“He’s got that unique skill of scoring. “ — Phoenix Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek on T.J. Warren Strengths Of all the players expected to hear their name called on June 26, Warren,...

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Today's Suns workout was headlined by T.J. Warren, Elfrid Payton, and Arizona's Nick Johnson.

Today, the Phoenix Suns worked out a group of prospects with mixed rankings, headlined by T.J. Warren (PF, North Carolina St.) and Elfrid Payton (PG, Louisiana Lafayette) who both have the potential to be mid to late first round picks.

T.J Warren is a tremendously skilled scorer with a bevy of moves, and an ability to make shots from anywhere on the court.  However, in and around the paint is where Warren is at is best.  He is very comfortable scoring in a multitude of ways, with great touch, good ball-handling, and probably the best floater of any player his size.  He was the third leading scorer in the nation, averaging nearly 25 points, while also contributing about 7 rebounds per game as well.  Other than Doug McDermott, Warren is the most skilled forward in the draft this year.  And like Doug, the biggest knock on him is his average athletic ability, and his status as a "tweener".  However, Warren uses his strength and skill to complement his inside game, and is very comfortable scoring off of post-ups...which can help him make the transition to the next level.

Elfrid Payton is one of the most intriguing prospects in the draft.  He possesses great size and length at the point guard position, and off-the-charts athleticism as well.  Payton is known for his defensive ability, as well as his knack for getting to the rim, and scoring in transition.  He is also aggressive on defense, averaging two steals per game in his junior season, which he also does a great job at converting into fast break dunks and lay-ups.  He is also a good passer and  His biggest knock is his shooting, which is still very inconsistent...especially from three, where he shot an abysmal 25% last season.  However, Payton possesses the raw physical talent, defense, and play-making ability that make him stand out amongst his peers.  He certainly fits the mold of the McDonough point guards of the past.

The other noteworthy prospect in today's workout is Arizona's own Nick Johnson.  The Tempe native was a three-year starter for the University of Arizona, and led the team in scoring his junior year averaging 16.3 points per game, while also grabbing over four rebounds, and dishing out nearly three assists as well.  Johnson played mainly off the ball as a shooting guard in college, and will likely be used as more of a scoring combo guard in the NBA.  He is an excellent defender, named to the PAC-12 all-defensive team, and  a phenomenal athlete. He is undersized at the shooting guard position, but can stay in front of his man with excellent agility.  He is also extremely quick and explosive, and a smart player as well.  He certainly fits the up-tempo style of play that the Suns use, and could be a tremendous value in the second round.

Here is the full list of today's participants, along with their information:

Prospect Profiles:

Other Workout Notes:

  • Archie Goodwin was once again in attendance, and ran the three-minute drill with the prospects.  This time, he had competition as Nick Johnson paced him for the majority of the drill.  Archie pulled ahead at the end though, eventually finishing with 28.5 laps to Johnson's 28.  Still, good showing by Nick Johnson to give Archie the best competition I've seen thus far.
  • Remember Alex Oriakhi?  He was the Suns' second round pick from last season who spent the past year playing overseas.  Well, he was also in the gym today, hanging out during the workouts in full practice gear.  He didn't participate during the media session, but it looked like he had been practicing as well...judging by the sweat-drenched apparel.  Not sure what the plans for him will be, but it was good to see him there.


Ryan McDonough

On Nick Johnson

"Looked good...His stroke looked really good.  He shot the ball well.  He's one of the more explosive guys, one of the better leapers we've had in.  He did very well in the conditioning drill at the end.  Overall a good performance for him.  I think his versatility makes him easier to evaluate.  As for his role, I think like most rookies he would come off the bench at first, be able to shoot the ball and put some points on the board.  Defensively he's got some pretty good strength.  He is a little undersized at the shooting guard position, but he's tough, strong, athletic, and well-conditioned.  All of those things help make up for being a little bit undersized. "

On T.J. Warren

"It would be hard not to be impressed with how he scored.  He was the number one conference player of the year.  He really carried his team at times.  It was impressive, not only that he scored, but that he did it efficiently as well."

