With the lottery in the books and the Phoenix Suns holding on to the 14th overall pick, Steve Kerr and Alvin Gentry will surely be spending sleepless nights full of caffeine, game film and scouting reports during this next month leading up to the June 25 NBA Draft.
It is no secret that the Suns have not exactly been winners on draft day in years past, trading away three of their last five first-round picks for salary relief.
But with a lottery pick and a slew of ballers to choose from, the Phoenix Suns plan to shed the “draft day dud” moniker that has limited their youth the last decade. For this Phoenix Suns team, the needs are there in the form of an athletic big and defensive-minded guard. But regardless of what positions need to be addressed, questions still remain:
Is Goran Dragic the player Steve Kerr raves about?
Will Robin Lopez develop into a quality center in this league?
Can Grant Hill continue to play 82 games a season at 37?
Will Amare opt out in 2010?
Will J-Rich/Shaq be Suns next season?
The answers to these questions remain to be seen, but the players that should be around for the Suns at 14 are clear.
During Alvin Gentry’s May 12 press conference Steve Kerr was asked to discuss the type of player the Suns wanted to select in the upcoming draft. Kerr answered, “Probably the best player available…we could use another big guy for sure…but you don’t pass up a great player just to fill a need.”
With that said, the “best available” prospects that should be still on the board at 14 are as follows:
Jonny Flynn – PG Syracuse (Sophomore, 6-0, 186 pounds)
2007-2008: 15.7 pts, 2.7 rebs, 5.3 ast, 2.7 TO, 1.5 stl, 45.9 FG%, 34.8 3P%
2008-2009: 17.4 pts, 2.7 rebs, 6.7 ast, 3.4 TO, 1.4 stl, 46 FG%, 31.7 3P%
Accolades: Second Team All-Big East (09), Honorable Mention All-American-AP (09), Big East Tournament MVP (09), Big East co-Rookie of the Year (08), Wooden Award Finalist (08), Bob Cousy Award Finalist (08)
Strengths/Weaknesses: Jonny Flynn is the ultimate competitor (see 67-minute performance) and will give 110 percent if it means a win for his ball club. That characteristic alone is the perfect mentality of a successful point guard. Aside from his heart and passion, Flynn showcases an array of moves as a result of his unbelievable quickness and superb ball-handling.
Although he can hit the deep ball, he does most of his damage attacking the hoop and getting to the line. He has not yet developed into the distributor that his athleticism and vision suggest, yet that transition will come at the next level. Flynn’s decision making (3.4 TOs in 08-09) and midrange game could use some work, but his penetration and playmaking has him ranked among the top point guards in the draft.
Why for the Suns?
With Steve Kerr’s Goran Dragic man crush in effect, it seems hard to believe that the Suns would draft yet another point guard. However, Steve Kerr has been on record stating that the Suns will most likely take the best player available, making it hard to pass up arguably the best point guard in the draft. If Dragic is not the answer, Flynn certainly will be.
Best Case: Allen Iverson
Worst Case: Ronald “Flip” Murray
James Johnson – SF/PF Wake Forest (Sophomore, 6-9, 245 pounds)
2007-2008: 14.6 ppg, 8.1 rebs, 1.4 stl, 1.3 blk, 2.6 TO, 48.7 FG%, 28.0 3P%
2008-2009: 15.0 ppg, 8.5 rebs, 1.4 stl, 1.5 blk, 2.4 TO, 54.2 FG%, 31.9 3P%
Accolades: Third Team All-ACC (09), Third Team All-ACC (08), ACC All-Freshman Team (08), mid-season candidate for the Naismith Trophy and a preseason candidate for the Wooden Award (08/09).
Strengths/Weaknesses: Johnson can play positions three through five due to his athleticism and skill set. His 41-inch vertical leap has him above the rim constantly throughout games. He can stretch the floor as he is capable of knocking down the three but can also get to the hoop and create off the dribble. Johnson makes some questionable decisions with the ball at times and often lives on the perimeter.
His biggest question marks are his attitude and basketball IQ. Johnson has the skill set and athleticism to be an All-Star in the NBA, but will his massive potential translate to the league?
Why for the Suns?
Johnson is a matchup nightmare and would allow the Suns to play big with him at the three and small ball with him at the four. He can run the floor and has the ability to be a difference maker defensively.
Grant Hill only has a few years left in the tank, and Johnson could definitely step right in and fill that void. Because of his massive upside and versatility, James Johnson may be the name David Stern announces when the 14th pick rolls around come June 25.
Best Case: Rashard Lewis
Worst Case: Ryan Gomes
Terrence Williams – SG/SF Louisville (Senior, 6-6, 220 pounds)
2005-2006: 8.4 pts, 4.7 rebs, 2.1 ast, 1.7 TO, 1.0 stl, 39.1 FG%, 31.0 3P%
2006-2007: 12.4 pts, 7.0 rebs, 3.8 ast, 2.4 TO, 1.3 stl, 36.7 FG%, 26.1 3P%
2007-2008: 11.1 pts, 7.2 rebs, 4.5 ast, 2.9 TO, 1.3 stl, 41.1 FG%, 34 3P%
2008-2009: 12.5 pts, 8.6 rebs, 5.0 ast, 2.3 TO, 2.3 stl, 43.1 FG%, 38.5 3P%
Accolades: Lowe’s Senior Class Award Finalist (09), First Team All-Big East (09), Final Ballot for Wooden Award (09), Second Team All-Big East (07, 08), only player in Cardinals history with 1,500 points, 900 rebounds, 500 assists and 200 steals.
Strengths/Weaknesses: Williams plays with an infectious passion for the game and has the determination to develop into a leader for any team he joins. He can score from nearly anywhere on the court and has an NBA body to go along with NBA athleticism. Louisville coach Rick Pitino calls Williams a “freakish athlete” and is quoted as saying. “Terrence can do anything on the court.”
Williams is a terrific rebounder for his position and is able to facilitate the offense when needed. Williams also ranks among the top defensive swingmen in this year’s draft class, averaging 2.3 steals per game his senior season. Williams needs to improve his shot selection as he rarely sees the charity stripe, averaging 3.2 free throws per game. All in all, Williams is a triple-double waiting to happen, with the potential to impact the game in several different ways.
Why for the Suns?
Williams brings an element of toughness that the Suns have been lacking in years past. He has a lot of basketball experience under his belt and could step in and make an impact right away. He has the physical tools to be the shut-down perimeter defender that the Suns so desperately need.
Whether it is offensively or defensively, Williams could crack the rotation at either the two or three in Alvin Gentry’s offense his rookie season. Although the Suns are loaded at the guard position, Williams’ promise and win-first mentality may be too much for Kerr and Gentry to pass up.
Best Case: Andre Igoudala
Worst Case: J.R. Smith
Additional names to watch for:
DeJuan Blair (PF Pittburgh)
Ty Lawson (PG North Carolina)
Jrue Holliday (PG/SG UCLA)
Eric Maynor (PG VCU)
Earl Clark (PF Louisville)
B.J. Mullens (C Ohio State)
Gani Lawal (PF Georgia Tech)
Yes anything can happen on draft day, but I suggest keeping a close eye on Flynn, Johnson, and Williams come June’s 2009 NBA Draft.