Profiles for all the prospects the Suns could draft in the 2014 NBA Draft with pick 14, 18 or 27 (or some other pick they acquire via trade).
One of the late risers in this NBA Draft is a rangy point guard who can play both offense and defense, though he is quite rough around the edges and played only in the smaller Sun Belt Conference. Point guard Elfrid Payton has the size, athleticism and talent to be one of the best players in the Draft, but he is not a great scorer nor is he very aggressive on offense when his team needs him to score.
A look at his strengths and weaknesses makes you think of Rajon Rondo or Ricky Rubio - guys with great athleticism who can get by in the NBA with passing and high level defense, but who cannot shoot with consistency no matter how open they are.
Even years into their careers, Rondo and Rubio cannot be counted on to make open shots and don't even want to try unless forced or they're feeling especially good about their game. And we're not talking jumpers from distance here. Rondo and Rubio both struggle to even make their open layups with consistency. But they can make up for their lack of shooting by hounding their opponent into a bad shooting night as well.
Payton is the same type of player in nearly every respect. Where Rubio and Rondo rank ahead of Payton is their incredible ability to find the open man even when the defense sags off. Those two can get 10 assists before they get 10 points. Payton has to prove he can do this too, or figure out how to score. He was second in the NCAA in assists per 40 minutes (6.7).
In many respects, Elfrid Payton is the "new Suns model" - great athleticism and basketball IQ that just needs to learn how to score (and make jumpers) consistently. His shooting form is awful, and will have to be completely remade. We'll see how that process works this season with Archie Goodwin, another young guard with everything going for him but shooting.
As rookie, Goran Dragic could not finish at the rim or make jumpers with any consistency. He got his points at the open court. As the years passed, Dragic figured out how to use his athleticism to create separation and score at the rim. Then he became a dead-eye shooter this past season.
Bledsoe couldn't shoot either, and still really struggles to make long jumpers with consistency. But he figured out how to score at the rim with his thick body, and he developed a short-range jumper in the paint as well.
On the Suns, Payton would be a supersized Ish Smith who could spend the next couple of years developing into the next great point guard prospect if he can learn how to score with consistency.
The Phoenix Suns have three picks from 14-27 and Payton could be taken with any of them. Payton would be a high end prospect as a good insurance policy in case Dragic or Bledsoe leaves in free agency or trade in the next year or so.
In the meantime, Payton is young enough and comes from a small-enough background to slide right into Ish Smith's third point guard role and the Suns wouldn't miss a beat, while Payton has a much higher ceiling than Smith. Payton is bigger and has a much better game at the rim than Ish.
Years ago, a Suns coach couldn't imagine rotation time for a point guard who couldn't shoot (Rondo), no matter how talented he was in every other area. Think Jeff Hornacek feels the same?
Elfrid Payton and Archie Goodwin could be the back court of the future for the Suns IF either or both can figure out how to make consistent jump shots.
Can Glenn Robinson III corral his physical gifts into a high-level NBA player?
Michigan's Glenn Robinson III's road to the 2014 NBA Draft has been like a drive through side streets in a town you are unfamiliar with. You know where you will eventually end up, but some points in the adventure are smoother than others.
When Robinson signed with the Wolverines he was a top 100 recruit, yet not an elite prospect. The big name Michigan hauled in was center Mitch McGary. As the 2012-2013 season neared "GR3" shot up the recruiting charts becoming Michigan's highest rated prospect ahead of McGary and another top 100 recruit, Nik Stauskus.
The fact he was playing in the Big 10, the same conference his father, Glenn Robinson, ran roughshod through in the early 1990s didn't help matters. The expectations became out of whack.
When it was all said and done "GR3" put together an accomplished two seasons in Ann Arbor from a personal and team perspective despite whatever the perception may be.
Now Robinson faces another challenge as his professional career rapidly approaches. Even with his college success, his game's flaws along with positive attributes make projecting what he will do at the next level a difficult task.
Glenn Robinson III will be an NBA player. The question hanging over his head is what will be his place in the league.
From his freshman to sophomore year Robinson did a nice job expanding his game. This is exemplified in the following three charts, which will show according to MySynergy Sports the type of plays he used, his eFG% (accounting for threes) and his points per possessions.
