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Every single draft since the advent of NBA Drafts has produced at least one All-Star within five years. Sometimes that All-Star wasn't picked until #10 overall (2010, Paul George). Sometimes, there's an All-Star as late as #21 overall (2006, Rondo). There have even been All-Star caliber players drafted as late as the second round.

The most unpredictable NBA Draft in many years will begin just hours from now. The 2013 NBA Draft offers no projected superstars, nor even any sure-fire All-Stars.

Yet there almost certainly will be an All-Star or two in this draft. Those players may not go #1 overall or #2 overall. Teams often outthink themselves, while other under-think it.

There will be mistakes in the top 10 this year. At least one top-ten player will be an NBA dud. Maybe even three or four of them.

Yet there will be gems too. And it's new GM Ryan McDonough's job to find those gems. He found Rondo in 2006 and Avery Bradley in 2010, both with nothing more than late draft picks.

In his first year running a draft as the head decision-maker, McDonough has reportedly narrowed his choices down to what I call the "Elite Eight".

Let's examine the draft board and try to identify them.

Definitely in the "Elite Eight"

McDonough said he could not rule out a single player from his draft board, so we have to include the top two talents in the Draft: Nerlens Noel and Ben McLemore.

Both fits needs on the Suns (meaning, they play basketball well) and would be solid building blocks on which to lay the foundation of the next generation of Phoenix Suns.

Both are young (Noel is 19, McLemore is 20) with a lot of projectable upside.

Noel could be the next Tyson Chandler - a great defensive force around whom to build a title contender. As young as he is, his offensive game may still develop into something dangerous as well. Noel's red flags are injury related - not only is he out until January while recovering from a terrible knee injury, his tooth-pick legs appear to get for more injuries in the future. Yet stick-figures have survived just fine in the NBA throughout history. In fact, the heavier 7-footers are the ones with more injury issues, historically speaking.

McLemore could be the next Ray Allen - a hugely valuable second option or third option on a winner who can always be counted on to make tough jumpers thanks to perfect form and consistency. McLemore's red flags are that he is not a natural leader, and he surrounds himself with questionable advisors. Refusing to work out against other top guards just fed the perception that he isn't competitive enough to carry a team.

We also have to include Victor Oladipo

Oladipo has enjoyed a meteoric rise since the end of his sophomore year. A year ago, he wasn't even a first-round pick, and maybe not a second rounder either.

But after a wildly successful junior season, there's been talk of Oladipo going #1 overall and being the target of just about every trade-up scenario in the rumor mill over the past month. GMs love this guy because of his heart, athleticism and skills. He is a true two-way player. Oladipo's down side is that he may have peaked already, and that his offensive skillset may never produce more than 12 points per game and certainly won't be a late-game option with the ball in his hands to shoot or drive. He is a complementary player that everyone loves to have on their team.

Definitely, Maybe

After those three, the next probable player in the Elite Eight is Alex Len.

The 7-footer hasn't worked out for anyone due to a stress fracture in his foot, but his stock is rising like Oladipo's. He is surpremely gifted athletically as a 7-footer who has all the game to become the best player from this draft. However, there's no telling if he's the next Darko Milicic or Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Forgive me for only comparing him to foreign players, but that's all I got this morning.

That makes four pretty-sure inclusions in the Elite Eight.

Probably not, but you never know

Otto Porter is one of the most talented players available, but he refused to come to Phoenix for even an interview. McDonough said last week it would be tough to draft a guy if he refused to visit, but that he wouldn't rule it out. I personally think he's more likely to draft a guy who falls to a later pick than take someone at 5 who didn't even bother to hop on a plane.

However, if those top four (Noel, McLemore, Oladipo, Len) are off the board with the top 4 picks, can you really pass on Porter? He compares favorably to other successful small forwards in the NBA and will most likely be a very good pro who just isn't prolific enough to be an All-Star but won't be on the street in a few years either.

