Hey everyone, here is the second video in my college players to watch during March Madness series. In this video I listed my four favorite small forwards and shooting guards (Harrison Barnes, Austin Rivers, Jeremy Lamb, and Bradley Beal) who I believe could be of interest to the Phoenix Suns in the up-coming draft.
Like I mentioned in my last post, with the draft still months away it's impossible to know exactly what direction the Suns will choose to go regarding the players they may be interested in. This purpose of this video is to identify some of my personal favorite shooting guards and small forwards in college this season that the Suns could pick in the first round. Unlike the point guards, all of these wings are projected to be first round picks due to the number of talent at the position this year, so I wanted to focus on the players that would likely make the biggest impact.
I believe all four of these players could be great additions to the Phoenix Suns for various reasons, and I believe that they are all going to be realistic possibilities for the Suns in the coming draft.
Read on after the jump to view the video...
One more thing...as I explain in the video, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is not featured in this compilation because he recently guaranteed that he will be returning to Kentucky next year instead of entering the draft. He is my favorite overall player at the wing position this season, but I didn't want to spend time covering a player that I knew would not be in this year's draft, so I spent that time focusing on the other players instead.
Take a look at the video below and let me know what you think!
Excuse the side note here, but as I'm rewatching the Phoenix Suns vs. Minnesota Timberwolves game from Monday night, I'm less concerned about the Suns and more impressed with the Wolves. That is a dangerous team with only a few holes to fill. With a couple of smart moves, they are going to be good for a long, long time.
Up front they have two bigs who can both score inside and Kevin Love gives you range as well to spread the floor. With Rick Adelman's offensive genius and Luke Ridnour's passing they clearly know exactly how to get the most out of those two playing off each other in the pick and roll. Add in Love's excellent passing either out of the double team or the high post and that's solid a solid tandem.
This team can attack you in the low post, from the high post with Love (playing the role Chris Webber filled in Sacramento) and in the pick and roll. That's impressive.
Pekovic can bang and defend on the defensive end while Love can focus on his rebounds. The two of them together are probably as good as Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.
When Rubio comes back, you have a great play-maker and chemistry guy who also is an above average defender. He might not shoot the ball well, but offense really isn't the issue on this team with Derrick Williams and J.J. Barea off the bench. Either of those guys are capable of changing games by taking advantage of opponents' second unit weaknesses.
The problem, obviously, is on the wings. Martell Webster, Wesley Johnson and Wayne Ellington all do pretty much the same thing and none of them are great defenders. Ellington is a good spot up three point shooter. Johnson has the ability to score but still looks a bit lost. Webster is a vet but seems to have lost his edge.
What they need is a lock down perimeter defender who can cover shooting guards and small forwards and is good enough that you can't completely ignore him at the three point line.
A guy like Trevor Ariza would be perfect for them. Shawn Marion as well. If the Wolves are shopping Michael Beasley as has been reported, they should definitely give the Hornets a call. Ariza, or a guy like him, makes that team top five in the West next year.
And now back to the Suns who have far more holes to fill.
Let me start by making two things very clear: First, this is a totally speculative discussion between two buddies shooting the breeze via email that we decided to open up to the greater communities of Suns and Celtics fans. Two: I don't advocate trading Robin Lopez.
As we've seen recently, and on occasions before, Lopez brings a unique combination of size, mobilty and physicality and while his playing time has been reduced by the emergence of Marcin Gortat, he's still a valuable player. The Magic were smart to keep Gortat when he was an RFA even though he was buried on the bench behind Dwight Howard. The Suns should do the same in my opinion.
However, I don't know how the Phoenix Suns front office views Lopez and with his restricted free agency coming up this summer, they may be inclined to move him now before the March 15 NBA Trade Deadline if they feel like they won't want to match offers this summer.
They should get something for him now instead of losing him for nothing later....IF they have evaluated the market and feel like Lopez will garner an offer sheet from another team this July that they won't match. Obviously, they don't know exactly what the market for Lopez will be, but Lon Babby prides himself on being prepared so there's no question that his staff has looked at this question with great detail.