GR3 was featured in more isolations and handling the ball in the pick and roll. This caused his true shooting percentage to drop from .626 his freshman year to .566 in year two. The .50 percent drop is completely understandable given the new role and the number stayed extremely respectable.
He still produced at a fantastic rate in transition and off of cuts, which will without question be his two biggest strengths at the next level. When Robinson is able to get moving towards the rim with a running start he is a tremendous finisher. He produced an incredible amount of highlight reel dunks and alley oops, along with crafty finishes on difficult attempts.
The two main concerns when it comes to GR3's offensive game at the NBA level are his ability to create his own shot off the dribble and whether or not he can shoot well enough for opponents to respect his jumper.
With this chart from a story posted on umhoops.com right before March Madness started you can see how Robinson shot across his sophomore season.
It's pretty clear Robinson was most comfortable working in the foul line area, at the rim and on the left side of the court.
The corner threes were obviously of the catch and shoot variety. The left wing jumpers and foul line area work was usually accomplished with one or two dribbles, using his athleticism to rise up and shoot over defenders.
His success on jumpers came in these two specific areas, while he struggled in most other places, most worrisome being the above the break threes.
"I think Robinson is a better shooter than his numbers indicate," said Suns general manager Ryan McDonough after Monday morning's workout. "He's very young (20 years old). His stroke looks good when you watch him shoot even from the NBA lines then you look at his percentages and I was a little surprised they were as low as they were."
"I think that's a matter of time and repetition with him. He's got physically what you're looking for in terms of size, length and athleticism. Once he gets that shooting down he will be a pretty complete player."
Where you get concerned about "GR3's" offensive game is he struggled to break down players off the dribble and he was playing the four at Michigan. He will have to play more of a wing position in the NBA mainly because of issues at the defensive end.
"It's always an advantage for a smaller guy to go up against a little bit of a bigger guy," said Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek on the potential position change. "He is going to have to adjust to play the three and at his size maybe even playing some two on some of the bigger twos in the league. I think he's got the capability, strength and body type for it."
Robinson's creation in a half court setting mainly consisted of straight line drives because of average ball handling skills. If he couldn't get to the rim on a consistent basis against slower footed fours, how is he going to be able to beat more athletic, quick-footed wings with the bounce in the NBA?
This is a potential detrimental flaw in his skill set for the ability to grow into anything more than a complementary piece.
Robinson also had a higher turnover percentage than assist percentage in both years with the Wolverines. When the shot isn't going right the easiest way to maintain usefulness on the offensive end is with off ball movement and high-level passing. The off-ball movement shouldn't be an issue, but his floor vision isn't where it needs to be.
This is before even getting into the issues on the defensive end.
For all of his athletic ability Robinson's steal % was 1.9, block % .09, defensive rebound %, 11.5 and total rebound % 9.3.
In a question I asked Suns GM Ryan McDonough about Robinson's poor numbers in these areas he made a salient point.
"It's where knowing the system is important," explained McDonough. "Michigan I think had the fewest fouls in the country or they were among the bottom. That's John Beilein's system, he's had a lot of success with it."
"They play position defense, don't gamble a lot for steals, try to stay out of foul trouble, try to keep the game moving by not stopping the clock with turnovers or fouls so you have to factor that in. He looked fine out here today in terms of how he moved his feet and guarded on the perimeter."
Michigan's opponents' free throw to field goal attempt was .195, third best in the country. It's steal and block rate both ranked in the 300s. It's logical in a more aggressive scheme Robinson's steal and block numbers could see a significant bump (especially steals).
Where I can't buy McDonough's angle is with the rebounding. The Wolverines were an average to poor defensive rebounding team and that wasn't by design. They played to the 338th ranked pace in the country. It wasn't their goal to leak out and create fast break opportunities. Michigan's flaw in this area was because the players on the court did a poor job closing out possessions.
Because the Wolverines were usually a plus in the turnover and 3-point category they were able to get around this weakness. When they lost it was often because the other team grabbed so many offensive rebounds it was impossible to overcome.
In Michigan's Elite Eight loss to Kentucky during this past season's March Madness the Wildcats grabbed 62.5% of their misses. Robinson had three defensive rebounds.
