James Kerti is a basketball player evaluation scout and consultant for college and NBA teams. His analysis has been featured at ESPN TrueHoop Network’s Daily Thunder and the popular basketball analysis YouTube channel BBALLBREAKDOWN, among other places. James picked apart the games of the Phoenix Suns’ three 2013 draft picks for us at VotS.
Breaking down Alex Len
Alex Len joins the Suns after spending two years at the University of Maryland, where he showed a wide variety of skills during his time in the ACC that provide glimpses of what he can be at his full potential.
The 7-foot-1 center has a mature back to the basket game and is comfortable scoring from either block. According to Synergy, he averaged 0.872 points per possession (PPP) posting up on the left block and 0.833 PPP from the right block, both of which are good numbers.
That flexibility helps a team’s offense maintain balanced scoring opportunities and play inside-out.
Len added an up-and-under move to his skill set as a sophomore, and that addition helped open up room for his hook shot, which is his bread and butter at the moment.
His skill and willingness as a passer out of the post add another nice dimension to his game. He’ll make defenses rethink doubling him in the post, especially as the Suns surround him with shooters.
Len has great hands and receives passes well to score around the basket, and he also contributes quite a bit on the offensive glass.
He finished as the ACC’s second-leading offensive rebounder last year. Len does a good job converting those rebounds into points too, adding 2.4 points per game via put-backs.
A skilled pick-and-roll big thanks to his mobility and hands, he looks poised to form a lethal duo with newly acquired.
Len had some success shooting out of the pick-and-pop at Maryland too, though it’s not yet a major part of his game. He made 5-of-12 jumpers last year in that role, per Synergy. But Len isn’t a reliable all-around jump shooter yet, having made just 9-of-32 jump shots last year.
However, there is some room for optimism in that area, as he improved as a free-throw shooter from 59 percent as a freshman to 69 percent as a sophomore at Maryland. That kind of development can be a good sign of a player’s work ethic and natural touch.
Defensively, he’s a gifted shotblocker with a lot of range on the floor. He averaged 2.1 blocks per game last year, leading the ACC in that category.
He also has the smarts and mobility to alter shots out to the three-point line without getting taken advantage of.
Len enters the NBA ready to contribute on defense, as he has a good understanding of modern defensive schemes. He handles switches well and isn’t a liability on the perimeter because of how well he rotates and closes out on shooters. According to Synergy, opposing jump shooters made only 21 percent of their attempts when contested by Len last season.
His ankle injury is a clear concern, but the Suns have had success in recent years with players who have durability questions.
And in the Ukranian big man, the Suns have added one of the highest upside players in the draft.
Breaking down Archie Goodwin
The youngest American-born player in the draft, Archie Goodwin, comes to the Suns after spending one year at Kentucky.
Goodwin is an excellent penetrator, thanks to his strong handle and quick first step. He was able to get all the way to the basket on an impressive 50 percent of his isolations from the top of the key at Kentucky, per Synergy.
And once he gets to the rim, he’s a strong finisher, converting 55 percent of his shots around the rim.
He works even better when given a ball screen.
Goodwin shot 52 percent from the field when he was able to dribble cleanly off or away from a ball screen. That production is even more impressive when you consider that he also managed to draw shooting fouls on 27 percent of those possessions.
A lot’s been said about Goodwin’s poor jump shooting, and that talk is justified – to an extent.
Goodwin made 30-of-90 jump shots (33 percent) during his time at Kentucky, according to Synergy.
Though 33 percent is certainly a disappointing percentage, some of those shot-making struggles can be attributed to questionable shot selection rather than jump shooting skill. Per Synergy, Goodwin averaged 1.143 PPP on 38 percent shooting from open jumpers off the catch, which is actually a pretty good number.
That – along with his age – is a positive indicator for his ability to continue improving as a jump shooter.
Another area on offense for Goodwin to continue working on is his decision-making. He finished third in the SEC in turnovers due largely to his propensity for driving into traffic without recognizing how the defense is playing him.
That struggle is particularly evident in the pick-and-roll, where he turned the ball over 22 percent of the time.
Decision-making is one of the most difficult things for a player to improve, but it’s reasonable to expect that an 18-year-old will keep growing in his understanding of the game.
Goodwin’s athleticism and 6-foot-11 wingspan help him on the defensive end, especially when it comes to contesting jump shots. Opponents made only 26 percent of jumpers when guarded by Goodwin last year.
The next steps for him defensively are to get stronger and to improve his understanding of angles.
He too easily gave up dribble penetration last year, allowing opponents to shoot 54 percent on isolations against him. He struggles to cut off ball-handlers on dribble-drives, and they get past him and all the way to the rim too easily.
Overall, the Suns are getting a dynamic dribble penetrator from the wing at the very least. Having that kind of player can open up lots of opportunities for an offense, especially one that can cause defensive confusion with the pick-and-roll.
Goodwin has shown some good indicators of being able to improve on the areas where he’s weak right now. And given his age, there are a lot of reasons for Suns fans to feel optimistic.
Breaking down Alex Oriakhi
The 57th overall pick in the 2013 Draft, Alex Oriakhi gives the Suns a lot of physicality.
The 6-foot-10, 258 pound center has a 7-foot-4 wingspan and was one of the best rebounders in both the Big East and the SEC.
Oriakhi played three years at UConn before finishing his collegiate career at Missouri this past season.
A role player on offense throughout his time in college, Oriakhi has nevertheless been quite efficient, shooting 63.8 percent from the field as a senior.
He does a good job establishing strong position on the low block, sealing his defender and scoring efficiently off a couple dribbles from there.
It’s not something that he’ll be able to do with regularity in the NBA, but it does give his offensive game an extra dimension. Defenses won’t be able to ignore him.
Oriakhi gathered the third-most offensive rebounds of any Division I player during his four years in college.
He’s able to score off those boards too, earning 104 points from put-backs as a senior. His long arms and ability to recognize where the ball will come off the rim aid him in that area.
His size and strength help him be an effective low-post defender.
Opposing big men made only 35.7 percent of field goals in the post-up against him last year, according to Synergy. His bulk certainly plays a big role in that, but Oriakhi establishes a strong base and doesn’t let opponents push him off his position. Those fundamentals shouldn’t go unnoticed.
He’s mobile enough to play the pick-and-roll capably on both ends, but his slow first step hurts him in space.
Because of that shortcoming, he’s vulnerable defensively on the perimeter, where his lack of foot speed compromises his ability to jump out on shooters or handle himself well on switches.
That being said, Oriakhi is a strong rebounding center who will contribute to the Suns, especially in the paint, where his lack of quickness isn’t as much of a factor.
Though Alex Len didn’t generate the same kind of excited chatter as did some other prospects in the top-10, he’s a more complete player than his peers, and his ceiling is high.
Goodwin is an intriguing prospect the Suns can keep developing as they work on rebuilding. He has youth and talent on his side.
And with Oriakhi, Phoenix brought in a center who’s ready to contribute right away and give the team some energy.
Going forward, Len and Bledsoe will be a very exciting and effective pick-and-roll combination that will create opportunities for Goodwin to drive to the basket against a scrambling defense.
That trio gives the Suns a core they can build around over the next few years and beyond.
Follow James on Twitter @jameskerti.