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Lehigh combo guard C.J. McCollum's projected draft range is quite narrow. While other players are yo-yo-ing up and down the board, McCollum's range has been as high as 7th (Sacramento Kings) and as low as 9th (Minnesota Timerbolves) with Detroit sandwiched in between. That's it. Three spots.

When it comes to shooting guards, McCollum is the third best prospect behind Ben McLemore and Victor Oladipo. Among point guards, he's in a dead heat with the smaller Trey Burke and the much bigger Michael Carter-Williams.

Cbssports.com's Doug Gottleib says he's undervalued going into this draft:

Several scouts have told me they think McCollum, who is very bright with an efficient game, is one of the top 3 basketball players in this draft, and frankly I agree. Is foot speed an issue? Maybe. Is he a combo guard who has to learn to create for others as well as run a team? Yes.

But McCollum can really shoot and score, can be an effective scoring point a la George Hill and at worst is a 12 point per game combo guard off the bench. Guys that make shots are valuable, guys that win games are valuable, and McCollum does both.

While the Hill comparison may not wow you, think about McCollum's scoring numbers as a ball handling two-guard for a huge portion of his career at Lehigh, then remember that Steph Curry, Jeremy Lin, Hill and Russell Westbrook charted the same path in college.

Draftexpress has this to say about McCollum:

At 6'3 with a 6'6 wingspan, McCollum emerged as a prolific, versatile combo guard with a shoot-first mentality early in his collegiate career. A fluid athlete who lacks top-end speed and explosiveness, McCollum has done it all for Lehigh over the last three and a half seasons, carrying the scoring load for long stretches against relentless pressure.

Known for his ability to create his own offense one-on-one and using ball-screens, McCollum's jump shot has always been a significant part of his game. With nearly 60% of his shot attempts coming from the perimeter both this and last season according to Synergy Sports Technology, McCollum's value proposition at the next level has changed this season as he's made 50.6% of his jumpers and 51.6% from of his threes, a big jump from the 36.6% and 34.1% he made last year.

I have liked McCollum for the Phoenix Suns since he visited for his pre-draft workout on June 6. He went up against MCW and Shane Larkin in that workout, with Trey Burke demanding a solo workout after the other guys were done.

"I'm not running from anybody," said McCollum, who is projected a couple spots lower than Burke and a couple higher than MCW, after the workout. "I'm working out against whoever. I enjoy this process. We're all basketball players. There should be nothing to hide."

His statements of bravado came out more matter-of-fact rather than aggressive. He was just iterating what's important to him as a basketball player: competition. He could have had a bad day and lost ground on MCW and Shane Larkin (projected mid-first), but he never questioned the need to compete.

McCollum knows he has something to prove in the NBA.

"I had a pretty good career at Lehigh, but that's over now," he said. "It's time to start from scratch. Everybody in this league had a good career and been the man on their team. Now you've got to find your niche, find your role. I look forward to contributing any way I can."

McCollum was a scorer at small-school Lehigh, needed more for his off-guard skills than his passing ability. but despite being small for a shooting guard, he's not shying away from that part of his game if that's what's asked of him.

"I definitely feel like my game translates well to the NBA. My ability to use ball screens, and go off the ball as well, and make plays and play alongside of the guards. I think I fit in well within any system, especially Phoenix. They've got a great guard in Goran, I feel like I can play with him as well as back him up if necessary.

"My role will be defined no matter what team I go to, and I'll accept it and build on that and try to make a name for myself."

It's easy to compare McCollum to other combo guards who came from small schools, or simply played off the ball as a scorer rather than point guard.

Combo-sized guys who scored first, passed second in their small college program have made it in the NBA more often than you'd think. Steve Nash (Santa Clara), Stephen Curry (Davidson) and Damian Lillard (Weber State) come to mind. They all played all four years at their school before transitioning to the NBA.

McCollum is compared most often to Damian Lillard, probably since Lillard was drafted just last year.

"I embrace it," McCollum says of the comparison. "We are different players. I know the media loves to compare guys of similar size who went to small schools. I think his demeanor sets him apart, and I think I have the same demeanor. Nothing really fazes him. We are both heady players, both able to score."

McCollum took a jab at the other side of that comparison as well.

"I think it's funny, you know, [Lillard] did well so now people say 'CJ will do well at the next level'. But if he would have done poorly, or Steph Curry would have done poorly, they'd be saying small-school guys can't play in the NBA.

"I'm glad he did well."

McCollum also said he watched a lot of a couple older small-sized guards.

