Suns general manager Ryan McDonough: "At the end of the day the most important thing is talent usually wins out if it's combined with work ethic and character."
The Suns draft workouts took a significant leap Monday morning. Through the early sessions Phoenix had mainly brought in potential late first and second round picks. That all changed when Michigan State's Gary Harris, Duke's Rodney Hood, UCLA's Zach LaVine, Kentucky's James Young, Clint Capela and LSU's Johnny O'Bryant came to town.
Position: Combo guard
Draft Express Mock: 14th pick Phoenix Suns
Draft Express Top 100 Ranking: 13th
As you can see in the stats, Harris' efficiency dropped from year one to year two as he was asked to take on a bigger roll in the offense. His size is a big concern as he transitions from the college game to the NBA. Standing next to him in person, even with his broad shoulders, you can see he doesn't have a prototypical wing body. Also of concern is his ability to create his own shot in half court sets. According to DraftExpress.com Harris only scored 25 baskets at the rim on 45.5% shooting in half court situations. On the other side of the court, despite not being as long as you would like, he is an excellent defender. Harris handles on ball and off ball situations well.
Suns GM Ryan McDonough wasn't concerned about the Michigan State's product drop in efficiency:
"I think he was dealing with some injuries this past year. I think he was banged up from all the intel we've gathered. He's one of the better two-way players in the draft. He certainly shot the ball well out here today and his ability to defend stood out. I don't think it was a matter of him getting overloaded, I think it was a matter of him getting physically worn down and beat up.
Draft Express Mock: 15th pick Atlanta Hawks
Draft Express Top 100 Ranking: 22nd
Hood had the advantage of playing in Duke's offense that featured tremendous spacing. There were times Jabari Parker would man the center position for Coach K this past season since they lacked a legitimate big to patrol the middle. Hood was a big part of what made the Blue Devils offense go knocking down 42% of his shots from deep. A concern is he only connected on slightly less than 50% from inside the arc. His defense also contributed to Duke's porous effort on that end of the floor. I would like to see Hood get the chance to play in a more structured scheme with a big man who has the ability to protect the rim. There lack of a player in that department does not absolve Hood of his defensive struggles.
Position: Combo guard
Draft Express Mock: 17th pick Boston Celtics
Draft Express Top 100 Ranking: 27th
LaVine is one of the most intriguing prospects in the draft and also one of the hardest to pin point where he could be picked. In Boston, Ryan McDonough was apart of a front office that didn't shy away from picking raw prospects with upside. Avery Bradley was picked out of Texas as a freshman, while Gerald Green, Al Jefferson and Kendrick Perkins headed to Boston straight out of high school. LaVine played mostly off the ball at UCLA, but was a point guard in high school.
Suns GM Ryan McDonough on drafting youth and upside:
"I think talent stands out. With the younger players it often takes some time. A guy like Gerald Green is an extreme example of that, finally after seven, eight years in the league figured it out and became a productive player. Hopefully it doesn't take that long. In Boston we had Al Jeferson and Kendrick Perkins were pretty good players early in their careers. At the end of the day the most important thing is talent usually wins out if it's combined with work ethic and character."
Zach LaVine discussing his positional versatility:
"In college I didn't get to really play the point guard position and I've played it my whole life. I feel like I have a good feel for the ball, good feel for the game. Been working a lot on my reads, how the defense will play you, what pass to make and when is the right time to score. I've definitely been working on my point guard skills. Being consistent on defense, more active on the ball. I have the tools to be a good defender. Still learning off the ball (defense)."
Draft Express Mock: 17th pick Boston Celtics
Draft Express Top 100 Ranking: 27th
We all know and remember James Young from this....
He more importantly showed up to a Nets playoff game (might have been regular season) with Rihanna so in my humble opinion - DRAFT HIM NOW!!!!!!!!!
On a serious note, Young has the body you want in a wing player. He has excellent length and is sturdy. In the NCAA Tournament he flashed the three-point shot you're looking for knocking down 42% of his 21 attempts, but over the course of the season Young only connected on 34.9%. According to DraftExpress.com the Kentucky product hit 45% on open attempts and only 32% when guarded. This speaks well to his fit on the Suns when the point guard tandem of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe create clean looks for others. On the defensive end he is still a work in progress, but at the age of 18 still has time to grow and learn.
Position: Power forward
Draft Express Mock: 19th pick Chicago Bulls
Draft Express Top 100 Ranking: 18th
Our own Kris Habbas, who also runs NBADraftInsider.com had these thoughts on Capela:
Based on pure length and athleticism Capela is a Top 10 talent with his potential as a rim protector, transition athlete, and all-around defender. He is raw though. On defense he is still learning timing on his shot-blocking and he over-anticipates leading to a lot of fouls or easy shots for opponents. On the offensive end he has improved his hands and he is a big, long target for passes. His jump-shot has a nice form and high release point, but is not effective. Capela has all the tools to be a Serge Ibaka type shot-blocker and jump-shooter at the NBA level with added strength and coaching, but is a ways away from that.
