to move Gortat and Dudley, but nothing ever materialized. I guess we have to assume that the opportunity never presented itself. We can still move them before the trade deadline though, and if we get a couple picks in 2014 that would be even better.
RP: Definitely. Like I said, I was hoping they'd trade Gortat. But I doubt it wasn't because they weren't trying. A lot of us (fans) like to think that just because we like a trade and think it's fair, it must happen in real life. GMs operate differently in the NBA than in mock drafts (shocker of the day).
"We spent a lot of time on him," Phoenx GM Ryan McDonough said. "As we sat down and talked about him and put our heads together, all our scouts were very high on him, and we just said how often do you get a chance to get a 7-1 skilled guy who's a great person off the court, who's long, who's got a nice touch, who finishes well around the basket, with good body control, and we feel like is just scratching the surface of his basketball development? Once we kind of talked it through, and then thought about who else might potentially be there in the draft, it became a pretty easy decision."
Len is a complete center with a strong foundation and a developing skill set. He'll anchor the Suns on both ends of the court for years to come. Yet many Suns fans don't seem to be sold on the pick.
The reason for the less-than-ecstatic response is because both Kentucky's Nerlens Noel and Kansas' Ben McLemore were both available when the Suns came on the clock. Noel and McLemore were long considered to be the top two prospects in the draft and McLemore in particular filled the Suns' biggest need as a sharp-shooting wing. Throughout the process, the Suns getting a shot at Noel was considered a pipe dream while McLemore was a long shot. Yet there they were.
However, Ryan McDonough's big board differed from that of many fans. New head coach Jeff Hornacek said Len was the Suns No. 1 ranked player from the very beginning.
"If Len's not on the board, then you look at those guys," Hornacek said. "But he's a guy that can be a game-changer down the road and it's a situation where when we all looked at the guys and ranked them, he was the consensus by all of our guys that he's got the biggest upside, at that size, and his skill level."
The Sun are not alone in this belief either. Draft Express had Len as the No. 1 player on their big board, and SB Nation's Jonathan Tjarks put forth the argument back in May that Len was a superior prospect to Noel. And while McLemore fills a need, there are also plenty of questions about his ability to be anything more than a 3-and-D role player.
Alex Len was not the consensus top choice among Suns fans. But it is entirely possible that he turns out to be the best player in this draft. We'll have to wait a few years before finding out. In the meantime, give the poor guy a chance to prove himself.
University of Kentucky
ESPN's coverage did a great job of confusing the fans in terms of this trade, but here are the details:
1) Minnesota traded the No. 26 pick and Malcolm Lee to Golden State
2) Golden State trades the No. 26 pick to Oklahoma City for the No. 29 pick (Goodwin)
3) Golden State trades the No. 29 pick (Goodwin) and Lee to the Suns for the No. 30 pick and cash
Does that clear it up a little bit? There were apparently a few other teams looking to move up to the No. 29 pick, so the Suns decided to move up first in order to get their man.
Goodwin is the second youngest player in the entire draft class. He was a top high school recruit who struggled in a difficult situation at Kentucky but decided to leave after one year anyway. Goodwin has good size for a guard, with an elite ability to get to the basket, and plenty of defensive potential. However, his shot selection and, well, his shot are his biggest weaknesses right now.
Goodwin is a prospect with a lot of potential but is a big risk as well. However, the Suns should swing for the fences at that point in the draft. I personally liked Allen Crabbe and Jamaal Franklin better and both were available, but again, it's nothing to get worked up about. McDonough must see something he really likes in Goodwin.
Meanwhile, here's what Canis Hoopus manager Eric in Madison had to say about Malcolm Lee, who the Warriors dumped on the Suns in order to move up:
He's really an end of the bench guy.
Got pressed into playing time when our whole team got injured, but really doesn't do much. Decent defender and tries, but really no offensive game.
Plus, I'm not sure he'll ever be healthy.
His $884,293 salary is just filler. I wouldn't expect to see him stepping on the court for the Suns any time soon.
Well, we probably weren't going to get much out of the 57th pick, and Oriakhi isn't much. But McDonough said he watched a lot of Oriakhi's games at UCONN while he was still in Boston, and he must have seen something he liked. I'll let him break it down for you:
"Alex was a key part of the UCONN team that won a national championship," McDonough said. "He's got good size and strength, he's a very good rebounder, he plays hard and he's a good kid. I'm confident we've got a good player with Alex. I think it's important to have solid front line depth and Alex is a guy that can play some power forward and also some center as well."
There it is. That's your 2013 Phoenix Suns Draft. Try not to overreact because the team passed on your favorite prospects. We were all for trusting in McDonough leading up to the draft. Why change our minds before even seeing the players he picked step on the court for the Suns?