The Suns two draft picks have an up-hill battle to actually make the team. Very few players selected in the second round ever make an NBA roster and most of those were taken earlier than Gani Lawal (46th pick) and, of course, Dwayne Collins was the last pick of the draft.
From the 2009 draft, 13 players were on NBA rosters last season. Only seven second-rounders drafted in 2007 made it into a third NBA season.
There are notable recent exceptions, such as Ramon Sessions (56), Marc Gasol (48), Chase Budinger (44) and the Suns' own Goran Dragic (45). Going further back, Paul Millsap, Marcin Gortat, Luis Scola and our old pal Steve Kerr were all drafted after the 46th pick, but the odds are still stacked against Lawal and Collins.
Gani Lawal is hoping to be one of those exceptions. He's a guy who was projected at one point to possibly be a lottery pick and, going into the 2010 draft, was generally considered to be a late first round or early second round guy. The Suns were thrilled he fell to the 46th pick, which probably was due to a deep draft that Steve Kerr said was very closely bunched in talent once you got past the first 25 picks.
We spoke with Gani Lawal on the phone this morning and asked how he felt about being drafted by the Suns later than expected.
"Going through the whole draft, I was just praying for a great fit," Lawal said. "Once I saw I wasn't going in the first round I said, 'Cool, that wasn't it for me.' I'm excited. I went 46 to Phoenix because that's where I'm supposed to be. I'm excited, I'm ready to get started."
Lawal thinks his athletic, running game is well-suited for the Suns' style and has been told that his physical play and rebounding will be a key for his chances. Lawal, who left Georgia Tech after three seasons, led his team in rebounding (8.5 per game) and scoring (13.1 points per game) despite playing with Derrick Favors, who was the third pick in the draft.
"I think I'll make the team because Coach Gentry really likes me and the staff likes me and they're willing to work with me and be patient with me. That will keep me in Phoenix, as well as me coming in and working hard and proving myself, which I will do," Gani said about his chances to make the team.
Dwayne Collins also thought he would be drafted higher than 60th, but was happy to be picked by the Suns, "Being selected was great. Being selected by the Suns, I would say, was even better."
Like Lawal, he thinks his rebounding and post defense will help him make the roster. He agreed that his game is similar to Lawal, but felt that he has more of a power game.
As for his chances to to make it, Collins was pragmatic, "I was happy I was selected by Phoenix, knowing they have three free agents in the same position as me, power forward. Hopefully, I end up on the team."
Lawal and Collins both went to ACC schools and according to SBN's George Tech blog From the Rumble Seat, faced each other five times with Miami beating Tech in four of those meetings, "The Hurricanes are the proverbial fly in our soup. Against Tech, Collins averaged 22 minutes played, 8.6 rebounds, and 8.8 points per game. He was a fairly big part of Miami hoops the past four seasons and was critical in Miami dominance of Tech during his college career."
In their last meeting on the court, Lawal dominated Miami, putting up 17 points and 18 rebounds in 32 minutes of play. Collins had his own double-double (13 points, 11 rebounds) while Derrick Favors was held to only 7 points and 6 rebounds. Miami won the game 64-62.
Both Lawal and Collins had good things to say about the other and according to Gani, they have a personal relationship and should help each other get better by playing together in practice.
Lawal will be in Phoenix next week preparing to play for the Suns Summer League team.
Collins, who had minor surgery to repair a slight meniscus tear in his knee, has not yet be told if he will come to Phoenix to continue his rehab or will stay in Miami, where he has an apartment near the Miami campus. Dwayne hopes to play in Vegas, but is sure he will be ready.