IF they decide to move Lopez now, here's an idea that might make sense: Avery Bradley, the second year guard who was drafted 19th overall in 2010 by the Celtics. (Here's his basketbal-reference.com and Draft Express pages so you can look up his numbers.)
I threw this idea out to Jeff Clark from Celtics Blog to see what he thought. Here's our discussion:
I read where you need a center (or two) and Lord knows the Suns could use some young options to develop at the point guard position. But I really don't know much about Bradley other than he's more of a defender than scorer and doesn't seem to have much range either. Is he basically a young Rondo? What's up with this kid?
Robin will be an RFA this summer. He's had an inconsistent career in Phoenix but I still think with consistent playing time and a coach and team that believes in him that he can be a very good NBA player. His size is legit and when engaged properly, will give you energy and toughness on defense and shows occasional flashes on offense that are enough to tease you into believing that he could be a regular 10 ppg guy. He doesn't have the natural touch that his brother Brook (has), but he's far more active and physical and he's surprisingly good on the pick and roll. More than anything, I think Robin needs a change of scenery and a chance to play.
Who says no?
Jeff Clark: Only one question before I answer - can he rebound?
Seth Pollack: Rebounding? Is that important?
Look, his individual rebounding numbers aren't impressive but I've watched this guy since his rookie year and here's the deal -- he hits people and blocks out BEFORE going after the ball. Several times over the years I've calculated the Suns rebounding +/- with Robin on and off the court and the team always rebounds better when he's playing. This passes the eye test as well since you almost always see him find a body when the ball is in the air and usually that body is the other team's best boarder.
He doesn't have great instincts for the ball but he works HARD and hits people and doesn't care about his stats. Don't you call that, "UMBUNTA" or something?
Oh, and he's also BIG and tips balls volleyball fashion that don't always show on his stats.
Tell me more on Bradley. What's his deal?
Jeff Clark: Here's the deal with Bradley. I certainly wouldn't call him a young Rondo unless you are only focusing on the negative aspects of Rondo's game. Bradley simply isn't a floor general point guard (few are). Early in the year Doc even went so far as to say he was better suited at the 2. He's a shooting point guard who's super power is on the ball defense. The better comparible is Tony Allen with a little less height and a lot less crazy.
Like your boy Robin, the stats aren't going to tell the whole story here. He has struggled with his jump shot, but he's got very good form and he's gaining confidence in it day by day now that he's getting consistent playing time. He's also getting points off of back cuts and fast breaks off of turnovers.
He is sometimes used as a one-man full court press, which puts pressure on the opposing point guards and forces teams into shorter shot clock situations to run their offense. He's going to be in the league a long time just because of that defense.
He's a capable backup point guard and I think he's a nice fit behind Rondo. With that said, we desperately need a center and based on your scouting report, he might be a guy we could use. The rebounding still scares me but we are talking a youngish center that could contribute both now and for years to come then I'd at least have to think long and hard about it.
Shall we put it to our readers and see what they say (yay or nay)?
Seth Pollack: Let's do it. Everyone knows the fans are way smarter than the people running these teams.
The Suns started out the game well with the starting unit jetting out to an early lead thet they held throughout the first quarter behind the hot shooting of Jared Dudley and Steve Nash. However, Marcin Gortat picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter, and was replaced less than halfway in by Robin Lopez who played most of the minutes from that point on as Gortat couldn't stop picking up the fouls every time he entered the game.
For the Wolves, it was Nikola Pekovic who came out hot early on making the most of his opportunities to score when the Suns doubled Kevin Love; taking advantage of mismatches and late defensive rotations. The Suns' plan to shut down Love seemed to work, but Pekovic was more than willing to be the go-to scorer and he made the Suns pay. Pekovic scored 15 points in the first quarter alone before the Suns finally starting adjusting to him. Still, the Suns maintained a lead through the first quarter due to shooting 62% from the field, and led the Wolves 34-28 heading into the second quarter.
The Suns second unit struggled in the second quarter as the T-Wolves' bench thrived. First it was Michael Beasley who came out hot hitting his first three 3-pointers and starting out 6-7 from the field overall, scoring 15 points in the second quarter alone. Beasley's hot shooting was exacerbated by a back injury that forced Grant Hill to head into the locker room for most of the second quarter.
