Phoenix Suns draft player profile: Kel'el Ware

The Phoenix Suns are still in command of their first round draft pick, and Kel'el Ware is an interesting prospect for them to consider.
Nebraska v Indiana
Nebraska v Indiana / David Berding/GettyImages

The Phoenix Suns' top priority this offseason is to reshape their roster around Mike Budenholzer’s system. Overhauling the center rotation is an absolute must, and something that’s already begun with the departure of backup Drew Eubanks. 

Tonight’s draft is an opportunity for the Suns to land an impact player at that position. Luckily, there are several talented big men who have been mocked near where they're picking at #22.

One or more of Zach Edey, Yves Missi, Kel-el Ware, and Kyle Filipowski should be available when the Suns are on the clock. Each of them possess some of the traits the Suns were missing at the 5 this season, which include rim protection, athleticism, and even 3-point shooting.

Only Ware possesses all three traits, making him a perfect fit for Mike Budenholzer's system.

Ware’s stats during his sophomore season at Indiana reflect his all-around potential. In 30 games, he averaged 15.9/9.9/1.5 on 58% shooting from the floor. Most notably, he shot a terrific 42% from deep. 

That floor spacing from the 5 is imperative in Budenholzer’s offensive system. Brook Lopez filled that role in Milwaukee and allowed the Bucks to play 5-out, taking the opponent's rim protector out to the 3-point line. 

In a 5-out system it becomes much easier for stars to iso, which the Suns are inevitably going to do a lot of with their roster. The on-ball man can't gamble or play as tightly with no immediate rim protection behind them.

The lane was clogged far too often for the Suns this year, and contributed to their poor shot profile. An effective stretch-five will not only add more threes from himself, but generate easier looks from deep and at the rim for his teammates. 

Ware being that type of player does assume that he has a smooth transition to the NBA 3-point line, which isn’t a guarantee. In his freshman year, Ware 27% from deep on more total attempts. In addition to that, he shot just 63% from the free-throw line this year which doesn’t inspire confidence that he can be a consistently great shooter. Still, being any kind of threat from outside would warp defenses, and Ware should make enough to do that.

On the flip side, that FT% isn’t terrible for a big. Converting at that rate would take him out of Hack-a-Shaq territory, and keep him on the floor late in games.

Ware’s physical tools also jump off the page, and would allow to him fill the Lopez role on the other end of the court, that of an elite rim protector.

He measured just under 7' without shoes with a 7’4 wingspan. He used that length to register 1.9 blocks per game this season. For Budenholzer, nothing is more important than protecting the rim. His entire defense is built around allowing basically every other shot except the easy ones at the bucket. 

Ware clearly has the size and shot blocking instincts to anchor that kind of defense.

That length, along with his 36-inch vertical, also gives him one of the highest catch points in the draft. A consistent lob threat is something else the Suns sorely missed this year. Their roll men were largely ineffective, and didn't bring any kind of finishing to the table.

Ware would give them a legitimate verticle target, while ideally adding a pick-and-pop wrinkle to the Suns offense as well.

Despite all the tools and production, Ware could be in play at #22 because his game isn’t very refined. His offense is limited to catching lobs and taking spot-up shots. He lacks a post-up game and the ability to attack off the dribble.

One other flaw that appears in every single Ware scouting report is his inconsistent motor. That’s worrying since his impact around the rim on both ends is entirely reliant on his athleticism and physical ability. Those type of players need to be engaged at all times, otherwise they’re not bringing much to the table.

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Those concerns shouldn’t be enough to stop the Suns from drafting him though. They don’t need Ware to do anything other than what he’s good at. Wasting possessions by posting up their bigs was one of the problems that bogged down their offense this year.

His motor is more of an issue, but that might be mitigated since he likely won’t be the starter. Playing in shorter bursts could maximize his effort and impact.

All told, there is no other prospect outside the lottery that has the demonstrated size, athleticism, and outside shooting that Ware has shown. For that matter, there’s no free agent that can do all those things that will be available for the minimum.

Drafting him would be a strong start to the offseason, and show that the Suns are committed to building a team in Budenholzer's vision.