First-Round Talent Headlines Monday's Workout

Ryan Wolf/
by Matt Petersen

From the opening drills to the last scrimmages and sprints, it was obvious to the Suns’ staff that Monday’s pre-draft workout group was an elite one.

Zach Lavine (UCLA), James Young (Kentucky), Rodney Hood (Duke), Gary Harris (Michigan State), Clint Capela (Switzerland) and Johnny O’Bryant (LSU) made for what Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough dubbed “the most talented group we’ve had” yet.

“There were a lot of first-round picks, possibly some lottery picks, on the court today,” McDonough said. “The guys played very well. You see the talent. You see the potential.”

Phoenix is in a position to match their interest with first-round picks that cover the range of the draft in which these players could be selected. The Suns hold the 14th, 18th and 27th picks in this month’s draft, as well as the 50th pick, a second-round selection.

With a team identity established around Head Coach Jeff Hornacek’s run-and-gun style, Monday’s group offered plenty of intriguing possibilities.

“We had some good positional battles, especially the four perimeter guys were pretty interchangeable,” McDonough said.

“I think Gary Harris’ two-way ability, his ability to shoot the ball and his ability to defend, stood out,” he continued. “I think with Zach LaVine, kind of the explosion and athletic ability stood out. With Rodney Hood, his ability to shoot the ball at his size stood out. Another great shooter is James Young. He’s got a beautiful stroke. He’s one of the younger players in the draft. He fit right in with some of the older guys.”

Capela Combines Size With Speed

For a team that emphasizes running every chance it gets, Clint Capela couldn’t have made a better impression.

The Swiss big man made himself a 6-foot-11 target in transition, one the guards made sure to reward again and again.

“Just his length and athleticism, especially when we got going up and down the floor, he got up, finished some lobs above the rim,” McDonough said. “He blocked some shots and did some impressive things, athletically.”

Capela is one of this year’s intriguing foreign prospects, having grown up in Switzerland before playing most recently for Chalon-Sur-Saone in France. In averaged 9.4 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in just 22 minutes per contest last season while shooting 63.2 percent from the field.

Overseas prospects often carry an identity of mystery, if only because they are not easily visible like the college stars of the NCAA Tournament.

McDonough, however, believes Capela’s stripes were earned on an even sterner stage.

“Clint plays in the first division in France. I think the competition level there is as good or better than major college basketball,” McDonough said. “He’s playing against men. He’s playing against guys who have been or will be in the NBA. If anything, that probably helps him.”

LaVine Out to Prove Point Guard Skills

At a lengthy 6-foot-6 and sporting a 41.5-inch vertical leap, UCLA’s Zach LaVine is hoping to join the growing ranks of tall and athletic guards in the league.

Versatility also helps, and it’s a trait LaVine intends to showcase in an effort to sell himself as a multi-positional NBA guard.

“Most of the time I’ve been playing point guard [in workouts],” he said. “I’m slotted as a [combo guard]. I’ve been working on everything, off the ball and on the ball. I’ve been working on a lot of skill sets.”

The work put in will serve as a refresher course, since LaVine played mostly off the ball with the Bruins. He averaged 9.4 points and 1.8 assists in 24.4 minutes per game last season.

“In college I didn’t really get to play the point guard position,” LaVine added. “I played it my whole life. I feel like I have a good handle of the ball, a good feel for the game. I’ve been working a lot on my reads, how the defenses play you, what pass to make, when to score, when’s the right time to score.”