Phoenix Suns: 2017 NBA Draft grades

Phoenix Suns

Jun 22, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Josh Jackson (Kansas) is introduced by NBA commissioner Adam Silver as the number four overall pick to the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the 2017 NBA Draft is in the books, here are complete draft grades for every move the Phoenix Suns made.

The Phoenix Suns entered the 2017 NBA Draft with lofty expectations, and although there was no blockbuster trade to be found, the team will still enter its 50th season as an NBA franchise with plenty of hope.

Although visions of the unicorn Kristaps Porzingis turned out to be a mere mirage, the Suns stayed the course by avoiding another pointless rebuild-from-the-middle attempt by trading for someone like Jimmy Butler, DeAndre Jordan or a one-year Paul George rental.

Even better, the Suns’ No. 1 draft target fell to them at No. 4 when the Boston Celtics took Jayson Tatum at No. 3, leaving Kansas wing Josh Jackson on the board still.

With the 32nd overall pick Phoenix selected Miami’s Davon Reed. Late in the second round, the Suns took a chance on a stretch-4 coming off an injury with Valparaiso’s Alec Peters.

The question is, how did the Suns’ draft stack up to expectations and the rest of the NBA? And how do these new, young pieces fit with the team’s rebuild? To sort it all out, here are the Phoenix Suns’ complete 2017 NBA Draft grades.

Phoenix Suns

Jun 22, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Josh Jackson (Kansas) is introduced by NBA commissioner Adam Silver as the number four overall pick to the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

No. 4 — Josh Jackson, Kansas

The Suns didn’t get their hands on a Porzingis-Devin Booker star tandem on draft night, but Josh Jackson falling to No. 4 was a pretty terrific consolation prize. This fiery wing is perhaps the best two-way prospect in the draft, and if he develops a consistent three-point jumper, he could conceivably steal the title of best player in the draft.

General manager Ryan McDonough believes the same.

“We thought Josh Jackson was the best player in the draft,” he said. “People say, ‘Well yeah, maybe he’s the best two-way player,’ but last I checked, the game was played two ways, you don’t just play one. We really like Josh — his talent, we love his fit for our roster.”

From his defensive skill-set to his competitive fire to his passing ability on the wing, Jackson is one consistent jump shot away from being the total package.

In his one year at Kansas, Jackson averaged 16.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks per game while shooting 51.3 percent from the field and 37.8 percent from three-point range. Despite Jayson Tatum being pegged as the more dynamic scorer, Jackson actually posted better numbers in field goal and three-point percentage.

His jump shot needs some slight modifications to translate to the next level, but his versatility, defensive mindset, playmaking ability, youth and defense all make him a tremendous fit with Phoenix’s rebuild.

“When I look at Phoenix, that’s one of the things that really excites me is that they’re young,” Jackson said. “I know that I got a lot of things to learn coming into this league. I know that they still got some things that they need to learn, but being able to learn those things together and come up and group up together, I think down the road that will make our team chemistry just so much better and end up making us a really special team.”

Between Devin Booker and Jackson, the Suns now have two pillars to build on, with Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender potentially being the third and fourth.

Jackson will help cover for Booker’s deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball, while Booker’s scoring ability and shooting range may clear driving and cutting lanes for the former Jayhawk on the other end.

T.J. Warren is eligible for a contract extension in these upcoming summer months, so Jackson also provides insurance on the wing in case the two sides are unable to reach an agreement.

However, McDonough didn’t seem to worried about that, specifically mentioning that having Booker, Warren and Jackson all on the wing is a luxury given the way the league is trending.

If Jackson can control his temper and harness that fiery on-court persona of his, it’ll be good for a young and undisciplined Suns team that got into plenty of scuffles and led the league in technical fouls last year. But even if he doesn’t, Jackson’s toughness still fits this team’s genetic makeup like a glove.

The Phoenix Suns got their guy at No. 4. Only time will tell if that jumper can elevate him from a good player into a great one, but McDonough and the front office have to be happy with how the first round went.

Grade: A

Phoenix Suns

Jan 4, 2017; Syracuse, NY, USA; Miami Hurricanes guard Davon Reed (5) takes a jump shot as Syracuse Orange guard Tyus Battle (25) and forward Tyler Roberson (21) defend during the second half at the Carrier Dome. Syracuse won 70-55. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

No. 32 — Davon Reed, Miami

The Suns made the perfect pick at No. 4, but their first selection of the second round was a bit of a head-scratcher.