Let's put him on the list of the Elite Eight, with the caveat that someone else may trump him when the Suns have to make a pick. No way he's being excluded from consideration.

Maybe

We have three spots left in the Elite Eight and about 72 prospects who visited Phoenix in the past month to choose from.

Michael Carter-Williams was the only one who let slip that he was headed back to Phoenix this week for a second visit. That isn't to say MCW was alone, it just means that he was the only one who tweeted anything about it.

Still, you have to include the big PG in the conversation at 5, though I think (guess) the Suns are really looking at him for a second lotto pick in case he falls down the board in lieu of more exciting, younger prospects.

This leaves two spots for the Elite Eight.

My guess: C.J. McCollum and Cody Zeller.

Both have been linked to the Suns and both might be gone by the 10th pick in the draft. If the Suns want either of them, they can't expect either to be available unless they take the guy at 5 or acquire another pick in the 7-10 range.

Zeller, only 19, was a preseason #1 candidate as a mobile center who could transition to stretch-4 or play the center position in a wide open offense. Also, he can score near the basket, unlike most Suns players on the front line.

McCollum, 22, is the next best guard available after McLemore and Oladipo. He fills a multi-year need for scoring and playmaking at the guard position and could easily play next to Dragic and/or run the ship when Dragic rests. And, he's one of the few prospects who could average 20 points per game in the NBA.

If the top 4 are off the board, I can easily see the Suns taking McCollum over Porter, Zeller or MCW, or any other top 10 prospect.

My "Elite Eight" list

  1. Noel
  2. McLemore
  3. Oladipo
  4. Len
  5. McCollum
  6. Porter
  7. Carter-Williams
  8. Zeller

Comparing 2012 to 2013 - Shooting Guards

Our own Kris Habbas gave me his list of best shooting guards in the last two drafts. Remember that four of them went in the first twelve picks last year.

  1. Beal (3rd in 2012)
  2. McLemore
  3. Oladipo
  4. Waiters (4th in 2012)
  5. ...Drop-Off... Lamb (12th in 2012)
  6. McCollum (PG/SG)
  7. Franklin
  8. Muhammad
  9. Caldwell-Pope
  10. Ross (8th in 2012)
  11. Rivers (10th in 2012)

Extra points from Kris

Last years class had a few more scorers with the ball in their hands in Waiters and Rivers that can get their own buckets. It also featured two great athletes that can shoot, finish athletically, and struggle to put the ball on the floor.


This year there are more of the off ball scorers in McLemore, Oladipo, Caldwell-Pope, and Muhammad. Then there is McCollum (a point guard) who I consider to be the best scorer in the draft with the ball in his hands. Franklin (and to a lesser extent Oladipo) can score with the ball, but this group to take it even deeper with Bullock, Crabbe, Ledo, and Snell are more off-ball scorers.


Interesting thought:
Lamb = McLemore
Waiters = Oladipo

Both of those are in terms of offensive style. The scary thing with McLemore is that he could be equal to Lamb or Ross at the next level or a great scorer like Rudy Gay off the ball

There you go, folks...

What say you? Who's your Elite Eight, to be considered at 5?

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I'm going to be really clear here. I do not want Nerlens Noel to fall to the Suns. I just don't see that kid as having that good of an NBA career. The reasons have been well-hashed: too small, no offense, questionable knee. But if you are the Suns and Noel is still in the Green Room when the fifth pick is on the clock, would you really pass on him?

Here's where this is all coming from:

The Cavaliers are choosing between Nerlens Noel and Alex Len at No. 1. If they pick Len, Noel could drop to Suns at No. 5.

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 27, 2013

I can tell you that our SB Nation Cavs bloggers at Fear the Sword are in love with Noel and are not looking forward to the possibility of Cleveland passing on him. They've done a lot of thinking. And watching. And talking. And praying (probably). And have concluded that the Kentucky defensive big is worth the top selection.

