Michigan's Nik Stauskas shined in John Beilein's heavy pick and roll attack. Could he be the right guy for the Phoenix Suns?
This was a frequent sequence seen on Detroit News Michigan basketball beat writer's Rod Beard's twitter feed.
No he wasn't talking about copying and pasting. In this case, CTRL+V was a reference to Michigan shooting guard Nik Stauskas' smooth stroke from 3-point range. Every time the sweet shooting guard knocked down a 3-pointer, which happened 172 times in two seasons, CTRL+V would show up on the timeline.
To categorize the soon to be 21-year-old Canadian as only a long-range shooter unfairly characterizes his skill set. Stauskas showed extreme growth under Michigan coach John Beilein from his freshman to his sophomore year in expanding his offensive game.
According to statsheet.com, Stauskas' possession percentage went from 16.1 in year one to 23.1 in year two. Typically an increase like that would lead to decreased efficiency, but his true shooting percentage actually jumped to 64.1 percent from 63.3 percent.
Without Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway around Beilein handed the keys of the Wolverines' extremely potent offense to Stauskas and Caris LeVert, who, despite being wings, took on the majority of the pick and roll duties initiating the offense.
With losing two NBA players, one being drafted ninth and the other 24th, along with having a freshman point guard, Michigan's offense ranked first in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted offensive rating stat at 124.1. That bested Michigan's top-ranked O from the year before of 120.3 (pssssst that team played in the National Championship Game).
While this is simplifying the situation quite a bit, a good amount of credit falls to the above-mentioned growth as a player by Stauskas.
His high basketball IQ and well-developed skills allowed him to operate in various roles. Out of the PnR Stauskas was a threat to pull up off the dribble or attack the rim and attract the defense while finding a big man diving to the basket.
His ability to shoot with a high efficiency pulling up and skillful handle opens up the rest of his offensive game. Stauskas can attack left and right plus finish with both hands at the rim. He even sneaks in the occasional dunk and doesn't shy away from big shots in high-leverage moments.
Despite showing off his capability to be extremely diversified at the college level I don't expect it to translate to the same type of success in the NBA.
In constructing a team it will be optimal to have Stauskas as your secondary ball handler instead of primary ball hander. You want to be able to take advantage of the spacing he creates as a shooter much like he did as a freshman playing off Burke. He can do this from the two and three positions, which is important in context of how the Suns play specifically.
If he's asked to handle the ball too much Stauskas will get into some trouble. Two of the games he struggled in most last year were at Indiana and the Big Ten championship game against Michigan State. In those games he was guarded by Yogi Ferrell and Gary Harris - two short, compact defenders with strong lateral movement and the ability to get into his body. He will face defenders like this in the NBA along with longer wings who have similar foot speed.
Speaking of his flaws, we haven't even touched on the defensive end yet. There isn't much positive to talk about there. His short wingspan and poor defensive instincts make him a liability on that end. Stauskas struggles keeping his man in front of him, is not attentive off the ball and is a below average rebounder. He will need to play in a strong defensive scheme to help hide him and with a guard that allows him to defend inferior offensive players.
With how much a boon he will be to a team's offense, what he brings at that end of the court will outweigh the negatives on defense. From a Suns perspective he would be a perfect fit next to Bledsoe when Dragic goes to the bench to help the offense not take such a significant dip. If he's available at 14 Stauskas is someone the Suns should strongly consider drafting.
Under no circumstances can the Phoenix Suns trade Eric Bledsoe this week, no matter how sweet the package you can dream up. Bledsoe is not under contract for the 2014-15 season, and only players under contract for 2014-15 can be traded at this time.
Please IGNORE any trade rumors involving Bledsoe and a draft pick.
Next Tuesday, Bledsoe will be a restricted free agent. The ONLY way the Suns can trade Bledsoe even NEXT month is to a team he wants to sign with, and only if the Suns want to trade him (they can otherwise match any offer). Bledsoe can only be traded in two ways:
As part of a sign-and-trade with a team of BLEDSOE's choosing
After December 15 of this year, after the Suns match an offer sheet from another team or re-sign him straight out
Once the trade deadline passed, no one with an expiring contract can be traded. That includes Okafor and Tucker as well.
The Suns have just under $5 million in cap space this week
Even with Bledsoe, Tucker, Frye and Okafor expiring, the Suns cannot use their "cap space" until at least July 1, and only if they renounce their Bird Rights to the players.
The Suns have just under $5 million to absorb player salaries in a trade.
