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According to the consensus of all the mock drafts I've scoured over the past few months, there are six big men who could possibly be picked in the lottery portion of the coming NBA draft. While the Suns are currently in the 4th lottery position, we won't know for sure what pick they end up with until the lottery balls are drawn on May 21st...So anything is technically possible. Here are the big men candidates that could be considered depending on where the Suns end up.


1. Nerlens Noel: 6'11" 216 lbs, PF/C

Other measurables: 19 years old, 7'4" wingspan

Compares to: Larry Sanders/Dikembe Mutombo

Nerlens Noel is without question the most gifted, talented big man in the draft with the highest upside. He would have been the shoe-in for the first pick overall before a scary ACL injury that looked even worse than it ended up being. That said, many teams could still be willing to take a gamble on him and he still may end up being the number one pick. He's an excellent defender who knows how to challenge shots without drawing the foul, and has impeccable timing on his blocks. He's not quite to the level of Anthony Davis, but defensively he is very close. His offense is still very raw, but his elite athleticism (verticle reportedly between 39"-41") and physical tools still give him a leg up in this respect...he just needs to develop a jump shot. He's one of the few game-changers in this year's draft. If he's still available when the Suns end up picking I don't see them passing on him.

Stats last season:


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2012 - Nerlens Noel 24 31.9 4.1 6.9 59.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 2.3 4.3 52.9 2.7 6.8 9.5 1.6 1.9 2.1 4.4 2.6 10.5


2. Anthony Bennett: 6'8", 240 lbs, PF

Other measurables: 20 years old, 7'1" wingspan

Compares to: Paul Millsap/Larry Johnson

Don't let his size (or lack thereof) fool you. Anthony Bennett is every bit as much of a big man as any of his taller compatriots...and then some. Bennett is a powerful, bruising power forward who plays much bigger than his size. He's long, aggressive, and athletic for a big man; and he has some nice footwork in the post. He is also a very good rebounder as well. His biggest drawback is his inconsistency on both ends of the court at times. However, most analysts have him as the second ranked big man in this draft behind Noel, and I tend to agree. He also had rotator cuff surgery on his left shoulder this Wednesday. However this is not expected to impact his draft value.

Stats last season:


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2012 - Anthony Bennett 35 27.1 5.8 10.8 53.3 1.0 2.7 37.5 3.5 5.1 70.1 2.5 5.7 8.1 1.0 1.9 0.7 1.2 2.3 16.1


3. Alex Len: 7'1", 255 lbs, C

Other measurables: 19 years old, 7'5" wingspan

Compares to: Zydrunas Ilgauskas/Jonas Valanciunas

Alex Len is this year's Myers Leonard in my opinion...A physically enticing big man who hasn't shown dominance at the college level, but one who many scouts believe could progress into a cornerstone at the low post for the right NBA team. Alex Len hasgreat size and length, and a sturdy build. Still, he needs to add more strength at the next level as he has already had trouble being out-muscled at times by smaller opponents in college. Len's draft stock took a hit recently with an ankle surgery to correct a stress fracture that will now keep him out for the next four to six months. Prior to that he was a likely top 5-10 pick, but he may slide a bit now due to his injury.

Stats last season:


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2012 - Alex Len 38 26.4 4.6 8.5 53.4 0.0 0.2 12.5 2.8 4.0 68.6 2.9 5.0 7.8 1.0 1.6 0.2 2.1 2.7 11.9


4. Cody Zeller: 6'11.5", 240, PF/C

Other measurables: 20 years old, 6'8" wingspan

Compares to: Lamarcus Aldridge

Zeller is the most offensively skilled big man in the draft by a long shot. His ability to score from anywhere inside the perimeter makes him a tantalizing prospect in the NBA. Another less heralded quality is Zeller's athleticism, which is much more apparent than his brother Tyler Zeller, who was drafted 17th overall last year. His wingspan is short for his height, which is a little concerning...but he didn't seem to struggle with rebounding in college due to it; likely because of his agility and ability to position himself in the correct proximity. Cody Zeller is still developing as a player, but his NBA ready skill set could make him one of the best values in the lottery.

