Grading the Suns 2013 Draft

So the 2013 draft has come and gone and the Suns completely messed with everyone’s head. They have now hinged their immediate future on a 20 year old Ukrainian who did not make all conference in his final year of college. The Suns Selected Alex Len out of Maryland with the fifth overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. Was it the right pick?

The 2013 draft started out strange when the Cleveland Cavilers shocked everyone by taking UNLV freshman Anthony Bennett with the #1 overall pick. Bennett was slated to be picked anywhere between #5 and # 10 in this draft, with some people predicting as high as #3, but no one in their right mind thought that a kid with a body fat percentage comparable to the average American could go #1. The draft returned to normalcy in the #2 and #3 picks when Indiana’s Victor Olidipo and Otto Porter were picked by the Magic and Wizards respectively. It got flipped turned upside down again with #4 when the Michael Jordan-led Bobcats made a surprise pick of Cody Zeller.

Entering this draft, I had three specific players that I wanted the Suns to take: 1. The extremely athletic and defensive-minded Nerlens Noel from Kentucky. The kid seems to have no defensive ceiling and would have been the rim protecting center that the Suns have never had in their entire history. Noel seems to have dropped down in the draft due his lack of offensive skills and questions about the recovery from a torn ACL last season.
2. The most NBA-ready and talented Ben McLemore from Kansas. It was said that McLemore had the best offensive game in the draft, and could score from anywhere on the court. The Suns desperately needed a go-to scorer at the shooting guard position and McLemore fit the bill perfectly. The only downside from McLemore was questions about his desire and drive for the game, making him a liability.
3. Victor Olidipo from Indiana: He was taken, I wanted him a lot, but it’s a moot point.

No where did I have Alex Len on my wish list. I saw him as another tall center who would ultimately flame out in the NBA due to the quicker guards around him in today’s game. So when the Suns came up at #5 with both McLemore and Noel available, I started doing the happy dance. The Suns were finally going to get an impact player…and then they drafted Len.

A day later, I’ve begun to come around on Len, both new head coach Jeff Hornacek and new GM Ryan McDonough have stated that Len was their #1 choice all along and were amazed that he was available at #5. In fact, both said that it was a “No-Brainer” and had the Suns had the #1 pick, they still would have taken him. Len does have size, 7’1″ and 225 pounds, and from all scouting reports seems to move well for a big man. He is said to have a soft touch around the rim and has a lot of improvement left in him.

Well...he is big. He's got that going for him.
Well…he is big. He’s got that going for him.

What this pick does is raise more questions about the future of the Phoenix Suns. They have a borderline all-star in current center Marcin Gortat, and reports coming down today indicate that Gortat will look to be traded sometime this year before the trading deadline. Gortat is a seasoned veteran who plays well around the rim and has a good offensive skill set, but is a free agent this summer. He will expect upwards of 10 million a year in his next contract, a price the Suns may not be willing to pay. It appears for now that Len is in and Gortat is out.

The Suns weren’t done on their draft picks, as they were able to take Kentucky’s Archie Goodwin with their pick at the end of the first round.

Don't blink, you might miss him drive by
Don’t blink, you might miss him drive by

Goodwin showed flashes of brilliance in his only year at Kentucky, but was plagued by poor shooting from the outside. He is an explosive athlete and can get to the rim in a flash. His game was hampered by inconsistencies, and it was rumored that one of the only reasons that he left Kentucky for the NBA this year was that the incoming Kentucky freshman were so good that he would be pushed to a bench player. Still, I thought the pick was solid for the Suns. We now have an explosive guard who can draw fouls and has a lot of upside. I liked the pick, but I think that it would have been better to take a great shooter like Alan Crabbe from California here, who ended up going #1 in the second round two picks later.

To me, the Suns draft this year screams that they are building for the future. It appears that the 2013-2014 Suns may be even worse than the 2012-13 Suns, as hard as that was to do. I, however think this is the right strategy. The 2014 draft is being regarded as the best draft since 2003, which featured Carmelo Anthony, Dywane Wade, Chris Bosh, and of course, LeBron James.

Is Andrew Wiggins the future savior of the Phoenix Suns?
Is Andrew Wiggins the future savior of the Phoenix Suns?

The best of next years draft includes three players who are expected to be superstars; Jabari Parker (Duke) Andrew Wiggins (Kansas) and Julius Randle (Kentucky).  If all three are as good as advertised, and the Suns are able to get a top three pick next year, they might have a foundation that can be built upon for the next decade. Let the #tankforwiggins hashtag campaign begin!

So in retrospect, I hated the Alex Len pick when it happened, and it was a terrible pick for the short term. However, if Len  is as good as McDonough and Hornacek think, and the Suns are able to get a top three pick next year, they’d have an extremely young, exciting team who can make a lot of noise in the NBA.

Final Grade: B- with a chance to go way up

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