"I was really undersized,"he said. "I watched a lot of guys who were small, like Allen Iverson. I watched guys who weren't very fast, like Steve Nash. He does a great job of changing pace, changing speeds. I learned to play the angles. I'm not the fastest guy in the world, but I'm kind of smart. I know how to use my body and change gears a little bit."

With McCollum's draft range just outside the Suns' pick and McLemore and/or Oladipo both likely available at 5 when the Suns pick, it's unlikely McCollum will be wearing orange/black/purple next season.

But it's also possible that new head coach Jeff Hornacek would like to bring in a really smart, fundamentally sound player whose game is all about efficiency and results.

If Oladipo is gone by the 5th pick, do you take a mature alpha dog like McCollum over the younger, second-fiddle scorer in McLemore?

Maybe. In a draft devoid of sure things, maybe McCollum is the surest thing on the board at 5.

"Since I was five years old, I wanted to be in this position," McCollum says.

Check out his DX profile:

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With the 2013 NBA Draft less that a week away, we at Bright Side of the Sun are bringing you a daily preview of potential draft picks that the Suns may end up selecting with the 5th and 30th picks.

5th Pick: Victor Oladipo (SG)

Measurables:

Height: 6' 4.25"

Weight: 213

Wingspan: 6' 9.25"

BF%: 6.6

Verticle (Max): 42"

Stats:

Totals:

Per Game:

Advanced:

Videos:

Combine Interview (courtesy of Draft Express)


Draft Scouting Video with in-depth analysis (courtesy of Draft Express)


And if his playing alone isn't reason enough to draft him, which it most certainly is, he could also fill in as the half-time entertainment on any given night if need be. The man can sing!


Potential Draft Range: 2-5

While it's anyone's guess who the Suns will actually end up drafting with the 5th pick this Thursday, I feel comfortable saying with relative certainty that if Oladipo is still available by the time the Suns' make their selection that he will be their guy.

Summary:

I've been on the Oladipo bandwagon all year long, and have made no secret of my love for his game. He was without a doubt my favorite college player this past season, and I am convinced he is one of the top three prospects in this draft. In my opinion, it would be a great value if the Suns end up drafting Oladipo with the 5th pick in the draft. The Suns can only hope that they are fortunate enough to do so. There have been rumors surfacing lately that the Orlando Magic like Oladipo better than McLemore now, and could select him as high as the 2nd pick. In order for Phoenix to draft Oladipo, they need either Trey Burke or Alex Len to crack the top 4. If either of these scenarios happen, the Suns' chances of drafting Oladipo increases significantly.

30th Pick: Ricardo Ledo (SG)

Measurables:

Height: 6' 6"

Weight: 197

Wingspan: 6' 7.25"

BF%: 10.25

Verticle (Max): 33.5"

Stats:

N/A

Ledo was one of the top guard prospects in the nation (ranked as high as #6 overall by Rivals.com) and a McDonald's All-American coming out of high school last year, but was declared academically ineligible last season at Providence and didn't play a single game in college.

Videos:

Combine Interview (courtesy of Draft Express)

Draft Workout Preparation(courtesy of SLAM Magazine)

Potential Draft Range: 16-35

Summary:

Ledo is without question one of the biggest question marks in this year's draft. On one hand he could be the same player who was ranked ahead of top prospects like Anthony Bennett, Marcus Smart, and Glenn Robinson III just last year (according to Rivals.com); or he could be an unproven high school phenom who fails to make the transition to the NBA after missing out on the experience of playing in the NCAA.

Ricky Ledo is without question a very talented young prospect who was one of the best scorers out of the entire class of 2012. In addition to his ability to get to the hoop and score from nearly anywhere on the court, he has incredible handles, a knack for creating off the dribble, and the skills of a combo guard with the ability to create for teammates with very good court vision and passing.

So why isn't he a lottery pick?

Well, there are a couple major red flags.

In addition to missing his only NCAA season due to academic ineligibility, and the lack of game tape with which to evaluate him, there are some legit character concerns as well.

He has built the reputation of being a locker room cancer in the past; so much so that one anonymous coach of his was reportedly quoted as saying that Ledo was, " the single worst human being I'd ever been associated with on a basketball court” and a “program killer.”

However, other coaches of his have had much better things to say about Ledo, and by all accounts he has had very impressive interviews and workouts with the teams he has visited, including Phoenix.

Ledo has eased many of the on-court concerns with his showing at the combine as well as with teams workouts. His biggest obstacle will be overcoming those character concerns. Still, most analysts claim that Ledo's stock is rising fast, so once again, Phoenix will likely need a little luck if they plan on drafting him.

