The NBA Draft has 2 sides to it: expectations and hope.
For example, there is the expectation when drafting a freshman at 7 that they may struggle early, but in time, you hope that they develop into a core piece for your franchise.
For the first time since 2010 however, Phoenix won’t have a lottery pick; meaning an adjustment in our expectations and perhaps, more importantly, our level of hope, is necessary.
Let’s just think about youth in general first. The below box plot shows the BPM of all qualified players in each age group over the last decade. Each box representing the middle 50%, with the black horizontal line in each indicating the median.
As expected, there is a clear relationship between youth and output. A key thing to note here is that a BPM of zero is defined as league average. Thus, this merely indicates that it is likely that whoever we draft will not have a positive impact early.
Essentially, expecting a rookie to come in and fill a short-term need is rather misguided. A prominent example of this would be Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. His name has been thrown around a lot of late as someone to help fix our short-term need for a larger/chunkier player capable of playing the 4/5. The reality is though, his short-term output is likely to be less than that of a roughly minimum contract 4/5 we can get in free agency.
This leads us to the long-term expected output, or in other words, our level of hope. Over the same 10-year period, 465 different players put up a BPM of +0 in at least 1 season. Of those, just 143 were picked at 29 or later, 49 of which were UDFA. That leaves just 94 individuals who for a single season were ‘genuinely useful’. As anticipated, however, age plays a huge role here. Of those 94, just 23 did so before their age 25 season, a good proxy for when their rookie deal would expire.
If there’s one thing to take away from this bombardment of numbers, it’s that at pick 29 the chances of us coming away with a good rotation piece are very low.
So, what should the Suns do?
We know that chances are, whoever we go with at 29 won’t be a contributor early, and statistically, ever.
More so we don’t have the environment (no G-league, no 1st team minutes) to take on a real developmental project. That is, I doubt we can develop a JT Thor/Josh Christopher type prospect who needs to play through mistakes and build confidence.
Add in how tight our cap sheet is right now and will be for the foreseeable future, and it becomes clear how invaluable it will be to at least try to draft a playable guy on their rookie deal.
Let me emphasize the word try. We have acknowledged how unlikely we are to succeed yet noted the importance that we do succeed. In order to optimize those chances, playing it safe and taking an older, more known commodity, is the ideal option.
I’m talking about the likes of Miles McBride, Jared Butler, Kessler Edwards, and Chris Duarte. Non-freshman guys who can hit shots and hold the best odds at providing value on their rookie deal before leaving for more money once it is up. Having some upside on the side, like a few of the above, is a bonus.
In the case of a player like McBride, we are arguably looking at a guy that can fulfill everything Jevon does from day 1. That is a 4th guard that won’t play a tonne but provides defined and translatable skills: on-ball defense and shooting. Yet, and here’s the key, he will earn roughly 2 million less.
For a team on the edge of the tax line, this is massive, especially when you include his potential upside. That 2 million could also be the difference between staying below the Apron and having access to the full MLE or not.
Random titbit that I thought was funny and provides optimism – Last 5 players selected at pick 29:
- 2020 – Malachi Flynn
- 2019 – Keldon Johnson
- 2018 – Dzanan Musa
- 2017 – Derrick White
- 2016 – Dejounte Murray
There are 2 lines of thought here. Either a) there is some genuine value at pick 29 or b) SAS are insanely good at player development. I’d lean the latter, though it is promising regardless.
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