No dead weight contracts to parlay
The problem with acquiring a big name veteran during the draft is that the Suns will have to nearly match the salaries. You can cross off obtaining Kevin Love straight up for picks. The Suns cannot absorb his salary without matching all but $5 million of it going out.
And the Suns really don't have any big tradable salaries. The only tradable salary over $3.5 million is Goran Dragic's ($7.5 million). All the others are expiring or much lower.
So if the Suns add a big name player and contract, they will have to aggregate a lot of outgoing salaries to make it work.
The Suns can add bodies though
But there's always the chance the Suns will need to eat a contract or two to complete a trade, like they did with Malcolm Lee last year to move up one spot from 30 to 29.
Currently, the team has 15 players on the active roster. During the offseason, any NBA team can expand to 20 players on the active roster, and only need to trim down in October.
So, the Suns could conceivably add players, as long as the salaries are no more than $5 million more than is going out.
Cap sheet this week only
I repeat: The players in red cannot be traded this week. The players in italics are no longer on the team, so they can't be traded either.
The Phoenix Suns will be selecting as many as three first round picks, and one second round pick as well. Which players are the most likely to be selected at each spot?
This big day is finally upon us. Tomorrow night is the NBA 2014 Draft, and the Phoenix Suns will be selecting players with as many as four picks overall.
Although it is a good possibility that the Suns trade one or more picks to either move up in the draft, gain additional picks in future years, or acquire a veteran player of some sort, there is an equally good chance that they won't find a deal they are looking for, and will instead use all of their picks on the players available tonight.
In case you haven't been paying attention over the past month or so, we at Bright Side of the Sun have been compiling quite a comprehensive collection of player profiles on many of the available prospects that will be drafted tomorrow night. In addition, we have also attended every single Suns' pre-draft workout (that we know of) to gain the most insight as possible from the players in attendance, and most importantly, the guys who will be drafting them.
There are a multitude of possibilities which could take place tomorrow night, and realistically, there is just no way to cover them all. However, by using all of the information we've gained throughout this process, this article will take a look as some of the more likely possibilities for each of the Suns' draft picks, assuming they end up staying put for each of their four picks (yeah right).
Click on the prospects' names to be taken to either their profile, or their Suns' workout article for more information about them.
Sorry Stauskas fans, but Nik won't fall to the Suns at #14. Neither will Doug McDermott, and most likely, neither will Gary Harris (though I did put him as a possibility because he has the best chance of the three). If any of these three are there at #14, then that could certainly change things. If not, I think they go with Zach LaVine.
I wavered back and forth between both Zach LaVine and Elfrid Payton for this pick several times. It seems more likely that Payton will go higher than LaVine, and therefor won't be available by the time the Suns pick at #14. But really, it could go either way (and several other directions as well). Both have the ability to play on or off the ball, both are young, both have a high ceiling, and both have been very impressive in their workouts. I'm choosing LaVine simply because of his better chances of being there. But that wouldn't be a bad thing for Phoenix. Zach may have slightly higher upside based on his more developed shooting stroke and perimeter shooting ability, along with his truly elite athleticism.
Zach's skill set and profile fits the Suns like a glove. He is only 19 years old, super athletic, and can play both guard positions. During his workout in Phoenix, McDonough commented on what makes LaVine special as a player. "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...At the end of the day the most important thing is talent usually wins out if it's combined with work ethic and character." And by all accounts, LaVine certainly has the talent, the work ethic, and the character to be successful.
But what about the fact that LaVine still needs to develop certain aspects of his game? As McDonough himself said, "What we don't want to do and will never do, is just draft a guy who is older and maybe more ready over a guy we think is going to have a better career." He explained further, "The draft is the best way to get guys who are going to be starters or stars, and get them on a rookie contract, rather than just take the low hanging fruit and sign a guy who we think might help us win a few more games but has a lower ceiling."
LaVine may have that starter or even star potential, but he will need to focus on defense, add some strength, and learn how to play in an NBA system which will take some time. Rumor has it that LaVine has been extremely impressive in his workouts, and is getting a lot of interest in the top 10. So, there's a good chance he could be gone by the time the Suns pick. But if LaVine's available, I think Phoenix takes him.
Adreian Payne is also a possibility at the 14th pick, but I think the Suns take their chances at selecting him 18th. Skill wise, Payne has everything the Suns could want in a power forward. He's a talented scorer inside and out, with athleticism and a reliable jump shot from the perimeter. Payne is also a good defender, using his 7' 4" wingspan and agility to his advantage.