So is Ledo really worth the risk? Absolutely. If Ledo is still available at #30 when the Suns pick, they shouldn't hesitate to make him their selection. He has top prospect potential and ability, and in my opinion, would be an absolute steal at the end of the first round.

The Phoenix Suns might have been offered a draft package from the Minnesota Timberwolves, who are looking to move up from their No. 9 pick in order to draft Victor Oladipo or Ben McLemore....

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]
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The Suns have announced that athletic trainer/voodoo practitioner Aaron Nelson has been promoted to Vice President of Athlete Care and Head Athletic Center. They also re-signed Mike Elliott, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach/Assistant Athletic Trainer, to a multi-year contract.

Lon Babby had this to say about the news:

"We are delighted to enter into multi-year agreements with Aaron and Mike. The Suns' training and medical staff has been justly recognized not only among the very best in the NBA, but in all of professional sports. Their innovative approach to athlete care and performance recovery is world class."

This is great news for the franchise and its fans, as the widely respected training staff has been one of the team's best strengths in not only helping players recover, but to also attract free agents (see Grant Hill and Jermaine O'Neal). This is a huge move for the Suns' future. Kudos to Babby for getting it done.

Keep workin' that magic, Aarron!

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Atlanta Hawks - stevedavis_

Out: DeShawn Stevenson, Lou Williams, John Jenkins, Mike Scott, #17, #18

In: Thomas Robinson, Wes Matthews, Greg Steimsma, Kelly Olynyk (26)

The Hawks added about $3.5 million to their cap number, which poised them to be a big player in free agency, while not significantly adding to their young talent. Matthews is a slighlty more expensive/slightly better replacement for Williams, Robinson is a calculated gamble and Olynyk (a top 20 talent) is great value at 26... but the moves appear mostly lateral for a team that currently lacks a definitive identity.

Grade: B-

Boston Celtics - arvin123

Out: Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry, Courtney Lee

In: DeAndre Jordan, Caron Butler, Willie Green, Gorgui Dieng (16), Ricky Ledo (25)

The Celtics transition from one era to the next is looking painful. The Celtics didn't lose much in these deals, considering Garnett is 36 and Terry is 35, but didn't really improve either. $11 million for nine points and seven rebounds a game (Jordan) isn't wise resource allocation. The trades give Boston a little bit of cap relief after next season, but a straight salary dump would have been preferable. Dieng isn't a reach at 16, but Ledo at 25 probably is.

Grade: C-

Brooklyn Nets - Richard Bowman

Out: Brook Lopez, Reggie Evans, Marshon Brooks

In: Javale McGee, Kosta Koufos, Andre Miller, Anthony Randolph, Tim Hardaway Jr. (22), Lucas Nogueira (27)

Usually the team who gets the best player wins the trade. The 25 year old Lopez was the best player in this trade, so read between the lines. Or I'll just lay it out. The Nets took a major frontcourt hit without a significant upgrade at any other position. Hardaway is a reach at 22, but Nogueira is an interesting prospect that could be a steal at 27. Still... trading a franchise center is fairly indefensible. Brooklyn basically dealt a steak for three chicken wings.

Grade: D

Charlotte Bobcats - sunfromunder

In: Victor Oladipo (4)

Never confuse activity with achievement. Charlotte gained positive momentum by standing still. The Bobcats may have come away with the best player in this draft class while continuing to build around a young core... that has them poised to compete for another top five pick next season.

Grade: A

Chicago Bulls -babypa

In: Mason Plumlee (20)

Plumlee is a solid value at this pick and fills a need in Chicago's frontcourt, with Joakim Noah the only center on the team under contract next season. Mason will likely be able to step in right away and contribute in spot minutes behind Noah. This is a situation where BPA and need complement each other.

Grade: B+

Cleveland Cavaliers - Suns Fan For Life

Out: Anderson Varejao, Dion Waiters, Alonzo Gee, #19

In: Lou Williams, Jeremy Lamb, Will Barton, Trevor Ariza, C.J. McCollum (6), Otto Porter Jr. (1), #40

With Varejao out the door, and no bigs returning from a bevy of moves, Tyler Zeller becomes Cleveland's full time starting center. Yes, the same Zeller that averaged eight points and six rebounds a game last year while shooting 44%. His backup... *crickets chirping* The Cavs roster is now set at the guard and wings position, but leaves Tristan Thompson to play all the minutes at the four and five. I'd rather take a big #1 and Porter would probably still be available at #3. Despite my infatuation with McCollum the overall picture is kind of muddled. Maybe free agency or future trades can help balance the roster but... Kyrie Irving is probably pretty stunned right now.