Position: Power forward/center
Draft Express Mock: 42nd Houston Rockets
Draft Express Top 100 Ranking: 44th
Aaron Gordon had an impressive freshman season for the Arizona Wildcats showcasing his athleticism and defensive versatility. Should the Suns keep him in Arizona?
Shooting is probably Gordon's biggest weakness right now. He doesn't appear to be a natural shooter at all. He gets his feet set and releases the ball slowly. His stroke isn't completely broken, but it's not very consistent either.
He can occasionally hit an open spot-up jumper (he shot 16-45 from 3-point range this year), but he's not good shooting off the dribble. He's also a horrible free-throw shooter who doesn't look comfortable at all at the line.
Gordon played a lot of small forward for Arizona, primarily when Brandon Ashley was healthy, but from what I saw the Wildcats were somewhat limited offensively with him there as opponents didn't respect him on the perimeter.
Gordon needs to put in a lot of work on his jumper, but he seems to have the ability and the work ethic to improve. Some tweaks to his form and a ton of reps could be all he needs. As you can see in the workout video below, he knows this and is confident in his ability to get his jumper where it needs to be for the NBA.
Gordon really doesn't have much of a post game at all. He often looks lost with his back to the basket, and usually relies on trying to back his opponent down and finishing over the top or going with a simple drop step. However, as a PF he's not big enough to rely on his strength in the post, and he lacks any sort of advanced foot work. He also doesn't have a consistent hook shot or great touch around the basket.
If a team drafts Aaron Gordon, it won't be as a post-up player.
Gordon is raw but he does have some scoring ability. He's better at facing up than he is with his back to the basket. He's comfortable handling the ball and keeps his dribble low to the ground. He has a quick first step and a strong cross-over. His lack of a reliable jumper hurts him in the halfcourt because opponents know he wants to get the to the basket and sag off of him.
His athleticism allows him to make plays in transition with the ball in his hands or running the floor. He has good hands and big hops which makes him a great alley-oop target on the break, in the pick-and-roll or while cutting back-door.
He doesn't have great touch around the rim, though, and despite his athleticism it seems like he doesn't get all the way to the basket as much as I'd like, instead taking off early and relying on difficult scoops, short floaters and finger rolls.
Gordon is not a natural scorer, and that could limit his upside, but at worst he has a few tools that will allow him to be effective within a system and not a liability. However, if he continues to develop and hone his skills he could be a very versatile and effective offensive option.
Gordon's athleticism and motor make him a very good offensive rebounder. He has a very quick second and even third jump that allows him to score even when he misses his first or second attempt. Sometimes, it seems like he's even trying to set up the put-back with his first shot. Gordon is seventh among the college forwards and centers in the first round of Draft Express' mock draft in offensive rebound percentage. Mitch McGary is on a whole 'nother level and Julius Randle and Joel Embiid are monsters, but Gordon's 10.4 percent compares favorably to Jabari Parker, Noah Vonleh and T.J. Warren who are all in double figures.
On the defensive end, Gordon is merely decent. He's ninth among the first rounders with a 19.3 defensive rebounding percentage, which is last among bigs. In fact, hes closer to Doug McDermott and Jerami Grant than he is to the trio of lottery bigs (Vonleh, Embiid, Randle) and even Kyle Anderson, who is second in the class.
Gordon isn't particularly big or long, which hurts him as he tries to pull down contested boards. He doesn't always box out when he should either, and can get pushed out of position.
Overall, Gordon is a good but not great rebounder, better on offense than defense. However, he's certainly capable of putting up big numbers on the glass in any individual game as his 18 rebounds in Arizona's NCAA Tournament loss to Wisconsin or his 15 rebounds against the strong front line of Stanford can attest to.
Defense is Gordon's greatest strength. He has the versatility to defend inside as well as to switch onto a guard and stay in front of him on the perimeter. Because of this versatility, he should be a valuable asset when defending pick-and-rolls with his ability to hedge and recover as well as switch onto guards when need be.
The most impressive thing to me, however, is how fundamentally sound he is. He stays down in a defensive stance and works hard to move his feet. He makes multiple efforts on a possession an recovers well. He does an excellent job of keeping his body straight and his arms up in the air, and therefore avoids fouling. He also does a good job of contesting shots - again, without fouling.
Gordon was a key cog in one of the best defenses in college basketball last season, whether he was playing the three or the four. He shouldn't have any problems picking up and fitting into an NBA system.
Gordon's offense still needs some work and the potential is there to be effective over time, but it's not a given by any means. Even if he doesn't ever become a top option offensively, he is still a willing an capable passer who can fit into an offensive system and help his team.
Defensively, I feel confident that he'll be an impact player with his athleticism, versatility and fundamentals. A forward like Gordon who is capable of covering multiple positions is a valuable asset to have in today's NBA.
I though Arizona and Gordon both looked better offensively with him at the four rather than the three because he wasn't much of a threat on the perimeter, which is why I think he's a better fit at power forward even if he is a little smaller than you'd like. I think the versatility is a worthwhile trade-off.