It’s not that shooting guard Davon Reed is a bad prospect by any means; in fact, he brings many of the 3-and-D qualities the Suns need in a league centered around positional versatility and three-point shooting.

However, taking him this early in the second round felt like a bit of a stretch. Most mocks had him falling toward the end of the second round, where the Suns may have been able to land him with the 54th overall pick.

With Oregon’s Jordan Bell and SMU’s Semi Ojeleye both available at No. 32, Reed felt like a bit of a reach for this spot in the draft, even if he was one of the four prospects the Phoenix Suns worked out twice (Ojeleye, Villanova’s Josh Hart and Oregon’s Dillon Brooks were the others).

That being said, the 6’6″ wing out of Miami still has something to offer Phoenix, especially when it comes to his mammoth 7’0″ wingspan that will help him switch on the perimeter defensively.

“He’s got pretty good size and strength and length for a shooting guard,” McDonough said. “He can defend his position and he can make an open shot. So when we took Josh Jackson with the fourth pick, if you look at our depth chart after that, we kind of had somewhat of a hole potentially at the 2-guard spot. That’s something we didn’t really have behind Devin in our young group.”

At age 22, Reed provides a bit more experience and poise for a rookie selection — a possibly welcome addition to such a green locker room. In his senior season with the Hurricanes, he averaged 14.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game while shooting 39.7 percent from three-point range.

Between that all-encompassing wingspan, three-point touch and hard-nosed work ethic that McDonough raved about all throughout the draft workout process, the Danny Green-lite potential is there.

Again though, considering he might have still been there at No. 54, it’s hard not to think about how someone like Jordan Bell — wisely scooped up by the Golden State Warriors, damn their all-knowing ways! — might have helped bolster the frontcourt that will see Alex Len and Alan Williams hit restricted free agency this summer.

Grade: C-

Phoenix Suns

Dec 7, 2016; Lexington, KY, USA; Valparaiso Crusaders forward Alec Peters (25) passes the ball against Kentucky Wildcats guard Isaiah Briscoe (13) in the second half at Rupp Arena. Kentucky defeated Valparaiso 87-63. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

No. 54 — Alec Peters, Valparaiso

Forget about his season-ending foot injury or the fact that most late second round picks never really pan out, because if you’re not rooting for this Valparaiso big man after hearing his name called by the Suns, there’s not much else to say:

Peters, a 22-year-old senior, projects to be a stretch-4 and might have been taken much higher if not for the foot injury that will prevent him from suiting up for NBA Summer League.

In his final season with the Crusaders, the 6’9″ power forward averaged 23.0 points and 10.1 rebounds per game while shooting 46.6 percent from the field and 36.3 percent from downtown on 5.5 attempts per game.

“With he and Davon, our two second round picks we feel like we got two of the better shooters in draft, which is obviously another area that we need to improve,” McDonough said.

If not for that injury, he would have been more widely recognized as one of the best shooting big men in the draft. Whether he turns out to be a second round steal or just another optimistic shot in the dark remains to be seen, but best of luck trying not too root for this guy.

Grade: C+

Phoenix Suns

Jun 22, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Josh Jackson (Kansas) reacts after being introduced as the number four overall pick to the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Final grade

To recap, the Suns got their guy despite sliding from No. 2 in the draft lottery standings to No. 4; added a 3-and-D wing to address two of the team’s biggest needs; and took a chance on a potential steal for a frontcourt that could always do with a little extra shooting prowess.

Second round picks are long shots to make a final 15-man roster, but thanks to the NBA’s new two-way deals, certain players can be designated for additional roster spots, allowing them to fluctuate more freely between the NBA and the G-League.

That might be Reed and Peters’ fates for the upcoming season, especially since the Suns won’t be able to get a look at the Valparaiso big man in NBA Summer League.

But even if Peters never pans out and even if Reed’s trend of continuing to grind his way to more favorable situations stops at the NBA level, the Phoenix Suns will still walk away with one of the best prospects in this year’s class in Josh Jackson.

Pairing him with Booker on the wing helps cover for some of this team’s defensive flaws on the perimeter, and if T.J. Warren can continue to improve on that end of the floor, matching those three with Dragan Bender/Marquese Chriss will allow Phoenix to unleash some devastating small-ball lineups down the road.

His jump shot is a concern, but he’s only 20 and has plenty of reason for motivation after watching three teams pass on him. If he can develop a smooth stroke, keep his emotions in check and learn to harness that competitive fire into fuel, the Suns seem poised to begin rising from the ashes.

Grade: A-

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