In Part 1, we reviewed how the Phoenix Suns need to be aggressive in the NBA Draft.
After covering the first-round bubble Phoenix could trade up to, here’s a look at a few prospects who could drop further and be available with the Suns’ 52nd pick or even on a two-way deal.
Draft guide from The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie will help us on our way.
Marcus Sasser, G, Houston, 23 years old
Measurable – 6-foot-2, 196 pounds, 6-foot-7 wingspan
statistics – 16.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 1.6 TPG, 43.8 FG%, 38.4 3P%, 84.8 FT%
It’s time for a time-honored tradition in the NBA Draft! Will this skilled and seasoned point guard on the first round bubble pan out?! Is he more like Jalen Brunson or Frank Jackson? Tyus Jones or Frank Mason III? Ayo Dosunmu or Ty Jerome?
I like Sasser’s playing a lot. I think he should be a cemented first-round pick, but he’s on the fringes of the first round, and those guys always have a chance to fall.
Sasser is a chasing defender with some real scoring, thanks to a good dribble pull-up game. Vecenie described Sasser’s handle as “sick” and I have to say I agree.
Here is the defense:
Marcus Sasser’s defense is extremely high level on-ball
Combined with his jump shooting ability, it’s easy to see why he’s a favorite of so many on Draft Twitter in the 25-40 range pic.twitter.com/KSjFSVtwuR
— Mavs/Magic Draft (@MavsDraft) 19 June 2023
And some of the offense, which includes a very encouraging 45.9% mark on catch-and-shoot 3s this year, according to Vecenie:
30 on just 15 shots to Marcus Sasser in the AAC quarter to help Houston advance. He showed his shooting ability, ability to finish through contact, toughness defensively and flashes of passing. Potential first round pick. pic.twitter.com/FCNxOq7fzd
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) March 10, 2023
I don’t understand the downside of projecting Sasser down so low. Vecenie’s noted weaknesses for Sasser are his size, lack of playmaking and edge pressure, with an emphasis on how Sasser must adjust to a smaller role and not allow the ball to stick to him.
With that in mind, the guy can really shoot and defend with some serious overhead scoring because of the way he handles the ball. Taking a swing at his adaptability could end up with the Suns having the perfect guard off the bench next to Bradley Beal or Devin Booker.
Kobe Brown, F/C, Missouri, 23 years old
Measurable – 6-foot-8, 252 pounds, 7-foot-1 wingspan
statistics – 15.8 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 1.6 TPG, 55.3 FG%, 45.5 3P%, 79.2 FT%
We’ve gone through a few oddballs in this run of the draft, and on the island of mismatched toys, Brown is the headliner.
Vecenie puts it like Brown is one of the draft’s more “theoretically well-rounded players,” and I like that. He has huge link-up potential due to his feel, strength and passing ability. There’s a special role in the league today for guys who are modern 4s who can also slot in as small-ball 5s, and that’s a solid premise for the Browns’ NBA identity.
The smart ones come in defensively. Brown was one of the few guys I was intrigued enough by to dip into some tape on, and the guy really competes while getting to the right spot.
Kobe Brown’s intelligence on the defensive end as an off-ball defender really impresses me. I like his ability to rotate and put himself in the right places at the right times. Can play a number of roles defensively and his off-ball defense is part of why.
Also high engine pic.twitter.com/pZo0R1uqa4
— Mavs/Magic Draft (@MavsDraft) 12 June 2023
The wild card is Brown’s meteoric bump in 3-point shooting. In his first three collegiate seasons, Brown made 49 of his 207 attempts (23.7%). On just 112 attempts this year, Brown converted on even more! 51 (45.5%)! It’s always risky to buy into, something Vecenie notes, while also giving Brown credit for clean mechanics as a senior.
It is compact and confident, two good signs.
Kobe Brown finished this season in the 94th percentile as a catch & shoot jump shooter (44.3% and 96th percentile in open C&S jumpers (22-41). Also shot 41% on ‘guarded’ catch & shoot 3s.
Just an incredible breakout as a senior at Missouri pic.twitter.com/f1D7H8Cevn
— Mavs/Magic Draft (@MavsDraft) 12 June 2023
Going back to the original hypothesis, this is all “theoretical” and someone will be the team to figure out the real deal with Brown. If he can shoot and his stocky frame still allows him to move his feet well enough on both ends, Brown is a steal. If either hampers him, especially the shot, he’ll have to overcome a ton to pan.
Jaime Jaquez Jr. was a previous prospect that we discussed the importance of pitching along with the Big 3, and the Browns another shot at it.
Julian Strawther, K, Gonzaga, 21 years old
Measurable – 6-foot-7, 209 pounds, 6-foot-9 wingspan
statistics – 15.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 1.5 TPG, 46.9 FG%, 40.8 3P%, 77.6 FT%
Strawther is one of the handful of guys I passed on this list that I’ve actually seen play quite a bit, and it feels like he’s 10-15 spots too low on a lot of these boards.