A lot of people compare him to Blake Griffin because of his explosive leaping ability, his ball-handling an even his appearance. The similarities are definitely there, but Gordon isn't nearly the offensive player Griffin was or is, and he's a much better defender. Because of his tweener size, crazy athleticism and defensive versatility, I think Shawn Marion is as fair a comparison to make as any.
I think he'd be a great fit at power forward for the Suns. He would be the kind of athletic and defensive upgrade the team needs. Jeff Hornacek's up-tempo offense is exactly the type of system that will allow Gordon to maximize his offensive talents while he continues to develop his skills.
Gordon probably isn't a great fit next to Plumlee because I think they need to be put in similar positions to succeed, especially initially. Neither one is much of a post-up threat and neither can spread the floor with a jumper opponents will respect, but both are great catching lobs, working the weak-side and crashing the offensive glass. However, if Alex Len develops into the type of post and face-up threat the Suns are hoping he will be, Gordon would be a great fit next to him form the Suns' frontcourt of the future.
As far as two way combo guards go Dante Exum is dripping with intrigue, but does the Suns' interest in the unique prospect have any chance of coming to fruition?
Hometown: Melbourne, Australia
High School: Australian Institute of Sport
Born: July 13, 1995
Height: 6' 6"
Weight: 196 pounds
Wingspan: 6' 9.5"
Standing Reach: 8' 7"
Body Fat %: 6.4
No Step Vertical: 31.5"
Max Vertical: 34.5"
Draft Express: 4
NBA Draft.net: 4
Hoops Hype: 4
NBA Draft Insider: 4
Chad Ford's Big Board: 4
In fact, NBA.com curated the online mock drafts and Exum was predicted to go fourth in 10 of the 12 mocks. That would seem to make him a virtual lock to the Orlando Magic, but who knows after last season's flummery...
Comparisons: Anfernee Hardaway, Michael Carter-Williams
Exum has the potential to be a dynamic defender. His quickness and lateral movement enables him to stay with smaller point guards while his size gives him the versatility to defend at the two or three. His size also helps him rebound the ball well at both ends of the court.
Exum's size and reach allow him to finish at the rim against larger defenders. Exum may also be able to exploit matchups against smaller point guards with his promising post up game. He has demonstrated the ability to score and distribute out of the post.
Exum has the ability to score in the post, on isolation plays, running the pick and roll and in transition, making him a very protean and potent offensive threat. Exum has shown the ability to be a volume scorer and fits the Suns mold of moving the ball in transition. Exum can very easily pick up a steal or rebound and go coast-to-coast for a fastbreak layup at the other end.
Overall, Exum has a very good feel for the game with great court vision, basketball IQ and live game instincts.
Many of Exum's flaws are the kind that tend to be concomitant with the inexperience of youth. Exum still needs a lot of work with his shot and makes questionable decisions on the offensive end, which results in him forcing up bad shots and turning over the ball at a high rate. Exum really struggles to shoot off the dribble and has a flat shot trajectory at times.
Some doubt Exum's ability to run the point at the next level, since his skill set doesn't necessarily fit the prototypical point guard mold. Exum also still needs to build up his strength, but has already made the jump from 188 pounds at his weigh in at the Hoop Summit to 196 when he weighed in at the NBA Draft Combine. Considering he's only 18 years old this isn't really much of an issue.
At the FIBA Under-19 World Championship that was held from June 27 - July 27, 2013 Exum exploded in the Final Round to help lead his team to fourth place in the tournament. Exum scored 33 points and tallied four assists in an upset of Spain in the quarterfinals and again led his team in points (21) and assists (4) in a close lose to Serbia in the semifinals. In the bronze medal game Exum finished with 28 points and five assists in an overtime loss to Lithuania.
In all, Exum averaged 24.8 points and 5.1 assists per 40 minutes at the tournament. He also showed the ability to get to the line with 9.6 free throw attempts per 40 minutes, but unfortunately only converted at a 60.9% rate. He will need to work on that, along with his shooting stroke in general. Exum's performance earned him a selection on the All-Tournament Team.
Unfortunately, Exum doesn't have a plump portfolio of play against top flight competition to allow for further scrutinization. Exum has limited exposure to playing in highly talented environments and elected not to play basketball for almost a year leading up to the draft.
On an interesting note, Dante's father, Cecil, played on the 1982 North Carolina Tarheels National Championship team alongside Sam Perkins, James Worthy and Michael Jordan.
Is Dante Exum attainable?
In fact, I probably wouldn't be doing this profile if the Suns hadn't made the interesting decision to make Exum one of their 18 player interviews out of the 60 players at the NBA Draft Combine. Dave King covered this development back before the draft lottery selection in May.
Exum appears to be the exact type of player that Ryan McDonough is
obsessed enamored with, a young combo guard with upside and potential that may even exceed that of the players in his current backcourt.
However, it is one thing to covet and another to obtain. It just doesn't seem too realistic that the Suns can move up to a position to be able to draft Exum, especially without sacrificing assets that make the team worse in the short term.