We here at Bright Side of the Sun wish to prepare our readers for every possibility regarding the 2013 NBA Draft. Nerlens Noel and Otto Porter Jr. are consensus top three picks and very unlikely to slide to the Suns at No. 5 and we decided breaking them down would be a waste of time with the draft rapidly approaching. We have, however, taken a look at Ben McLemore, Victor Oladipo, Alex Len and C.J. McCollum. Now it's time to take a look at another big man that the Suns could have interest in.
Anthony Bennett was one of the best freshman in the entire country this season at UNLV. In fact, he was one of the most productive players in the entire country and an offensive force. The numbers speak for themselves (courtesy of sports-reference.com):
What I see in those numbers is an efficient 16-point per game scorer who gets it done inside, at the free-throw line and from beyond the arc who tosses in some pretty decent rebounding numbers as well.
Anthony Bennett is a face-up scoring power forward. He can handle the ball and shoot better than a lot of guys at his position and knows how to put the ball in the bucket.I definitely see a little bit of Amar'e Stoudemire in him.
However, he is shorter than you'd like and while a long wingspan certainly helps it doesn't negate the problem. He also has some bad habits that were only exacerbated during his one year in college due to some pretty selfish teammates. Can those habits be broken? Or does he just have a low motor and no interest in playing defense? Those are questions NBA teams will have to try to find an answer for if they are considering taking Bennett in the lottery.
He's not my favorite prospect for the Suns, but he is definitely in play at No. 5. Bennett is similar in skill set to the Suns' own Markieff Morris, only he's actually good. If Ryan McDonough likes what Bennett can bring to the team, than nobody already on the roster should get in the way of that.
I personally wouldn't take Bennett as I don't think an undersized scoring forward who brings nothing defensively is what we want.
It's a lot harder to pin the potential targets for the Suns' second pick, but we've tried to do our best. Ricky Ledo, Tony Snell and Tony Mitchell have already been broken down by our staff. Now it's my turn to take a stab at two more players that could be on the Suns' radar.
Allen Crabbe just straight up gets buckets.
A year after California lost the Pac-12 player of the year in Jorge Gutierrez to graduation, Allen Crabbe stepped up his game and became the Pac-12 player of the year himself. He and teammate Justin Cobbs were responsible for creating the vast majority of California's offense this year, and Crabbe's ability to take on that role while still maintaining efficiency is impressive.
Crabbe is a scorer in the mold of a Kyle Korver or a Rip Hamilton, a sharp-shooter that uses screens and cuts to get off shots. His efficiency is already pretty good as it is, but with a smaller role and less defensive attention he should be even more deadly. The Suns desperately need scoring and perimeter shooting on the wing, and Crabbe would be a great fit if he were to fall all the way to the end of the first round.
Glen Rice Jr. is the most unique case in this year's class. Rice got kicked off the Georgia Tech basketball team following his junior season after multiple suspensions. Rather than transfer to another school or enter the 2012 NBA Draft, Rice decided to enter the NBA D-League draft in order to recoup his image and revive his draft stock.
*Averaged 29 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 4 APG, 3 SPG and 3 BPG in two game D-League Finals (won championship)
After a productive year free of any off the court issues Rice is ready to make the jump to the big leagues.
Rice is a NBA-ready scorer and would be a solid fit for the Suns at No. 30. He appears to have moved on from his college immaturity which is the stem of his red flags. If Rice is available, he'd be a great pick for the Suns for many of the same reasons that I outlined above with Crabbe.
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:
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.
Height: 6' 4.25"
Wingspan: 6' 9.25"
Verticle (Max): 42"
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!
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.
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.
Height: 6' 6"
Wingspan: 6' 7.25"
Verticle (Max): 33.5"
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.
Combine Interview (courtesy of Draft Express)
Draft Workout Preparation(courtesy of SLAM Magazine)
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.