The Phoenix Suns have a type, a good sign for the culture and foundation they are trying to establish after one season with head coach Monty Williams and general manager James Jones.
In the same way you’ve heard about someone being a Miami Heat type of player, that’s what the Suns want to create.
Jones and Williams have spoken at length over the past 18 months about what they’re looking for out of players and it lines up with the roster they put together last offseason.
It becomes particularly relevant in the 2020 NBA Draft, where, with the No. 10 overall selection, the Suns have needs across the roster they can address in a draft class that has depth in that range.
That has now been tweaked since the Chris Paul trade broke, as the Suns are now down a wing with the loss of Kelly Oubre Jr. in the deal and would very much benefit from taking a player that’s ready right away.
Here are the five names to keep an eye on the most Wednesday night.
Desmond Bane, wing, TCU, 22 years old
The two callbacks for Jones the most when it comes to their types of players are an elite skill and versatility. Bane’s got both.
He has a case as the best shooter in the draft and no one can match him from a standpoint of prolific efficiency. On 575 attempts over four seasons, Bane shot 43.4% from three-point range, including 44.2% as a senior on over six a game.
Bane held that number despite being moved onto the ball more, taking more unassisted threes and facilitating the offense. He proved to be an adept ball-handler, improving from 2.4 assists a game to 3.9.
His understanding of making basic reads as a playmaker wasn’t all that surprising considering his resume as a team defender, where Bane’s probably a bit underrated. He’s great, playing with a high motor and level of floor sense that makes him a positive on that end despite his athletic deficiencies when it comes to speed in particular.
That limitation and his size (6-foot-5 + no length for a wing) are all that’s holding Bane back, and that shouldn’t bother a team like the Suns with the talent already on the roster. As I’ve written for weeks, there won’t be a prospect on the board that fits what they do and target more.
Saddiq Bey, wing, Villanova, 21 years old
Bey is the best offensive fit of these five. He was a lights-out shooter last season, at 45.1% from deep on 5.6 attempts a game.
His self-creation offensively wasn’t the greatest due to a lack of separation but he showed an ability time and time again to make the right pass. Yeah, I know, so shocking for a Jay Wright player to do that.
Bey’s size (6-foot-8, 6-foot-11 wingspan) gives him defensive versatility across the wing paradigm. And as you can expect again with a Villanova guy, the team defense is all there too.
If the Suns don’t see much of a difference between Bey and the other wings available, preferring someone a little higher up on the depth chart towards the frontcourt, that’s Bey.
Kira Lewis Jr., PG, Alabama, 19 years old
The Suns should be interested in getting a long-term point guard. Even with Paul, they’ll still need that guy in two years.
This is a class that is heavy on lead ball-handlers, and Lewis will be one of the best available when they pick. In my opinion, it would easily be Killian Hayes if he’s there, but he hasn’t had any contact with the Suns. That makes sense given the raw elements of his game.
That brings us to Lewis, who the Suns have shown interest in already throughout the pre-draft process.
The biggest appeal in Lewis is that, in time, the overall package is there for a well-rounded, complete point guard.
His finishing, providing for others, pick-and-roll play, pull-up shooting, catch-and-shoot ability and defense all flashed. Because of his high-end speed, Lewis will be ready to do a lot of those things once/if the development quota is met skill-wise. That is what they refer to in the business as upside.
But do the Suns want to wait on not just Lewis, but any prospect right now? They haven’t indicated as much thus far, and passing on talents like Hayes, Lewis and Tyrese Maxey would only strengthen that argument.
Aaron Nesmith, wing, Vanderbilt, 21 years old
The key differentiator for Jones when he talks about “one elite skill” is not the players being strictly specialists, so that’s where I pause on Nesmith, who you’ll find going to the Suns on a handful of mock drafts this week.
This is because Nesmith shot 52.2% from three-point range on eight attempts a night over a 14-game stretch before a stress fracture in his foot ended his year. And the tape backs up the ludicrous numbers. Vanderbilt used a variety of off-ball motion to get Nesmith on the move and open, and he showed why that was such a good idea.
Look at how fast this is in a tight window.
Nesmith teased a smidge of scoring potential as a slasher getting to the rim as well.
Beyond that, though, there wasn’t a lot there. The assist-to-turnover ratio over his 46 career collegiate games of 0.77 and assists per game of 1.3 are alarming enough. On the other end, the defensive tape is a big ol’ yikes.
The Commodores, though, were a train wreck, going 3-15 without Nesmith last year, so who knows how much his situation had to do with those negatives within his game.
The only clear takeaway is that the kid can shoot, and boy, can he shoot. There are worse ideas than adding elite shooters around Paul, Booker and Ayton.
Devin Vassell, wing, Florida State, 20 years old
Vassell is the best pure 3-and-D prospect of this group but the hesitation is that he’s a tier lower in those two departments than you might initially believe.
He shot 41.7% from deep over two seasons on 2.7 attempts per game, so the volume wasn’t on the high end like the other three wings we’ve covered thus far. Defensively, Vassell is rightfully praised more for his instincts off the ball than ability on it. He’s still good on the ball, but he’s tremendous as a team defender with an energy + feel combination that’s rare.
Vassell’s scoring popped a bit more as a sophomore, although it was midrange-heavy, therefore not all that efficient. His passing was far less about creating for others and more about quick decisions to keep the offense flowing, which is exactly what the Suns want, so that’s a plus there.
If Vassell was a little bit more impressive as a shooter or showed more offensive versatility, he would have been a terrific bet as the Suns’ choice at No. 10. He still should be considered in the mix, though, because of how he contributes.