Dude can really shoot, armed with one of those jumpers that keeps consistency regardless of movement and gets it off in a hurry. Good size for a wing to shoot over closeouts.
Julian Strawther’s catch & shoot ability is elite in this draft class. Quick footwork, turns hips quickly and well on curls, has deep reach and his shot mechanics are smooth
Ranked in the 93rd percentile for catch & shoot jumpers at 62-142 (43.7%) pic.twitter.com/y2D9pBY3wy
— Mavs/Magic Draft (@MavsDraft) 5 June 2023
Vecenie notes that Strawther has strong movement off the ball and can also drive more than given credit for.
It’s hard not to think of Cam Johnson when reading the rest of the scouting report. To be clear, Johnson was a much better prospect, but still! While Vecenie continues of Strawther, “not a great athlete,” “doesn’t have a ton of lateral quickness” and “really struggles with off-ball defense.”
That’s a real red flag, though, coming off great Gonzaga teams where 1) those fundamentals should have seeped in and 2) Strawther wasn’t a primary option offensively. But the way Strawther shoots it and moves the ball away makes a lot of sense to take a flyer on him while hoping the defense is a non-disaster.
Jaylen Clark, G/F, UCLA, 22 years old
Measurable – 6-foot-5, 204 pounds, 6-foot-9 wingspan
statistics – 13.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.9 APG, 2.6 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 1.2 TPG, 48.1 FG%, 32.9 3P%, 69.8 FT%
With Jordan Goodwin headed to Phoenix, Ish Wainright’s team option likely to be picked up and the potential return of both Torrey Craig and Josh Okogie, perhaps adding another lethal defender would be overkill.
But I’m sure Frank Vogel would disagree, and with where Clark is expected to go in the draft, getting someone who is arguably the best at what they do in their class this late seems like a worthwhile investment.
Clark is an absolute terror defensively on and off the ball. An agent of chaos. Wrecking havoc. The only thing keeping him out of the first round discussion is his size. If he were a few inches taller and longer, like former first-round pick Matisse Thybulle, he gets the nod because of how good he is as a perimeter defender.
Despite the questionable jumper, Clark is not a zero on offense. He plays smart and can make plays off the dribble with space, whether it’s in transition or when the defense gives him slashing opportunities.
Here’s a sneak peek of the entire package:
Few players I enjoy watching more than Jaylen Clark:
19 points, 6 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 assists, 12 deflections.
Absurd instincts and engine on D. Leads the country in BPM. Arguably the best perimeter defender in the sport, and perhaps (?) UCLA’s top prospect. He rocks. pic.twitter.com/r93l7UmExq
— Brandon Simberg (@BrandonSimberg) 15 December 2022
Vecenie about the offence:
Has good instincts in that end. An impressive line driver that can get downhill and cover ground. Very smart as a finisher under the rim with some creative moves.
Like Andre Jackson Jr., Vecenie acknowledges this was supposed to be a niche role along the lines of Gary Payton II or Bruce Brown. But if that’s not enough redundancy for the Suns with the skill set, he should be high on the rankings for the late second round pick.
Jordan Miller, G/F, Miami, 23 years old
Measurable – 6-foot-6, 192 pounds, 7-foot wingspan
statistics – 15.3 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 1.3 TPG, 54.5 FG%, 35.2 3P%, 78.4 FT%
Miller is similar to Clark and Jackson in the non-shooting department as well. The catch-and-shoot knockdown rate that Vecenie cites at 32.5% is concerning.
But there’s just a lot to like about his game. As for strengths in Vecenie’s scouting report, he notes his “fantastic” tools on a wing, some of the best finishes in the draft, impact as a driver and functionality as a “sharp passer and playmaker” while being a “solid defensive player “. ” to start. Again, this guy is a basketball player.
Miller’s explosiveness and strength will not melt your face off. That will put him in compromise spots against the best the world has to offer, which is what will determine how his career goes, especially if his jumper doesn’t reach an average level of efficiency.
Jordan Miller has great defensive upside in the NBA, being ~6’5 with a 6’11.75 wingspan, excellent defensive footwork, and a good motor that allows him to guard multiple positions. He is also extremely efficient at the rim and does not turn the ball over. Easy role player view pic.twitter.com/tam6iY5oY9
— Mavs/Magic Draft (@MavsDraft) 13 June 2023
And the offense:
Watch out, NBA!
— ACC Digital Network (@ACCDN) 17 June 2023
Rinse and repeat with the themes we’ve featured throughout. The bottom line is that he’s an impact two-way player if the weaknesses aren’t as glaring as they first appear.