Grade: C-

Dallas Mavericks - jc79

Out: Shawn Marion, Vince Carter, rights to Petteri Kaponen, rights to Nick Calathes, #13, $3 million

In: John Henson

Dallas achieves its salary dump AND returns the best player in the deal. Hard not to see this as a coup for Dallas... except for the fact that they still owe ~$23 million to a declining 35 year old and will probably strike out with their $30 million in free agency cap room.

Grade: B+

Denver Nuggets - BringBarkley17

Out: Javale McGee, Kosta Koufos, Andre Miller, Anthony Randolph, #27

In: Brook Lopez, Reggie Evans, Marshon Brooks

The Nuggets turn a quartet of average to below players into a top five center (who might be better than anybody taken in this year's draft). Seems like a big win even though I don't think Lopez is the best fit for the Nuggets style. Then again, who knows what the Nuggets style is with the hiring of new head coach Brian Shaw.

Grade: A

Detroit Pistons - nateman48

Out: Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey, Jonas Jerebko, Viacheslav Kravstov, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (8)

In: Danny Granger, Lance Stephenson, George Hill, Tony Mitchell (23)

The backcourt of Stephenson and Hill is an upgrade, but swapping from eight to 23 for the pleasure of one year (~$14 million) of a 30 year old question mark in Granger seems suspect. If he can play and produce the Pistons might find a way into the playoffs as a lower seed, but he could also become an expiring deal at the deadline. Mitchell fits the profile of a high ceiling risk, but the Pistons would probably be better off biding their time and building around a young core.

Grade: D+

Houston Rockets - jc79

Out: Thomas Robinson

In: DeShawn Stevenson, Giannis Adetokunbo (18)

Adetokunbo is an 18 year old project that won't be able to contribute for years and Stevenson is a roster spot with two years left on his contract. While Houston was obviously looking to move Robinson it seems like they should have been able to get something better to help win now than a crappy 32 year old journeyman.

Grade: C- B- *see comments below for grade adjustment

Indiana Pacers - khalid.h

Out: Danny Granger, Lance Stephenson, George Hill, Tony Mitchell (23)

In: Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey, Jonas Jerebko, Viacheslav Kravstov, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (8)

You know those trades that end up being lose-lose. Yeah. The idea of a contending team trading two starters to go after the point guard of the future makes my brain hurt. After being one game away from the NBA Finals the Pacers' fans are definitely going to have to temper their expectations... or organize a sedition. Sometimes it's better to stay the course, especially when the Pacers entire team is 27 or younger besides David West and the returning Granger.

Grade: F

LA Clippers - blank_38

Out: DeAndre Jordan, Caron Butler, Willie Green

In: Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Gorgui Dieng (16), Ricky Ledo (25)

The Clippers add youth and pieces that should help them compete for a championship next year. IF Chris Paul is on board (assuming he gave his blessing) this is a great deal. PLUS I'm sure that bringing on Doc Rivers as head coach played into this decision. ;)

Grade: A+

Milwaukee Bucks - gallen89

Out: John Henson, Epke Udoh, #15

In: Shawn Marion, Vince Carter, Jae Crowder, rights to Petteri Kaponen, rights to Nick Calathes, rights to Nemanja Bjelica, Anthony Bennett (9), Tony Snell (21)

The Bucks return a hodgepodge of players that don't help the team win now but don't hurt the team moving forward. Picking up Bennett at nine is solid, but he better end up being a better pro than the precocious Henson or else this trade will probably look like a huge whiff in hindsight. Snell may also be a little bit of a reach at 21.

Grade: D+

Minnesota - STUPID KERR

Out: rights to Nemanja Bjelica, #9, #21, #52

In: John Jenkins, Mike Scott, Epke Udoh, Sergey Karasev (13), Steven Adams (15)

I'm assuming the logic behind this trade is that neither Karasev or Adams was likely to be available when the Wolves pick at #21. Rather than reaching for one at #9, they end up with both. Time will tell, but it appears that Minnesota executed their plan and got their guys.

Grade: B+

New Orleans Pelicans - hoiberg

Out: Lance Thomas, #6

In: Isaiah Thomas, Shabazz Muhammad (12)

I'm not sure I understand the quizzical rationale behind a team trading for a starting point guard who is worse than their current starting point guard. Even if Muhammad is coveted it's hard to imagine that A. there won't be a player taken between 6-11 that isn't better and B. that the Pelicans couldn't have filled a position of greater need. Not a good start for the large water birds...