Derrick Williams and Wayne Ellington also joined the party off the bench as they each pumped in 12 points of their own as the Wolves bench exploded for 40 points in the first half. The T-Wolves outscored the Suns 35-22 in the second quarter to lead the Suns 63-56 at the half, and as our own Alex Laugan has pointed out, the second quarter has been able to predict the eventual outcome of the game with nearly 90% accuracy...So perhaps we should have seen this coming.
Read on after the jump for more...
The second half of the game started out well for the Suns as the starters once again took control with Jared Dudley shooting lights out from everywhere on the court and Grant Hill back on the floor to anchor the defense. The Suns briefly went up by as many as five points to lead 78-73 halfway through the quarter, but just when it started looking like the Suns would finally pull away, the T-Wolves came howling back with Wesley Johnson leading the charge scoring seven quick points to tie it back up. The lead went back and forth from there, but still, the Suns outscored the Wolves 34-29 in the third quarter and cut the lead to 92-90 heading into the fourth.
The fourth quarter was an all-out offensive showcase with both teams seemingly scoring at will. The score went back and forth with nearly every possession, and neither team ever led by more than four points at any time in the quarter. Sebastian Telfair tried his best to will the Suns to a victory early on in the fourth scoring 10 points in the first eight minutes before Nash replaced him with just four minutes left in the game. But Kevin Love was also hot for the Wolves in the fourth scoring thirteen points and keeping the T-Wolves in the game. The T-Wolves eventually pulled ahead by three points with 17 seconds left in the game before Gortat was fouled and sent to the line where he could have brought the Suns to within one. But as was the case all night, Gortat just couldn't put it together and missed both of his free throws with 12 seconds remaining, and the Wolves were able to hang on for the win.
Keys To The Loss:
Gortat's foul trouble was obviously the biggest contributing factor in last night's loss. Robin Lopez appeared to play fairly well in the first half, but he scored only two points in the second half totaling 10 points in 24 minutes and only grabbing only 3 rebounds. Lopez also had a -14, the lowest on the team. Conversely, Gortat actually scored 8 points, grabbed 4 rebounds, and had a +9 for his 19 minutes of play which was a team high. So if Gortat was able to stay in the game longer I'm pretty sure the result would have been different. Not only that, but Gortat just wasn't the same player when playing in foul trouble. It was obvious he was playing tentatively and was not nearly as effective as usual.
The Wolves front court tandem of Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic was more than the Suns bargained for. Love and Pekovic combined for 54 points and 15 rebounds, and shot 22-40 from the field at 55%. The Suns obviously had a game plan to stop Love early, and it almost worked. However, Pek and his teammates were ready to make the Suns pay for doubling Love in the post and they found Nikola early and often as he took advantage of all the attention being paid to his counterpart in the first half. Once the dust settled and the Suns finally adjusted, it was Love's turn to come on strong as he scored 23 points in the second half on mostly wide open threes that the Suns failed to defend.
The Wolves bench played great. As I pointed out in my game preview, the T-Wolves bench is chock full of talent but they are inconsistent at times, so you never know what you are going to get. Well last night the Suns got the brunt of the firepower of the Wolves' second unit, as Michael Beasley and Wayne Ellington scored 15 points a piece and Derrick Williams exploded for 19. The Wolves bench combined 52 points in all, but most of that damage was done in the second quarter when the Suns were without Grant Hill.
This was a tough loss for the Suns who had been playing so well since the All-Star break. Even in last night's loss, the Suns definitely played well enough to win but simply couldn't overcome some of their key setbacks. It was the perfect storm of various mishaps for the Suns which the T-Wolves were able to capitalize on. That's not to take anything away from the Timberwolves, they played excellent and deserved this win. But the Suns simply could not play to their usual strengths last night due to the foul trouble of Gortat and the injury to Grant Hill in the second quarter; both of which proved to be critical factors that ultimately helped decide the game in the end.
Don't hang your heads Suns' fans, this team is still on a roll and should be able to bounce back against Utah on Wednesday. This loss was a setback for sure, but this team is definitely playing at a much higher level than they were in the first half of the season. Let's see if they are resilient enough to rebound quickly and get a much needed win tomorrow!