On Elfrid Payton

"He showed some nice things...length, athleticism, and playmaking.  Another very productive guy that had to do a lot for his team.  A guy like that you get to see more of what he can do on film, the whole package, because he had to do a little bit of everything unlike guys from the powerhouse teams with a lot of good players around them who might be into a certain role.  He's got good length.  He's thin but he's wiry-strong.  I think as he get's older he'll fill out and get stronger.  He's got pretty good instincts.  He got his hands on a number of balls today, using his length to reach in and poke the ball away...I think he'd be able to come in an NBA game and pressure guys right away and give them a hard time."

Jeff Hornacek

On Nick Johnson

"He's strong, athletic, and can really shoot the ball.  He shoots it easy.  We try to wear the guys out and see how they shoot when they're tired, and it didn't even look like he got tired.  I think that strength really helps him.  He'll probably have to play some point, a little bit of a combo because of his size. He's a guy that gets up and down, if he plays off the ball he'll be ready to spot-shoot it. He can be very good at that."

On Elfrid Payton

"He's got a great knowledge of the game.  He makes great passes.  His shooting was better than what we anticipated.  He was another guy that didn't get tired.  When he went through the scrimmage part of the three-on-three, there was no tiredness, he wants to play.  he showed how he can handle pick-and-rolls, and make passes out of that...he's very good at that.  He's projected to be a first round pick, and you can see why."

On T.J. Warren

"He has a unique skill of scoring.  Watching tape, he looks kind of methodical looking.  But because of that, he knows great positioning.  When he makes a move and he sees the opening, then he explodes.  He got hacked pretty good, and he still was able to be strong enough to finish it off.  The question for him wasn't the scoring part, it was the defense.  I thought he did a great job defensively. Getting his hand on the ball, he was better than I anticipated form watching tape."

T.J. Warren

On fit with the Suns

"Their style fits my game pretty well.  Their able to get out in transition and run the floor every chance they get.  Transition and fast breaks that's my game, I can get up and down and run."

Elfrid Payton

On ability to defend in the NBA

"I think it's going to be a little bit different but not much.  I have a good skill set, long arms...I'm pretty quick with my hands.  I think it will be an easy adjustment."

Nick Johnson

On playing at home

"I actually practiced in this gym when I was eight or nine, with Rex Chapman, so it’s good to be back.  I was here when we had the squad...Steve Nash, Joe Johnson, Quentin Richardson, Amare...It was definitely one of the most exciting arenas in the NBA, and this year they got it back.  I would love to play at home.  They had a great team this year, and I think I can be that piece to add to the puzzle."

On his NBA position

"I think I'm both (guard positions). I think it's a benefit that I played the two in college, and I have that experience.  I can guard both positions.  I think it's something that's a plus in my game."

Another workout coming tomorrow.  The rumors are that Adreian Payne will be one of those in attendance...stay tuned.

Strengths At the point guard position, Elfrid Payton’s defense is as good as it gets in this NBA Draft. The 6-foot-3 point guard out of Louisiana Lafayette was the 2013-14 Lefty Driesell National...

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After the conclusion of the Conference Finals the contest has become a two participant race. Even if you're pretty sure you're not one of those two (you know who you are) check out how you did.

Miami Heat over Indiana Pacers 4-2

My train of thought was that the Indiana Pacers were going to get right beating up crappy teams on their way to the Conference Finals and give the Heat, who I think is very vulnerable, everything they could handle. My cogitation proved pitifully inaccurate. After Indiana stole game one the Heat took control by closing out game two in the fourth quarter en route to opening up a 3-1 series lead.

