Scouting the Phoenix Suns' 2013 NBA Draft picks

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 Eric Bledsoe.

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.

Wrapping up

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.

  • Foreveris2long

    Excellent summation. Let’s see if the summer league gives us reason for optimism.I am excited to see Oriakhi and Goodwin. While a lot of fans have concern about Len, I am not one of them. I think his ceiling is really high.

  • Brenton

    I like Goodwin, but the Alex Len pick is still mystifyingly stupid.

  • Junior

    Hate it or Like it. Len is the franchise center we hope to finally build around. Suns are a team that has never really produced a great quality center from the draft. Perhaps we can break that streak finally.

    Overall, this draft is what I hoped for. We are in a position to win later not win now. So keep the moves going and get this ball rolling.

  • frenchysunsfan

    Len will benefit from both Gortat and Scola experience. I think he will be a good center in a few years if he stays healthy. We must be patient with him, developing big guys always take more time than guards and forwards. Oriakhi will not have much time but I think he will have pretty the same role as Jarron Collins had in 2009-10.
    Concerning Goodwin, he is in the right team to work on his shooting and have an opportunity to play. His defense is a good thing for the team. His combination with Bledsoe could be interesting defensively.

    To sum up, this offseason’s moves go the right way IMO, I grade it B+ and would grade it A if the FO can trade Beasley, maybe in a package with Marshall and/or Scola.
    Brown may be much better than he was last season, playing for another coach but I think he will not have many minutes to play.

  • Scott

    I don’t have any problems with Len aside from the health concern. He seems to have IQ, decent athleticism, excellent height and length, and despite his youth his offensive and defensive moves are not as raw as some of the other centers.

    As for Goodwin, I don’t expect much success from him at this early stage. If he can improve his defense and correct his shot in the course of the year, that will be great.

    Unfortunately, the Suns have so many veterans at every spot, that if they don’t clear house in trades, I don’t think we’ll get to see the young guys play much outside of SL.

  • Animan

    I hate how you all continue to refer to it as a trio moving forward, I have strong admiration for Dragic’s evolution into a potential all-star, he should be considered in our future just as much as Goodwin, Len or Bledsoe, in my opinion.

  • Antwuan

    Suns have a nice core to build for the future, Alex Len, Eric Bledsoe, Archie Goodwin., Goran Dragic . The 2014 NBA Draft is going to be interesting for the Phoenix Suns next year.

  • hawki

    Still can’t believe we passed on Nerlens Noel.
    Everyone talks about getting the #1 pick….well, we had it & let it slip by.
    Noel avgd 4.4 blocks a game which is incredible….not to mention 2.1 steals per game….#1 among college centers & he just turned 19.

    Unless it was determined that Noel’s knee was beyond rehabilitation, then I believe the Suns made a mistake by passing on Noel.

    Len may turn out to be a good center, at least defensively, but for right now, he reminds me more of Jordan Bachynski than Bill Walton.

  • Brenton

    Len is basically Spencer Hawes. Congrats to the Suns.

  • frenchysunsfan

    @ Animan:

    I agree with what you wrote about Dragic, I did not mention him because this thread is about the draft. Dragic is the only veteran that should be untradable in the team, I don’t know if he will ever be an All-Star but he’s a very good player who deserves to have better teammates than he had last last season.

  • DBreezy
  • Foreveris2long

    D’Breezy, Good article on Marshall. Coach is money that he cannot become complacent because he makes a couple of shots because when opponents guard him they are going to have block party on his low release jump shot. When we further consider no hops, quickness or confidence, he really is a fringe player hoping to hang on.

  • Foreveris2long

    For those of you who question the selection of Len,if you go back and look at Hibbert who played at Georgetown, Len has much better athleticism and foot speed than Hibbert. Hibbert has worked really hard in losing weight and improving his game to the point he is one of the better centers in the league. Len has the tools to be very good.

    Brenton, other than skin color there is no comparison between Hawes and Len. You make sure and stay in touch two months after the season starts to see if you feel the same way.

    Hawk if I am a new GM there is no way I am risking my career on a center or power forward who had two pre-college surgeries on the same knee and there are rumors he was told not to play AAU ball for awhile and he played any way. I think he was too big of a health risk. Hawk you are going to like him.

  • Scott

    Nice article. I’m glad to see in the quotes from Hornacek that he’s being very up front in his assessment of last year’s draft pick. Marshall should have spent last season reworking his shot mechanics, but either he was resistant or the coaching was incompetent (or both). However, it looks like it will happen for sure this year, which is good.

    I was also glad to see that the author pointed out Marshall’s youth. Even after a (fruitless) season with the Suns, he’s still only 21. I’d say he’s still got a year to go before we can make a sound judgment on him.

  • DBreezy

    Marshall is young so he has a chance still, but it’s hard to see it working out for him. It’s one thing to be behind in skill and/or athleticism, but to have that and be behind in maturity is a killer. Look at Andre Drummond. He was/is raw as hell, but one thing that was always reported about him is that he was not only a good kid, but that he was willing to listen and work. New Pistons asst Sheed was mentioning that the other day and it won’t surprise me one bit if he improves dramatically over the next few seasons.

    Kendall seems like a nice enough dude, but he’s very bullheaded. He basically has one view of who he thinks he is as a player and that’s that. His experience coming out of nowhere at UNC beating out a more heralded prospect hasn’t helped in that regard. He mostly seems to think that with a simple tweak or two and pt that he’ll do the same thing at the pro level.

    He still going on about getting his body right just like he was ahead of the draft like that’s his biggest problem. Even if it was, he’s had one season of not playing and now two offseasons to get to work on that, so it’s disappointing to hear him say that.

    Young reported early last regular season that Marshall wasn’t putting in any extra work with the player development guys before or after practice, despite an awful SL and getting thoroughly beaten out by Bassy for the backup pg job. While the Suns tried to be quiet about it, several scouts noted his poor attitude on his D league assignment. He felt he didn’t belong there, didn’t have anything to work on, and that it was just for conditioning.

    Hunter was his biggest advocate and even there when you read between the lines on his comments, you can tell that Marshall resisted him at first in his player development role and that Hunter had to be really hard on him. A few prominent benchings with Hunter as coach didn’t say much either. His dad got into it publicly with Gentry over pt and also sent emails to Bright Side writers over negative articles. Apparently he also had several off the cuff tweets about the recent articles about him that he then quickly deleted.

    It’d be one thing if this guy has Duds’ attitude but he doesn’t. In fact, to me the only reason he’s gotten somewhat of a break is that he does seem intelligent if not mature. If this was Earl Clark he’d have been buried by now, despite the fact that EC55 worked harder than Kendall in his time here. He is cheap and young, but if he doesn’t show improvement this summer, I would not pickup his 3rd year option this fall.

  • foreveris2long

    Good summation D’Breezy. With all of his flaws it will speak volumes about his character if he improves because his opportunities for quality playing will be severely limited. It is only human nature to press with limited playing time while hoping to show that some of his flaws are being improved upon. Tough task for Marshall. I seriously doubt he is in Phoenix next summer unless he is visiting.

  • Scott

    @DBreezy -

    I can’t tell which is the truth about Marshall. While some said he wasn’t practicing, other said he was praticing a lot. But if he was practicing a lot, where was the evidence of it?

    I’m inclined to go along with the bullheadedness. It’s certainly a common trait among athletes. On one hand it can be helpful, in that it can keep you persevering through tough times. But it can also kill a career, if the player is bullheaded about doing the wrong things.

    I strongly suspect Beasley is also bullheaded in the wrong way.