In Michigan's national championship loss to Louisville the season before the Cardinals grabbed 45.5% of their misses. Robinson had one defensive rebound.
With his size, strength and leaping ability, "GR3" should be a significantly better defensive rebounder.
Whether Glenn Robinson III can use his physical gifts and skills to develop his flaws will decide if he can handle a bigger role in the NBA than people like myself expect.
After nine consecutive working days of 6-player workouts, most of the prospects in the 2014 NBA Draft projected anywhere near the Suns picks have already graced the practice floor in Phoenix. Who hasn't?
It is only June 6, nearly three weeks before the NBA Draft is set to take place, and nearly all of the players projected to be drafted near the Suns four upcoming picks (14, 18, 27 and 50) have flown to the valley to participate in a group workout.
The Phoenix Suns' workout is widely considered one of the toughest on the circuit, per players who have visited in recent days. The Suns want to run and shoot, so they set up the workout in the same fashion. Adreian Payne, for one, was admittedly winded at the end of the day. Many players have hit the floor in a heap after the final drill of running as hard as you can for three minutes.
While the Suns have seen at least 54 players, the highest rated player has been Gary Harris (ranked 9th to 14th on various boards). Harris sits squarely in the crosshairs of a great "get" as a two-way player who might be slightly undersized but fits the Suns mold to a T.
At this point, what's instructive is who has NOT yet visited the Suns. They fall into three distinct groups.
None have visited but it's pretty certain that SOME of them will.
"We can get anywhere we want to go," McDonough said of trading up in the draft, "except the top, top end."
Basically, McDonough was reassuring himself and everyone that the Suns have assets and can likely move up in the Draft if they really want someone. To move into the Top 3-5 is nearly unprecedented from a #14 starting position, but with so many current and future #1 picks it's doable to get into the 6-10 range if needed.
"If there's someone we think is undervalued," he said in another interview, "we feel we can go up and get him."
One or more of those top eight players will get some advice from his agent that it's in their best interest to get on the Suns' good side. Suns brass has said over and over again that they value guys who are willing to visit, willing to compete, willing to go out of their way to show well in predraft workouts.
It's possible that one or more of those visits might be private (gasp, not advertised to the public), but at least a few will likely join a group the way the Suns want them to.
My guess: Gordon, Vonleh, Exum, Randle and Smart all have a better than average chance of going sixth or later, which is very much in the Suns wheelhouse.
Most notably, Dario Saric is in the Suns draft range but is not touring the states to visit teams prior to the Draft. Likely, the Suns have already sent a contingent over to see him and work him out in Croatia. And certainly, they've seen oodles of tape on the guy.
Kristaps Porzingis and other foreign players projected later in the first round or in the second round are in the same boat.
In fact, Stauskas may never hit Phoenix at all. According to this report, Stauskas has no workout planned yet with Phoenix and will only work out for a "select group of teams" before the Draft. If he doesn't visit Phoenix in a group workout like everyone else, cross him off your list entirely.
Update: Anderson visiting on Monday, per his own tweet.
All appear to fit the Suns mold offensively as shooters and/or passers, but none are considered premier two-way players who can shut down an opponent on defense while scoring on the other end as well.
The Suns do their leg work, and they do it well. They like to see guys up close and personal to confirm for themselves if a player fits the Suns mold or not.
The first round of player visits should be wrapping up soon, or at least getting more sparse. After nine consecutive working days of workouts, there just aren't 60 more guys to bring in over the next two weeks.
Expect the shooters to visit soon, as well as more of the late-first and second-round prospects who are rising since the Combine and a few of the Top 8.
The Suns announced there is a workout Monday. While the Suns remain quiet, twitter has announced that Kyle Anderson and C.J. Fair will be there. Expect four more to join them.
But after that, the visits will become more private as the Suns bring some guys back for second visits (Archie got a second visit a week before last year's draft) to confirm their standing on the Suns draft board, or hold private workouts for top players who don't want teams knowing they are visiting a team so low on the board.
Can a look at the careers of the last 23 All-NBA point guards help predict the longevity of Goran Dragic?
Goran Dragic's age has been a topic of discussion on the site lately. Even though Goran just turned 28, the clock is always ticking on a player's career. Dragic has the ability to opt out of his current contract after next season, which he will undoubtedly do, leaving him looking for a new deal at the age of 29. If he inks a new four year deal he would be playing the last season of it at the age of 32.