Indiana's vaunted pathetic defense allowed Miami to shoot .510 from the field and .408 from three point range during the series. Don't let the point totals fool you, Indiana managed to slow the game down to skew those numbers. Miami absolutely torched them with an offensive rating of 118 points per 100 possessions. Roy Hibbert really failed to duplicate his impressive playoff performance from the previous season. After averaging 17 points and 9.9 rebounds a game in the 2012-13 postseason he only managed 9.3 and 5.5 this year. Lance Stephenson, meanwhile, is venturing into Ron Artest/Dennis Rodman territory with his bizarre tactics intended to fluster LeBron James. I was really hoping for a wet willy.

Even though the Heat seemed to float through this series and flip the switch when needed, especially when the games were close late, I don't think this incarnation is on the same level as previous years. If they played in the Western Conference I really doubt they make it to the Finals. The current playoff format sucks.

San Antonio Spurs over Oklahoma City Thunder 4-2

This was kind of a weird series. At first it looked like the Spurs were headed to a sweep as they dominated the Thunder with it's All-NBA defensive star Serge Ibaka supposedly sidelined for the rest of the playoffs.  Then Ibaka returned for game three, playing miraculously well, and Oklahoma City was right back in the mix. After perplexingly being boat raced in game five the Thunder very nearly forced a game seven. That would have been great tv, even though the Spurs would have (nearly) undoubtedly won.

It turns out the Spurs are just a better team. They play a great system and move the ball around with beauty. Meanwhile the Thunder just run a two man (or one man at times) game with Durant and Westbrook. The "plan" is for them to be forced to create offense with very limited options surrounding them. Basically super hero ball. Just give the ball to those two and expect their talent to overwhelm the opponent. The Spurs really exposed that Oklahoma City needs a tertiary scorer (I don't count Ibaka) in their starting lineup. Some kind of legitimate three point threat would be great (imagine Gerald Green on the Thunder).

What was truly awesome was that Boris Diaw was the MVP of the series (if I'm voting). Once he confidently accepted his role the series was over. Diaw has really frustrated me for most of his career. He has stretches where he plays like this and then others where he, well, doesn't. I really thought after his Most Improved Player award back in 2005-06 he was going to be a force in this league, but he's never been able to duplicate that consistency. I, for one, am happy he has a chance to play a prominent role on a championship contender... even if it is the Spurs.

I begrudgingly accept the Spurs dominance and longevity, and even admire the grace of the excellent team basketball they play, but won't everyone be really happy when if they finally fall off their perch and give everyone else a chance? The Spurs and Lakers have combined for 9 of the last fifteen championships and have gone to 12 of the NBA Finals. At least the Lakers fell off the edge of the earth last season, but I've grown tired of thinking about the Suns trying to get past them every year (Phoenix hasn't had much luck)...

NBA Finals Prediction

Oh well.  I've got the Spurs in five. Everybody leave your predictions and thoughts below.

Current Standings


Like the caption referenced, it's down to two.

If the Spurs win jack's complete lack of surprise will take the crown. If the Heat win it goes to jomerfrancicso. Kris picked the Thunder to win it all, which obviously takes him out of the picture. Meanwhile, TheAlexSkinner picked the Heat in six just like jomerfrancisco, so there's no way for him to make up the extra point.

So there you have it, our champion will be determined when the NBA Champion is determined.

Closing Dig

From Dictionary.com

Bosh - absurd or foolish talk; nonsense.

He also looks like an ostrich.

Also, it appears that Lionel Mandrake has changed his user name to Rollin J. Mason in an attempt to avoid the infamy associated with his putrid performance.

P.S. That wasn't really the reason (I don't think), but I've been having fun deriding him.

Dario Saric has been coveted by the NBA since he was 15. Now he is closer than ever to being an NBA player, and no prospect has a higher offensive ceiling than Saric in this draft.

Croatian Dario Saric has been a wanted man for the last five seasons - wanted in the NBA as a sweet-shooting and scoring big man in the mold of Dirk Nowitzki and Toni Kukoc.

It's a big question of when he will join the NBA. He is 20 years old now, but still has hinted he wants more seasoning in Europe before playing with the big boys in the US. At the moment, Saric is a little light for traditional power forward and just a bit slow for small forward in terms of defense.