I just don't see it. Do you? Would you be happy if the Suns took Noel fifth?

Fortunately, for me anyway, the latest Mock Drafts still have Noel going first...but there's certainly uncertainty there.

2013 NBA Mock Draft: The Cavaliers, our final frontier of mystery - SBNation.com
Thanks for keeping it fun, Cleveland, but it's time to come to Calipareezus and pick NerNo.

2013 NBA draft - Chad Ford Mock Draft 7.0 - ESPN
General manager Chris Grant has been a Nerlens Noel guy all year. Other people in the front office are pushing for Len. I even heard, somewhat convincingly, that owner Dan Gilbert loves Oladipo!

DraftExpress: Mock Draft
NBA Draft scouting reports, mock drafts, articles on NBA Draft Prospects. Extensive high school, NCAA and international NBA draft coverage.

Full Suns Draft Coverage HERE

Full NBA Draft Coverage HERE

Full Prospect Scouting Reports HERE

Noel scouting report:

NBA Draft 2013: Nerlens Noel scouting report - SBNation.com
Nerlens Noel is seen as the likely No. 1 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, but there are questions about his health and game. Is he worthy of the top choice?

Poll
If Noel is on the board when the Suns pick 5th, would you want him in Phoenix Orange and Black (and some purple maybe)?

  303 votes | Results

If you’ve yet to figure it out yet, the 2013 NBA Draft doesn’t make sense. Put the microscope on the Phoenix Suns, and it’s pretty well-received throughout the basketball world that...

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No. 5

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, PF, UNLV

  • 6-foot-7
  • 239 pounds
  • 7-foot-1 wingspan

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):

Per Game Statistics
Games MPG FGM FGA FG% 3PM 3PA 3P% FTM FTA FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
35 27.1 5.8 10.8 .533 1.0 2.7 .375 3.5 5.1 .701 8.1 1.0 0.7 1.2 1.9 2.3 16.1

Advanced Statistics
PER TS% eFG% ORB% DRB% TRB% AST% STL% BLK% TOV% USG% PProd ORtg DRtg OWS DWS WS WS/40
28.3 .609 .580 10.3 21.8 16.3 8.8 1.5 4.6 12.3 27.5 488 117.6 89.3 3.5 2.3 5.7 .240

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.

Strengths
  • Strength and length - Bennett has a wide body and broad shoulders with which he is able to clear out space down low to score around the rim and pull down rebounds on both ends of the court; he also has a 7-foot-1 wingspan which allows him to be effective despite being a less than ideal height
  • Athleticism - Bennett has a shoulder injury and sat out the athletic testing at the combine so we aren't sure of the numbers; however, watching him play it's clear the man is a plus athlete; he's an explosive dunker in the paint and has a very quick first step
  • Shooting touch - Bennett has a good stroke that extends out beyond the 3-point line; he has good elevation on his shot and nice form and can shoot it over the defense pretty easily
  • Offensive rebounding - Bennett isn't a dominant rebounder, but he can be a force on the offensive glass when he chooses to crash it; his strength and athleticism allows him to secure position, elevate to grab the ball and either finish with a tip-in or a dunk
Weaknesses
  • Effort - doesn't give max effort; doesn't always fight hard for position, sets lazy screens
  • Defense - horrible defender; poor fundamentals, poor awareness, poor effort and undersized
  • Shot selection - settles for bad jumpers fairly often
  • Post game - only post move is a turn-around jumper; doesn't have a hook shot with either hand and doesn't use advanced footwork
  • Numbers padded in weak nonconference schedule; wasn't nearly as productive or consistent against MWC competition

Summary

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.

No. 30

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, SG, California

  • 6-foot-6.25
  • 197 pounds
  • 6-foot-11.25 wingspan
  • 36-inch max vertical

Allen Crabbe just straight up gets buckets.

