INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA — MARCH 21: Ayo Dosunmu #11 of the Illinois Fighting Illini in action in the … [+] game against the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers during the first half in the NCAA Basketball Tournament second round in the NCAA Basketball Tournament second round at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 21, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
Even though the Phoenix Suns are in the middle of an incredible playoff run, the 2021 NBA Draft is only one month away. What a change from how it used to be over the years as Phoenix laid dormant in rebuild attempts hoping for lottery luck with ping pong balls to fall their way.
This will be the first time in 11 years the Suns will not be picking in the lottery range. Instead, Phoenix will be neat the bottom of the first round at №29 overall. Although it’s not on the minds of many Suns fans, this is an important pick for the future. Having a cost-controlled contract on the books for potentially five years is a golden opportunity to find a high-end role player who fits the timeline.
Luckily for Phoenix, the late first-round has some prospects who check a lot of the boxes GM James Jones has coveted. In their two most recent draft classes run by Jones, an emphasis on shooting, positional versatility, and character top the list.
Also, another key factor to look over is the Suns’ current roster construction. Assuming Chris Paul either accepts his $44.2 million player option, or declines and signs a long-term extension for smaller annual value, Phoenix has six players about to hit the open market this offseason: Cameron Payne, Torrey Craig, Abdel Nader, E’Twaun Moore, Langston Galloway, and Frank Kaminsky. We will have to see whether the Suns are comfortable paying an above-market deal to keep Payne or Craig around, but it’s fair to assume Phoenix should be looking at ball handlers and wings in the draft to address potential roster holes.
Let’s take a look at four prospects who not only check the Suns’ emphasized boxes, but also could play immediate roles next season:
Ayo Dosunmu, Ball Handler, Illinois
In my opinion, there’s not a better fit into the Suns’ locker room at №29 overall than Dosunmu. The character traits in Dosunmu are off the charts, and his on-court prowess seems to fit what Phoenix prioritizes to near perfection.
Averaging 20.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 5.3 assists on a 56.8 true shooting percentage, Illinois’ All-American guard has the prototype of a pace-pushing lead guard who can score from all three levels. Dosunmu displaying an improvement on three-point shots was huge to his draft stock, hitting 39 percent on 2.9 attempts per game. Although Dosunmu’s mechanics still need a little bit of work with a low release point, I’m buying him becoming a positive shooter on the next level.
Dosunmu brings that winning mentality mindset to the table as well. In Year 1, I could easily envision Dosunmu being a backup guard who provides ample defensive energy and nonstop hustle on both ends.
I’m also intrigued by Dosnumu potentially having a multi-year apprenticeship under CP3. And it goes for any potential point guard selection in this year’s draft. Having an opportunity to soak up knowledge from Paul would do wonders for a potential Suns draft pick.
Jaden Springer, Ball Handler, Tennessee
According to Springer himself during NBA Draft Combine media availability, the Suns interviewed the 18-year-old from Tennessee. Springer’s profile is an intriguing fit within the Suns’ system, and one that could pay huge dividends down the road. As one of the youngest prospects in the draft, Springer perfectly fits the idea mentioned above about a potential Paul understudy.
During his one season with the Volunteers, Springer averaged 12.5 points, 2.9 assists, and 1.3 steals while shooting 44.4 percent on threes. Springer showcased an all-around game that has high potential in the Suns’ 0.5 offensive system while also being a tenacious on-ball defender who handled primary assignments.
At №29 overall, Springer is the type of dice roll organizations make to find hidden gems. If Springer is on the board, he should be very tempting for Phoenix. Although Jones has shown not to draft younger prospects since taking over as general manager, Springer should be the exception in the late first-round.
Nah’Shon Hyland, Ball Handler, VCU
One of the NBA Draft Combine’s biggest winners was Hyland, who displayed an array of offensive creativity as a three-level scorer. Jumping into a full-time starting role for VCU in 2020–21, Hyland thrived averaging 19.5 points on a 59.6 true shooting percentage.
Hyland’s two-way ability as a floor-spacer who also added 1.9 steals per game would provide an immediate boost to Phoenix’s bench. Squint hard enough and Hyland has the potential to be Cameron Payne 2.0, if the former 2015 lottery pick leaves in free agency.
The shot mechanics for Hyland should be mentioned as well, because it’s silky smooth and easily translatable to the NBA line. Hyland shot 39.9 percent from deep on six attempts per game while at VCU.
Whether it be Dosunmu, Springer, or Hyland, the Suns have an array of options to potentially find a Chris Paul understudy at №29 overall in this year’s draft.
Trey Murphy III, Wing, Virginia
When watching Murphy III’s tape, it jumps out right away he’s a James Jones type of prospect. The reason why is due to his sharpshooting ability. Murphy III transferred from Rice to Virginia and still did well with a big jump in competition averaging 11.3 points on a blistering 43.3 percent clip from deep.
Murphy also mentioned during the NBA Draft Combine he spoke with Phoenix, which further intensifies a potential prospect-team fit late in the first round.
At 6’9”, 206 pounds, Murphy III has a very similar physical profile to Suns wing Cameron Johnson. Johnson has shown through his two years in Phoenix he can play multiple positions while also providing spacing for stars Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. In today’s NBA, you can never have enough shooters with positional versatility.
Tossing Murphy III on the court alongside Johnson and Mikal Bridges would space the floor to maximum capacity for Phoenix. With Craig and Nader unrestricted free agents, Murphy III can fill the void.