But on offense, Saric is a load that very few can stop. He has a high motor and scores very well in transition, passing as well as scoring himself. He also rebounds at a high rate at the other end. If a team can hide his man-on defensive issues, he could be a really great NBA player.

The basics

  • Height: 6'10"
  • Wingspan: 6'10"
  • Weight: 223 pounds
  • 15.4 points, 9.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game in Adriatic League (5th in PER)
  • Strengths: Very high basketball IQ, shooting, passing, scoring creativity from anywhere, transition, rebounding
  • Weaknesses: not strong in post defense of PFs, might be too slow to defend SFs, might be too slow to defend the pick-and-roll
  • Been a closely watched prospect since he was 15, and still may not come over to the NBA this season without a big buyout


For years, scouts have been trying to compare Saric to another Euro who came over to the NBA to dominate. There are legitimate comparisons to Toni Kukoc, except that Kukoc was much more skilled as a passer/facilitator and had a much longer pedigree when he joined the NBA. Kukoc was drafted in 1990 by the Bulls, but did not come to the NBA until 1993 after the Bulls had won their first three NBA championships. Throughout the 90s, Kukoc won several European Basketball Player of the Year awards.

There are also comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki but the German was much more of a scorer for Wurzburg, putting up 19 and 28 ppg in his last two years (as a 17 and 18 year old). In 1998, Nowitzki scored 33 points on 6-of-12 shooting, pulled down 14 rebounds and had 3 steals for the internationals.

So, Saric does not have the track record of either Nowitzki or Kukoc, but he does have many of the same skills - passing, shooting, scoring and very high basketball IQ. Another comp could be Boris Diaw.

Scouting Reports

  • DraftExpress: Despite showing excellent fluidity and coordination for a player his size, its Saric's skill-level, creativity and feel that makes him unique, and not amazing athleticism. His basketball IQ is simply off the charts, as his knowledge and understanding of the game is extraordinary relative to his age. The place where that's most visible is in his passing ability, as he does a great job of seeing the floor and making teammates better, aided greatly by the outstanding vantage point he enjoys at his size. He played almost exclusively at power forward the past two seasons, and even if he's gotten stronger, it will be difficult for him to match up inside the paint with some of the stronger players he'll encounter at that position in the NBA. Opposing players shot 49% from the field against Saric in post-up situations this season according to Synergy Sports Technology.Role and fit are arguably as important for Saric as any player in this draft. Having a coach that is willing to put the ball in his hands and utilize his many strengths will be a huge key, as its unlikely that he'll be happy playing exclusively off the ball, where his shortcomings as a perimeter defender and shooter will become even more glaring. A fiery competitor, Saric's body language already leaves something to be desired at times (he's quick to point fingers at teammates or complain), so there's always the risk that he could simply get up and go back to Europe if he isn't happy with his situation.
  • NBADraft.net: At 6'10 it is very hard to find anyone in the world with the skills he possesses to play with or without the ball anywhere on the court. Saric would have a much better NBA outlook if not for his lack of foot speed and athleticism ... His quickness and elevation might be enough to finish in Europe, but without the ability to finish above the rim, things will likely prove more difficult for him in the NBA.
  • NBADraftInsider.com: Physically Saric has the size to play either the three or the four at 6-10 223 lbs. He needs to add considerable strength to play the four consistently at the next level. With his deceptive speed, ball-handling, and shooting he creates match-up difficulties for traditional fours that play more in the paint with strength and size.

Suns Draft Potential

Could Saric be a guy the Suns target to play combo forward? His ceiling is higher than Marcus Morris, and he could be an unstoppable facilitator from the small forward position.

But Saric is not a pure two-way player, even though he rebounds well. GM McDonough likes two-way players, though he was part of the front office that drafted Jared Sullinger in 2012. Sullinger was also known as a scorer and rebounder without the quick feet to defend at a high level.

Maybe Saric's incredible scoring and facilitating ability will far outweigh his deficiencies on D.

Video Profile - DraftExpress

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