Stats last season:


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2012 - Cody Zeller 36 29.5 5.5 9.8 56.4 0.0 0.1 0.0 5.4 7.2 75.7 2.8 5.2 8.0 1.3 2.3 1.0 1.3 2.2 16.5


5. Mason Plumlee: 6'11", 245 lbs, PF/C

Other measurables: 23 years old, 6'10" wingspan

Compares to: Andris Biedrins

Mason Plumlee is one of the less talked about big men in the coming draft, and I'm not sure why. He's had a very good college career at Duke, and has shown great ability as a finisher and a rebounder. He is one of the more athletic big men in the draft, and his agility and quickness makes him a good candidate to play the four as well as the five at the next level, though he will have to improve his jumpshot in order to do so. He has improved every year as a Blue Devil, posting his best stats now as a senior with 17pts and 11rebs per game...though his ability was always apparent.

Stats last season:


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2012 - Mason Plumlee 36 34.7 6.1 10.3 59.9 0.0 0.0 0.0 4.8 7.1 68.1 2.8 7.2 10.0 1.9 2.9 1.0 1.4 2.6 17.1


6. Rudy Gobert: 7'2", 235 lbs, C

Other measurables: 20 years old, 7'9" wingspan!

Compares to:Samuel Dalembert

Meet Rudy, the dark horse of the potential big men who could be lottery picks this year. Gobert is a French player who measures in at a huge 7'2" tall, with a record breaking wingspan of 7'9" long! Not only are his measurements impressive, but he is also very athletic and explosive, and runs the floor very well. However, he is still extremely raw offensively and has to add bulk to his frame or he will get pushed around in the NBA. But there's no doubt the potential is definitely there, and he could end up being an absolute steal for a team willing to invest in him for the long term.

Stats last season:

Rudy_gobert_stats_medium


7. Kelly Olynyk: 7'0", 238 lbs, C

Other measurables: 22 years old

Compares to: Luis Scola/Fabricio Oberto

Olynyk was one of the most impressive big men in college this year, and at times almost single-handidly carried the Gonzaga Bulldogs to victory. Olynyk is a very skilled big man with a nice jump shot and some impressive footwork. He is also more athletic than most people seem to think, and is quick and agile for his size as well.


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2012 - Kelly Olynyk 32 26.4 6.7 10.7 62.9 0.3 0.9 30.0 4.1 5.3 77.6 2.4 4.9 7.3 1.7 2.4 0.7 1.1 2.3 17.8


Ultimately, who the Suns select with their first pick of the first round will have as much to do with when they end up picking as it will who they like. There's little question that Noel is the cream of the crop, but he may end up being drafted #1 overall, and if the Suns aren't lucky enough to win the lottery or at least move into the top 3, there's not much chance he'll be available.

However, no matter when the Suns end up in the lottery, If they want to draft a big man with their first pick, there are certainly going to be some pretty good players available. We'll know more about these players once the NBA Draft Combine begins on May 15th. There will certainly be risers and fallers depending on their performances there, but these are some of the names to keep an eye on.

22

For an in depth analysis of Ryan McDonough check out this story by Paul Flannery with SBNation. As Kris mentioned in the podcast, it's great suggested reading material if you haven't done so already.

Phoenix Suns Podcast Episode 22

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ESPN Insider Chad Ford has spent the past few years bashing the Phoenix Suns at every turn, dating back to 2008. I still remember a chat he hosted with three weeks to go in the regular season in 2010 when he predicted that the SUNS would be the team that dropped out of the playoffs before it was all said and done. Yes, that's the year the Suns charged to a 28-7 finish and the 3rd seed overall in the playoffs.

To be fair, Ford's been right on his non-playoff predictions every year since. But I won't forget that 2010 prediction. Still sticks in my craw.

Anyhoo, he's taken every opportunity to put down the Suns since then, so imagine my surprise when his draft prediction paragraph actually contained some neutral-to-positive commentary!

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Ford still has the Suns in the 4th position because the Draft Lottery has not happened yet. That's still scheduled for about two weeks from now. After that, the Suns would slot anywhere from #1 overall to #7 overall.

Until then, we're #4. And the Suns draft shooting guard Victor Oladipo!

Drafted ahead of Olidapo: PF-C Nerlens Noel, SG Ben McLemore and SF Otto Porter. All better players.