So, is 32 really old for a point guard?
Is there a way to gauge the breaking point from the acme of a prime window to the declivitous descent into a reduced role and retirement?
Here's what I did.
The first chart below is a list of every point guard that has made an All-NBA team since 1993-94. That's the 20 seasons prior to this year's selections (21 seasons total). This season Damian Lillard and Goran Dragic entered the fold.
Hopefully it's fairly lucid. It tracks the WS/48 of each player based on their age. At the end is the player's career WS/48. At the bottom is the average of the players by year. In that bottom right corner is the average excluding an outlier (John Stockton).
Feel free to look at the chart first or read the exclusions below beforehand. Switching back and forth might even help.
The following player seasons were not included due to injuries (Rose - knee) or other circumstances (KJ - retirement) that made them miss nearly all or all of the listed seasons...
Derrick Rose 2012-13 and 2013-14 - only played ten games in both seasons combined.
Chauncey Billups 1999-00 - only played 13 games.
Gilbert Arenas 2007-08 and 2008-09 - only played 15 games in both seasons combined.
Sam Cassell 1998-99 - only played eight games.
Tim Hardaway 1993-94 - missed entire season.
Anfernee Hardaway 2000-01, 2005-06 and 2006-07 - only played eight games in all three seasons combined.
Kevin Johnson 1998-99 and 1999-00 - only played six games in both seasons combined.
Mark Price 1995-96 - only played seven games.
Many of the zeros, but not all, and that random X are covered under the umbrella of the exclusions. I felt that very limited sample sizes from those seasons, in the cases where the players participated in any games, skewed the data. I will address the ramifications of these seasons at a later point.
Please note that these numbers would have a decimal point in front of them. I entered the data this way to make the process easier for me.
I put a trendline through Goran's curve that adumbrates rather auspiciously. This would certainly indicate that he's on his way up. Chris Paul absolutely destroys this metric... too bad he can't win in the playoffs. Taking Paul out of the picture, Dragic seems to be right in the mix with this group.
Here comes the gist of my calculus. By taking the WS/48 of the last 23 All-NBA point guards I have set up an average total by age. The range of 25-28 is definitely the highest out of this sample. I think it's a pretty decent sample. The unexpected drop at the age of 29 is due to the anchor effect of Gilbert Arenas and Baron Davis. Unfortunately, those scores were just due to them playing that bad... Obviously, nobody is going to mistake either of those guys for a paradigm of career management.
Take that out of the equation and the window seems to swell to 25-31. Starting with 32, though, there is definitely a drop off. This next graph exacerbates the decline.
**This graph is the same as the last graph except that it excludes John Stockton's last five years. Stockton's longevity was just ridiculous. Now look at that drop off starting at 31. It looks like it would make an awesome water slide.
Now let's factor in something else... Retirement.
Not only does the decline apparently start around 31, but Arenas, Davis, Marbury, KJ and (basically) Hardaway were done by the age of 33. That's five out of fifteen.
What does this tell us about Goran?
Well, the numbers show that the most likely prognosis is retirement or a decrease in performance by the age of 33.
Then again, there are examples like Kidd, Nash, Billups and Stockton that evince it is possible to play productively to a later age. Even with those players, except for Stockton, there was a drop off at 33 and none of them were able to duplicate their peak years.
Injury also plays a role. Several of the players in the exclusions section were severely hindered by various ailments. Sometimes they recovered and sometimes it affected the rest of their career.
I'll concede that Goran isn't going to flame out due to some bizarre series of horrible decisions (Arenas) or gain 50 pounds (Davis).
My interpretation of this data is that Dragic will very likely be a safe bet to sign to a new four year deal after his current one expires. Another year like the one he just finished will further entrench him as belonging in this prestigious group. He is definitely one of the late bloomers.
Barring injury, this supports Dragic's ability to play at a high level for the next four years and then play at a decreasing, but still productive level for 3-4 season past that (34-35).
What do you think?
**Win shares is just one metric that can be useful along with other evaluation tools to gain a broader perspective of performance. There is nothing that makes it definitive in gauging the performance of a player.