But what about McDonough's philosophy of taking younger guys with higher ceilings? Well, there may be a caveat to that. As McDonough said, "You could draft a 19 year old guy who has the potential to be as good as (Payne) in four years, and the guy might never get there. He might never do what Adreian Payne has done. In terms of next years' Suns team, where we were a game away from the playoffs this year, it's easier to see a guy like that coming in and playing fairly early in his career."
The one question mark on Payne is his lung capacity, but in the Suns' system where they rarely playing their bigs more than 30 minutes a game, I don't think it's cause for concern. Payne doesn't have the kind of upside McDonough prefers, but with Channing Frye's future with the Suns being uncertain, Phoenix needs another stretch four to help space the offense. Payne definitely fits that bill, and more. As Hornacek commented, "You don't just want a stretch four guy that does nothing but shoot the ball. You want a guy that can go in the post some and play inside. And if teams want to play a smaller four, they can punish them inside. I think Adreian can do both of those things."
If you've been paying attention, the Suns have repeatedly expressed their plan on how they intend to use their draft picks. As McDonough candidly stated, "The least likely thing is we keep all three of our first round picks, and draft three rookies and bring three rookies to the Suns next year." Whether that means combining picks to move up, trading a pick for a future year, or drafting an international player to leave overseas for a while...we don't know yet. But Clint Capela is a great fit regardless, and just happens to fit that draft-and-stash scenario as well.
Capela has loads of upside. He is still very raw, but he's 6' 11" with a 7' 4.5" wingspan and nice mobility and athleticism for a big man. At only 20 years old, Capela is a player the Suns can let develop slowly for a year or two overseas, and bring him over when they feel he's ready. He could pay off big down the road for a team that is patient enough to wait, and the Suns are in the perfect position to do so.
Although this goes against the Suns' plans to bring in three or more rookies, I think Smith makes the most sense here...especially if the Suns make trades earlier in the draft. Russ Smith was the only player one of three players to be invited, and accept the invitation, to come back and work out for the Suns a second time (that we know of).
After Smith's second workout, McDonough was very complementary of Russ's attitude, competitiveness, and his ability to both score and distribute. "Russ has great energy. Some of these guys if you ask them to come back they kind of complain and say how tired they are. Russ I feel like could play two games and three more workouts tonight and be fine, he's just that kind of well-conditioned athlete. We like how he pushes the ball, his energy, and his defensive ability. And, he has some pretty unique stuff off the dribble...and he's able to create his own shot and create shots for others. He's a guy we're interested in, and we give him credit for coming back."
So if he's still available when the Suns pick in the second round, I think he'll be their choice.
Keep in mind, this only represents the top possibilities at each pick assuming the Phoenix Suns stay put. With four total picks, I think the likelihood that we don't see the Suns make some kind of movement is pretty slim, but the likelihood of the Suns pulling off a blockbuster trade is even more so.
The above list of most likely selections is based on my interpretations of the Suns' workouts, insights gained from interviews with players and staff, and consensus draft rankings of prospects. Although I put a lot of time compiling this information and attempting to narrow it down as much as possible, I'm going to be wrong. In fact, I'm probably going to be very wrong (along with all the "experts" out there).
The bottom line is, nobody knows. In fact, even the Suns' front office doesn't know anything for sure yet. The draft is all about selecting the best available options and looking for the right opportunities to improve your team. And those opportunities may only come minutes before a decision is ultimately made.
So again, there's simply no way to know what the Suns have in store for them tomorrow. But still, I feel confident in saying that given the information available, these players certainly seem to make the most sense for Phoenix.
So what do you think? Here's your chance to voice your own expert opinion of who the Suns will take with each of their picks. Let us know in the comments below!
*Update: Zach LaVine and Rodney Hood have both reportedly come in for unannounced second workouts with the Suns, per sources on Twitter.*
Draft talk is all the rage these days. Keep the picks, trade the picks, Kevin Love, power forward, guards despite the the apparent interest in keeping both Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic long term. Suns fans are officially basketball atheists. The only thing we know, is that we don't know.
Or as Ryan McDonough put it, "It's an inexact science." Perhaps that's something to remember the next time you're tempted to pat yourself on the back for being a wizard at the NBA trade machine.
But as long as none of us can agree, and the mock draft is the offseason addiction no hoops fan can resist, enjoy binge mock drafting.