Top 10 draft picks, everybody loves them but how good are they?

Let's start by stipulating that ALL NBA PLAYERS come from the draft. Duh. This isn't about draft vs. free agency vs. trades. We'll leave that for some other bar stool.

This is about being realistic about what to expect from those high lottery picks the Phoenix Suns are destined to accumulate over the next few years and as such, to properly gauge their value when it comes to thinking about using them in possible trades.

What we did with this thought experiment was look at all the players picked over the past five years in the top ten slots in the draft. That's fifty players for you math geniuses.

Then we ranked them.

We asked 11 NBA writers* from various markets to rank each player's potential on a scale of one to six:

1- Franchise Player; 2- All-Star; 3- Solid Starter; 4- Rotation Player; 5- Deep Bench; 6- Out of the League

The picks were then averaged in the chart below. Others have done similar research of draft picks using various statistical measures to rank players (which would have the same issues with young players). I prefer crowd sourcing. Get over it.

There are obviously some issues with the rankings.

Tyreke Evans in his rookie year would have easily been seen as a possible All-Star or even franchise player and he is now considered a "solid starter". Half-way through his rookie year, would Michael Beasley be considered a "deep bench" guy? No. Along those lines, will Andre Drummond will turn into an All-Star? John Wall? I doubt it, but they averaged out that high in their current rankings.

On the flip side, James Harden certainly wouldn't have ranked as a franchise guy until perhaps his second or even third year.

Evaluating young talent is hard even after the guys are in the league. It's even harder before they are drafted. Some teams are better than others but there's a huge element of luck involved.


(click to enlarge and read)

What does it all mean?

Here's what jumped out at me from this little game. I'm sure others will look at this and see different things. Opinions are wonderful!

- 36% of top ten picks project as Franchise or All-Star players. If your goal is to get these studs you are going to need more than one top ten pick since fully 64% (exactly and without fail or variation) will not get you anything you can't find elsewhere.

- None of these guys have won a ring and only Harden, Westbrook and Durant playing together (that's three franchise players on one team) reached the level of being a true contender (so far). Point is, young players take a long time to develop, especially when you have several of them as your core.

- To be even a decent playoff team -- forget contender -- you need several of these top tier players on your roster. The Suns, as Jim C. pointed out in an email, have no one that is or projects to be an All-Star unless you are REALLY high on Dragic....or just really high.

- I look at these names and think about the Pistons. They have two guys on this list (Monroe and Drummond) projecting as stars and a third guy (Knight) who looks like a solid starter. All three taken seven or higher. It's hard to argue they drafted poorly and yet they are still a bad team and look to be years away from being a threat to make it past the first round of the playoffs.

- Because of the vagaries and luck of the draft you need multiple high picks to get one of the studs and Phoenix needs several. That means the Suns will need perhaps four to six top ten picks over the next few years. Then, as we well know, it takes several years for young players to learn how to play and win in the NBA.

- Following a draft strategy, how many years away from the Suns from being a five seed in the West? I would guess six years. Fortunately, I doubt the Suns front office has the patience to wait that long.

Thanks to the following writers for providing their rankings: Kris Habbas, Akis Yerocostas, Jim Coughenour, Conrad Kaczmarek, Mike Levin, Patrick Harrel, Evan Dunlap, Chris Clark, Rich Hofman, Jesus Gomez.

20113 Mock Draft

Be sure to check out Kris Habbas' 2013 Mock Draft. Are there any franchise players here?


"We are in a bad spot right now."

That's Gentry talking about the team's current state of affairs, losers of 8 of their last 9 games and 16 of 21 overall since a 7-8 start to the season.The team is now 12-23 on the season.

Gone are the days of the easiest schedule in the league, which was the case in the first 20 games of the year based on their opponents' current winning percentage on the season. The Phoenix Suns have beaten only one team that is still above .500 right now (the Memphis Grizzlies).

But they have beaten 6 teams that were above .500 at the time of the game. So there's that. And they've played nearly every game down to the last few minutes of the fourth quarter, only to lose at the end.

"We've got to play with a little more confidence," he said yesterday in reaction to Luis Scola's comment that the team is almost expecting the worst now. "Not looking for the bad thing that's going to happen. As coaches, management, and as players, it all starts with confidence."

But bad things do happen. Like after a first quarter on Friday night that Gentry deemed "the best they played (offensively) all season" when everything just fell apart and never came back.

The team came into the Grizzlies game lacking confidence again last night when they started the game 2-for-14 with 4 turnovers. That's not going to get it done.

The guys are starting to realize that the season is already way down a slippery slope, and they have to fight to keep it together.

"The road can bring you together," Jared Dudley said, trying to grasp at anything. "But I don't know the stats, but we've lost something like 8 or 9 in a row."

He said it starts with the team captains, him and Jermaine O'Neal, to keep the team from falling apart.

It starts with Goran Dragic too.

"Goran's the point guard, he's got to get everyone into it," he said. "When he does bad, we struggle. When he goes good, we have a chance. I don't know how he did statistically tonight, but I think overall there was a lack of ball movement, turnovers. They got a lot of easy layups and we didn't."

