3-on-3: 2012 Draft edition

The Phoenix Suns’ franchise is at a crossroads. Before the free agency fun when the team can either make a big move or two to get back into contention, bring back the same team and make a run at the No. 8 seed again or blow things up, they must make a draft pick with their immediate and distance future being such a mystery. What are the Suns’ biggest needs? Should they pick for need or best available? Who should they select? We answer those questions in this edition of 3-on-3.

What’s the Suns’ biggest need heading into the draft?

Michael Schwartz: Please stop me if I sound like a broken record player, but they need a future franchise star and along with him some direction. I pity the Suns’ front office for having to formulate a draft plan without even knowing if Steve Nash will be captaining the ship or if a new era of Suns basketball is upon us. Either way they need some star power and a go-to scoring threat from the wing. If Nash were to depart, add point guard of the future (present?) to the list.

Mike Schmitz: More than anything the Suns just need young talent, and luckily for them most of that talent comes in the form of guards and floor generals, two of Phoenix’s biggest holes. The Suns could desperately use a point guard of the future, as even if Steve Nash returns there certainly are no Jamie Moyers in basketball and he’ll eventually have to hang up the sneaks. They also need a wing who can create his own shot and defend. In a nutshell the Suns should draft the best available point guard or shooting guard who they think best fits their system.

Kevin Zimmerman: Not only do the Suns need someone able to pour in the points, but they need a rookie who can do so without much help from his teammates whether Steve Nash returns or not. At the very least, they need a guard or wing who is more than a one-dimensional scorer. Though they score in different ways, if slasher Dion Waiters or jumper shooter Terrence Ross are available at No. 13, Phoenix should go with one of the two.

Should the Suns draft for need or best available?

Michael Schwartz: In general I’m a fan of Chad Ford’s tier system whereby you group players in tiers and then rank them by need within the tier. However, with the Suns craving elite talent so badly, they really need to take the best player on their board. If you are one piece away and possess a glaring weakness I could understand trying to fill a need, but where the Suns are sitting they must select the most talented player left.

Mike Schmitz: I think a point guard is the Suns’ biggest need but if Dion Waiters were to drop to No. 13 and Kendall Marshall were still on the board the Suns should go with Waiters, the better talent of the two. Need isn’t as important for a team with basically no direction and very little talent. No one is “off limits” in the trade market and few players are locked up long term. The Suns simply someone who can put the ball in the hole, it just happens to be that said player will most likely fill a need given who’s expected to be available at No. 13.

Kevin Zimmerman: In a draft this deep, Phoenix should go with a sure-thing who has the potential to be a home run. That said, the Suns need to be ready for the player of their dreams to slip to their pick, and even if it happens to be a big — where they’re set with Marcin Gortat, Channing Frye and Markieff Morris — Phoenix should take the best available option. If they’re confident in Jared Sullinger’s back health or don’t believe in Perry Jones’ being a risk, then they should go for it.

Who should the Suns draft?

Michael Schwartz: If Dion Waiters is there as he was in NBADraft.net’s Mock Draft 6.0, the choice is easy. The Hollinger Draft Rater projects the Cuse product to be a future star and Ford has him in Tier 3, making him a top player by that system as well. He’s got more star power than your typical No. 13 pick and could be the kind of go-to scoring weapon the Suns so desperately need. If he’s gone (as he likely will be), I’m high on Terrence Ross. He’s got NBA shooting range and athleticism and would be a great fit in the Suns’ fast-paced system. As a productive catch-and-shoot player he would work well with Nash and could be a solid if not spectacular building block for the future. Although he doesn’t possess the upside of risky players like Austin Rivers and Perry Jones, Ross seems to be the kind of pick the Suns would make based on their Markieff Morris selection last season.

Mike Schmitz: The advanced stats say stay away. His shot selection suggests the same. But Austin Rivers has a will to be great and a killer instinct that no other player expected to be there at 13 has. Oh yeah, he can play a little bit, too. Rivers can get his shot off against anybody at any time, a skill coveted at the next level, especially for a team struggling to find offense outside of Nash. The Suns have always had trouble finding that guy to take a big shot. They’ve always melted late in games as their pick-and-roll-heavy offense was sniffed out by better defenses. Rivers doesn’t need a pick. He may take bad shots and have bad percentages, win share values, etc., but Rivers is a shot-maker and can score now at the NBA level. He’s also a legitimate 6-foot-5 with a killer crossover and above-average ability to get in the lane. There are tons of reasons people will stay away from Rivers. But because of his mentality, pedigree, and scoring ability the Suns should take him if he’s on the board at 13.

Kevin Zimmerman: Assuming that Dion Waiters and Damian Lillard continue their assents up the mock draft boards across the interwebs, an available and sure-fire pick would be for Phoenix to take Terrence Ross at 13th overall. Even if they drop, bigs Jared Sullinger and Perry Jones are too big of risks in my opinion, and the Suns need a creator or scorer. Any of the best available guards or wings is a solid choice. Though Kendall Marshall’s potential to be the next Andre Miller is tempting, Ross fills an immediate need. He can get off a jumper off screens or in pick-and-rolls, and if he works on his slashing ability, he’ll be a double-digit scorer sooner rather than later. He’s a willing and able defender as well.

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