The Phoenix Suns front office have done a remarkable job this off-season stocking up on 1st round draft picks, unfortunately looking ahead to the upcoming 2013 NBA draft the pool of talent is pretty slim compared to the 2012 NBA draft class. Nonetheless draft picks are draft picks. So the Suns have finally moved on from Steve Nash thus leaving the Suns with no real centerpiece to build around, you can say Marcin Gortat but he’s aging and his contract expires in two seasons, you can say Goran Dragic or Michael Beasley but those two guys still have to prove themselves. Let’s assume that the Suns fail to get a young stud in free agency and that every player on the Suns roster right now is as good as they’re ever going to be, what now? Well looking ahead at the 2013 draft there are several prospects that can potentially become centerpieces for the Suns from the lottery to mid-late first round.
Cody Zeller – Top 3
Although Nerlens Noel is the number 1 ranked prospect I’d take Cody Zeller over him any day. Zeller is a model of a highly efficient scorer. When I watch Zeller play he just makes me think that, that’s how Dirk Nowitzki would play if he was a low-post player rather than a perimeter player. Like Dirk, Zeller is a skilled, mobile, good ball handling and high basketball IQ 7 footer that can dominate the offensive end. During his freshman year at Indiana, Zeller averaged 15.6 points and 6.6 rebounds a game while shooting a terrific 62% from the field leading Indiana all the way to the Elite Eight but ultimately fell to eventual NCAA Champion Kentucky Wildcats. Zeller is not the most physical guy on the floor but he finds a way the put the ball in the basket. He’s got a good touch from mid-range and is a decent free shooter, shooting 76% from the foul line his freshman year. The Suns will have to break their piggy bank to get a draft pick high enough to take Zeller but this is guy that you can build your team around; he’s got talent, tremendous potential, solid physical attributes and good leadership.
Shabazz Muhammad – Top 5
Muhammad is a 6’6 freshman lefty-swingman who will be playing for UCLA this upcoming season. Muhammad is almost like the 2013 version of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, , he’s crazy athletic, tremendous defensive potential, plays hard, gets to the rim and he’s a winner. However much like MKG his jump shot needs work. Muhammad is also a terrific player to build around because regardless of what he does on the offensive end, he can contribute night in and night out on the defensive end at a high level guarding multiple positions which is a plus for any team. Muhammad also has a huge wing span of 6’11 despite only standing 6’6. Muhammad is still figuring out his offensive game but he has the physical gifts and the skill set to be as good as anyone. However, like Cody Zeller, Muhammad will most likely be a top 3 draft pick which means the Suns would have to give up a lot to trade up in the draft to get him.
Alex Poythress – Lottery
Poythress is a freshman who will be playing for the reigning champs Kentucky Wildcats this year. Standing at 6’7, Poythress has the reputation as an attack mode scoring wing with a great motor. Much like Muhammad, Poythress has tremendous potential and can guard multiple positions which makes him a great value at both ends of the floor. Poythress is much closer within the Suns reach as oppose to Zeller and Muhammad as he’ll most likely be a top 10 draft pick. Poythress still needs to improve his strength if he wants to become an effective scorer on the college and NBA level but the talent is certainly there.
Archie Goodwin – Mid/Late First Round
Goodwin is another freshman that will be joining Kentucky this season. Goodwin is a 6’5 combo guard who has a great wing span of 6’10. Goodwin has a very James Harden like play style, he’s unselfish, he’s an excellent ball handler and penetrator, smooth athlete and he can score from anywhere on the floor. Goodwin is currently ranked 17th overall on the ESPN Top 100 Prospects but if he can play to his abilities his draft stock is going to rise. However Goodwin will most likely spend more than one season in college as he’ll need to improve his weight and strength. Goodwin had an easy time tearing apart defenses in high school but in college it’s going to be a much tougher, not to mention the NBA. Goodwin certainly has the potential to become a centerpiece but he’s far, far from a finished product. Good thing is, at least the skillset and talent is there.
Again, the 2013 NBA draft seems like slim pickings but they say that every year; they even claimed so about the 2011 NBA draft and look how well that turned out. The Suns own six first round picks within the next three seasons and three of them in 2013(Suns, Lakers, Timberwolves) and should the Suns want to trade up in the draft they certainly have the asset to do so. Going through this rebuilding process the Suns have kept a solid roster anchored by Marcin Gortat, Luis Scola, Jared Dudley and Goran Dragic. Granted they are all good players but odds are none of those guys will become the Suns centerpiece of the future. Obviously Zeller and Muhammad would be the grand prizes in the 2013 NBA Draft, now many of you will be upset that I pretty much dismissed Nerlens Noel but here’s why, Noel is the 2013 version of Andre Drummond; he’s got the physical gifts and he’s got the talent but he’s a model of inconsistency. Sure Noel may become the next great NBA big man but he can also become the next Kwame Brown and the Suns simply cannot afford that risk. Zeller and Muhammad both already have NBA ready skill sets, especially Zeller and that’s why they’re both more likely to have success at the next level and why they both make more sense for the Suns.