Per Game Statistics
GP MPG FGM FGA FG% 3FGM 3FGA 3FG% FTM FTA FT% TRB AST STL BLK TO PF PTS
31 33.8 4.5 10.1 .446 2.0 5.0 .100 2.4 3.0 .804 5.3 2.0 0.9 0.5 1.5 1.5 13.4
34 34.1 5.3 12.2 .431 2.4 6.1 .399 2.2 2.6 .843 5.7 2.1 0.5 0.6 1.6 1.4 15.2
33 36.2 6.5 14.2 .459 1.9 5.6 .348 3.4 4.2 .813 6.1 2.6 1.1 0.7 2.5 2.1 18.4

Advanced Statistics
PER TS% eFG% ORB% DRB% TRB% AST% STL% BLK% TOV% USG% PProd ORtg DRtg OWS DWS WS WS/40
18.0 .582 .545 2.4 15.9 9.5 12.2 1.6 1.5 11.5 19.6 371 114.6 104.6 2.3 1.0 3.4 .129
19.7 .564 .531 3.5 16.5 10.3 12.2 0.9 1.8 10.4 23.1 461 114.3 95.2 3.0 2.1 5.2 .178
22.3 .568 .528 3.3 14.8 9.4 16.2 1.9 1.9 13.5 26.6 548 110.8 97.3 3.3 1.9 5.2 .173

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.

Strengths
  • Shooting - Crabbe can light it up from all over the court; he's a tremendous catch-and-shoot player with range beyond the NBA arc; can knock down shots with or without a hand in his face; also has a reliable floater he uses in the lane and can pull up and hit over the defense
  • Basketball IQ - knows how to get buckets; uses screens as well as anyone in the draft, knowing when to flare and curl to get open
  • Measurables - good size and quickness for an NBA shooting guard and adequate athleticism
Weaknesses
  • Strength - weighed in at less than 200 pounds; wiry but could add some muscle to hold his own defensively and finish better offensively
  • Ball-handling - terrific off the ball but lacks advanced ball-handling skills and struggles to create off the bounce
  • Defense - lack of elite athleticism and focus hurts him on this end (although I think he'll improve with a smaller load offensively and good coaching)

    Summary

    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., SG/SF, Rio Grande Valley/Georgia Tech

    • 6-foot-5.75
    • 211 pounds
    • 6-foot-9.25 wingspan
    • 40.5-inch max vertical

    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.

    Georgia Tech Career Per Game Statistics
    GP MP FGM FGA FG% 3FG 3FGA 3FG% FTM FTA FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
    87 24.8 3.6 8.4 .435 1.1 3.3 .346 1.5 2.4 .611 4.8 2.1 1.3 0.5 1.9 2.2 9.9

    Georgia Tech Career Advanced Statistics
    PER TS% eFG% ORB% DRB% TRB% AST% STL% BLK% TOV% USG% PProd ORtg DRtg OWS DWS WS WS/40
    19.3 .520 .503 7.5 15.1 11.2 18.8 3.0 2.4 16.4 23.0 859 104.3 95.1 3.6 4.1 7.7 .142

    RGV Per Game Statistics as a Starter
    GS MPG 2FG% 3FG% FT% REB AST PTS
    25 31 .560 .430 .760 8.0 2.5 18.0

    *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.

    Strengths
    • Athleticism - very explosive athlete and has a strong frame which allows him to finish around the basket well
    • Shooting stroke - Not quite as good of a shooter as his dad, but he's still a very good shooter who can hit while spotting up as well as off the dribble
    • Overall scoring ability - can score in a variety of ways: in transition, attacking the basket off the dribble, in the post, as a catch-and-shooter and an off-ball slasher
    • Experience - spent the last year playing, an having success against, grown men; shorter learning curve to adjust to the NBA game
    Weaknesses
    • Character concerns - multiple suspensions in college, legal problems, kicked off the team; overall immaturity
    • Defense - lack of foot speed; lack of effort; coasts on athleticism on the boards

    Summary

    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.

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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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