The guys on the court don't always turn to Dragic though when things start to go sour. They try to do too much on their own. Dudley had six turnovers on bad passes on Friday night, and couldn't get his shot off very well against the Grizzlies' Tony Allen on Sunday.

Rebound outlets too often go to someone else, who doesn't often get a good shot once they cross the time line.

"We don't have one-on-one players, period," Gentry said before the game. "It's detrimental to our team. We are a much better team when we have 3 or 4 passes."

Yet guys are jacking up shots anyway, or trying to make hero passes that just aren't there. Some of it is a broken down offense. Dragic is getting trapped more and more often, forcing him to give up the ball to someone else on the perimeter (ie. not in shooting position) to restart the play. But the ball isn't getting back to him.

As Gentry says, there are "a lot of young players on this team that are trying to carve out a reputation."

One of those is Shannon Brown. Brown knows he's basically on a one-year contract, and he's trying hard to show he's worth a long-term deal. Getting relegated to the bench is not helping his confidence.

"He really enjoys starting, it's important to him," Gentry said of Brown's recent poor play. "But we need firepower off the bench. He needs to understand that."

Ultimately, it's sink or swim time. There's no easy road to turn onto. The Suns face a schedule that won't favor them for a single win between now and the All-Star break. Welcome to the world of Sacramento, Charlotte and New Orleans.

"The easiest thing to do it to point fingers and go our separate ways," Gentry warns. "We have just got to believe in ourselves. We're not just going to play out the season."

PHOENIX — When the Phoenix Suns opened their season, it’s doubtful they expected many nights in which P.J. Tucker would lead them in scoring. Yet in their latest example of offensive...

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Open shots, tough shots, fadeaways, layups, free throws... no matter that the Suns tried, they could not get that ball to fall through the net.

By halfway through the 4th, the Grizzlies had an easy 10-point lead and just coasted to the finish. Literally coasted. Marc Gasol walked back down the court on offense. The Grizzlies relaxed their defense enough to let the Suns finally score a bit.

Some interesting developments there in the 4th:

  • Gentry stayed with his lineup - that couldn't score - for several minutes. By the time most of the starters returned, it was a 10-point Grizz lead, despite the Grizz committing turnovers on 5 straight possessions. The Suns could not capitalize.
  • Jared Dudley did not play in the 4th, in lieu of Shannon Brown and P.J. Tucker.
  • Despite Memphis going with a 2-point guard offense to close the last 8 minutes - Conley and lil' Booz Bayless - the Suns did not play their once-loved 2-PG lineup of Dragic and Telfair.
  • So basically, Shannon Brown played ahead of both Telfair and Dudley in the 4th.
  • Brown shot 3-for-9 in 27 minutes of play, with 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals

Goran Dragic had only 2 points and 5 assists through three quarters, after scoring 19 with 7 assists and 12 with 8 assists in the prior two games against Memphis. His counterpart, Mike Conley, had a forgettable game as well. Should we credit both defenses?

The first quarter started like the last three quarters of Friday night's game. The Suns started 2-14 with 4 turnovers on top of that. At least this time, it was thanks to the opponents defense as much as the Suns' offense. The Suns recovered while playing spirited defense and only trailed by 5 at the end of the first.

Gentry once again went with an all-sub unit in the second and they held their own against a Memphis second unit that's not very good either. But this time, Wesley Johnson got the call over Michael Beasley and (somewhat) delivered. Johnson made two 3-pointers and stuffed Rudy Gay on a fast break.

But still the Suns offense stayed in the old deep freeze. They only shot 32% in the first half, but only trailed by 3 by keeping the Grizzlies out of the hoop as well.

It was 41-38 Grizzlies at halftime, similar to the 42-40 halftime deficit the Suns faced on Friday night. No offensive rhythm for the Suns. Somehow staying close because the other team had no rhythm either.

The first team to get their act together on offense wins the game.

In the third, it was the Grizzlies. At least on fast-break releases by Rudy Gay and killer jump shots by Zach Randolph. But the Suns did not fold. They stayed close, keeping the game between 6-10 points for most of the quarter.

Goran Dragic had a terrible shooting night and the Grizzlies didn't allow the Suns to get their offense flowing on any level. But P.J. Tucker tried mightily to keep the Suns in the game with 11 of the Suns' 24 points in the period (15 for the game through 3).

After getting 19 and 7 and then 12 and 8 against Memphis in the first two meeting of the year, Dragic had a very bad game (for him) with only 2 points and 5 assists through 3 quarters of play.

Unfortunately, Memphis scored 30 of their own in the third to take a 71-62 lead into the final stanza.

Carlos Boozer... Jarryd Bayless led the Grizzlies into the 4th quarter, where the Suns managed to cut the lead to 6 before Memphis scored again after several bad possessions in a row by both teams.

But the Suns just could not find any offense with their second unit for the third game in a row, ironically since P.J. Tucker moved to the starting lineup.

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