Drafted behind Olidapo (ie. guys the Suns could take instead, which will certainly contain at least one All-Star): Trey Burke, Anthony Bennett, Shabazz Muhammad, Alex Len, C.J. McCollum and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

That's your top 10 folks!

Not very inspiring, but if you're going to draft in the lottery this year, the top 4-5 players is where it's at.

It’s hard to find a bit of negative reaction to the Phoenix Suns’ decision to hire 33-year-old Ryan McDonough as the team’s general manager. After all, it’s easy to drink the...

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Judging Morris based on his peers

Six of the nine players taken directly after Morris appear to have long, successful careers ahead of them while Morris is looking more and more like a squandered draft pick.

Morris_medium

Stats via Basketball-Reference.com

This doesn't even include players such as Jimmy Butler (#30 first round), who just had 21 points and 14 rebounds in the Bulls' game one win at Miami, or Chandler Parsons (#38 second round), who absolutely puts Markieff to shame. The 2011 NBA draft was actually rife with solid players middle first round and below. Many of these players project as, or already are, starters. There may even be some potential all-stars, such as Faried, from this group.

Can Markieff progress and catch some of his draft class? Possibly. But it doesn't bode well that he is the oldest player on the above chart...

This glaring example of the Suns' ineptitude with the draft isn't Markieff's fault, though, so maybe another metric would be more valuable in gauging his performance. Which means another chart. I like charts.

Morris_2_medium

Stats via Basketball-Reference.com

This one ranks Morris against all the other power forwards in the league. As this delineates, Morris is near the bottom of the league in shooting and win shares. Keep in mind that there are only 97 power forwards on the list, and many of them are garbage players temporarily filling roster spots while galumphing their way out of the league, so that makes those rankings pretty alarming.

What is also disconcerting is that Morris doesn't even possess the rebounding prowess of a backup power forward (top 60). This was supposed to be one of Markieff's biggest strengths, as rebounding tends to translate well from college to the pros. It hasn't translated. After averaging 12.3 rebounds per 36 at Kansas, Morris managed to to pull down just 7.8 last season. Oh snap...

To insert some rainbows and bumblebees into my largely scathing review, Morris does rank out fairly well in ancillary stats to those that are traditionally associated with a power forward. His steals, blocks, assists and three point shooting all grade out pretty well.

My analysis of this data leads me to believe that Morris needs a lot of improvement to even become a serviceable backup in the NBA.

Grade: D

Speaking of improvement...

Judging Morris based on his improvement

Morris_3_medium

Stats via Basketball-Reference.com

Do these numbers appear correlative? That's because they are almost imperceptibly different. It would probably be easier to make an argument that Markieff has regressed than that he has evolved as a player. I'll just propound that he has remained static; like a stone gargoyle, but much less imposing.

Which makes the improvement... nonexistent. In a year that one would hope a young player would make leaps and bounds Morris has been unable to come close to matching any of those expectations.

One caveat. In April Markieff had what was easily the best five game stretch of his career, including a 20 point, 7 rebound, 6 block, 5 steal effort in the Suns home finale victory over the Houston Rockets. Maybe a lambent reason for hope?

Morris turns 24 this summer. That means he will turn 25 before the 2014-15 season when the Suns have their first team option year at ~$3 million. If there isn't salient amelioration marked improvement to his game it might make sense for the Suns to cut their losses and utilize their cap space on someone with a reasonable chance to grow/contribute more than Morris has thus far. This all assumes that Morris isn't moved or some other scenario plays out before then.

Grade: D-

Final analysis

Markieff Morris is not a good NBA player. The fact that he was given, and I do mean given, a sizable role on the Suns this past season is very telling in terms of how far the team has sunk. Morris would not get many minutes on most teams in the NBA. I had hoped for more, though not necessarily expected more, from Morris before the season. My hopes were dashed by his putrid performance.

During my preseason predictions I named Michael Beasley and Markieff Morris as the players to watch as a bellwether for the Suns' success. I said that if you told me how those two would perform I could tell you how the season would unfurl... I guess we all know how that worked out.

Bad player + no improvement = D (I was tempted to go with D-)

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