Grade: D

NY Knicks - The Solution

In: Glen Rice Jr. (24)

Rice is projected as a late first/early second, so this isn't really that much of a reach... but not a value pick either (on the surface). He does fit the style of the three point bombing Knicks, though, and does fill a need as a backup three. Seems like a decent pick where the Knicks are slated.

Grade: C

Oklahoma City Thunder - jack.kremmer22

Out: Nick Collison, Jeremy Lamb, #12

In: Marcin Gortat, Mike Muscala (29), Reggie Bullock (30)

Lamb and #12 is too much for a year of Gortat. The Thunder should be able to do better (like dumping Perkins). Sam Presti must have picked the wrong week to start taking psychotropic drugs. Does this mean that the Thunder basically traded James Harden for the aging duo of Kevin Martin and Gortat? Talk about trading a dollar for two quarters.

Grade: D-

Orlando Magic - Eric Fong

Out: Glen Davis, #2

In: Channing Frye, Trey Burke (7)

If Burke is truly Orlando's man trading down makes sense... if they can get something by doing so Without a guarantee that Frye can play, however, this seems like a head scratcher. A sunk cost contract swap for the privilege of moving down five spots? Can Frye even be traded? Seems like he would have a hard time passing a physical...

Grade: D

Philadelphia 76ers - phxpurple

In: Dennis Schroeder (11)

Schroeder is a quality pick at this position, but don't expect him to get any much playing time ever behind 22 year old stud Jrue Holiday. I guess duplicating a position based on BPA isn't the worst thing, but this is a little discomfiting.

Grade: C-

Phoenix Suns - Richard Parker

Out: Marcin Gortat, Jared Dudley, Michael Beasley, Channing Frye, #30, #57

In: John Salmons, Glen Davis, Nick Collison, Danny Green, Nando de Colo, Nerlens Noel (2), Ben McLemore (5), Jamaal Franklin (19), #32

The Suns managed to walk out of this mock with Green, Noel, McLemore, Franklin AND without Beasley... which probably makes them the biggest winner in this fabricated scenario, even if Noel and McLemore weren't my top two prospects (which they are). Either the Suns new GM truly is a miracle worker, the other GMs are rubes that got fleeced, or people had an ulterior motive to help put the Suns on the fast track to rebuilding.

Grade: A+ (hmm...)

Portland Trail Blazers

Out: Nolan Smith, Wes Matthews, Will Barton, #10, #40, #45

In: Anderson Varejao, Cody Zeller (14)

After rumored interest in Marcin Gortat (or a big in general) the Blazers hit a home run instead of settling for a double. Varejao and Zeller (good value at 14) combine with LaMarcus Aldridge and Meyers Leonard to turn a suspect frontcourt into one of the strongest in the league.

Grade: A

Sacramento Kings - brawadis

Out: John Salmons, Isaiah Thomas, DeMarcus Cousins, Marcus Thornton, Jimmer Fredette, #7

In: Bradley Beal, Jared Dudley, Nene, Lance Thomas, Alex Len (3)

The Kings cleaned house by sending out the players who played that vast majority of significant minutes last season and ushering in a new cast. The biggest pieces to move in these deals were Cousins, #7, Beal and #3. Since Cousins was unlikely to be part of this team's future it seems like a big win for Sactown.

Grade: A-

San Antonio Spurs - y2kctiger

Out: Danny Green, Nando de Colo

In: Michael Beasley, Rudy Gobert (17), Allen Crabbe (28), #57

This seems like exactly the type of shrewd move the Spurs are known for... or the complete opposite. I'm not going to dignify this with a further explanation.

Grade: D-

Utah Jazz - Air Deke

Out: #14, #21

In: Nolan Smith, Michael Carter-Williams (10), #45

Utah flips picks #14 and #21 for their (potential) point guard of the future. Well played.

Grade: A-

Washington Wizards - blank_38

Out: Bradley Beal, Nene, Trevor Ariza, #3

In: DeMarcus Cousins, Marcus Thornton, Jimmer Fredette, Patrick Patterson, Dion Waiters, Alonzo Gee

The Wiz got six players to fill out a rotation around Wall, Webster and Okafor, but this trade seems hard to gauge without knowing how the Beal/Len - Cousins/Waiters swap plays out. I tend to like the stability and (slightly) ceiling of Beal/Len better so I count this as a loss. John Wall is probably calling Kyrie Irving right now having a WTF conversation.

Grade: C-

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So there you have it. Remember that I'm grading these moves as an impartial (somewhat) bystander that has not followed any of these proceedings up to this point. I have no idea of any of the discussions or mentality that lead to these moves. Feel free to plead your case, champion your victories, or lob vituperations in my general direction in the comments below.

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