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The 2011 NBA Draft is just hours away, and the trading flurry has already begun. News down the pipeline is that the Milwaukee Bucks, Sacramento Kings, and Charlotte Bobcats have swung a three-way deal involving quite a few different pieces. Reports are that Bobcats will receive the Kings' 7th pick and Corey Maggette, the Bucks receive Beno Udrih, Stephen Jackson, Shaun Livingston, and Charlotte's 19th pick, and the Kings receive Milwaukee's 10th pick and John Salmons.
Needless to say, the draft order has been shaken up with news of the impending deal. Conflicting reports are suggesting that the Kings also might be trying to shop the 10th pick and Salmons to the San Antonio Spurs for Tony Parker and Richard Jefferson, though Sacramento has been somewhat infatuated with Jimmer Fredette throughout the pre-draft process. Regardless, this is only the beginning of the oncoming rush of moves.
The 2011 NBA Draft will begin at Thursday night at 4:30 p.m. Coverage can be seen live on ESPN. A live stream will also be available via ESPN3.com.
The current first-round NBA draft order is as follows:
7. Bobcats (via reported trade with Kings/Bucks)
10. Kings (via reported trade with Bucks/Bobcats)
19. Bucks (via reported trade with Kings/Bobcats)
21. Trail Blazers
The Phoenix Suns announced today in a bit of a housekeeping move that they made a qualifying offer to point guard Aaron Brooks. Brooks would have become an unrestricted free agent if the offer hadn't been made. He will now be a restricted free agent once free agency begins. Normally, the free agency period would start on July 1, but that's also the date the current CBA expires and is likely to be the start of the NBA lock out.
Once a new CBA is agreed to there will be a free agency period that could be very short depending on how long the lock out lasts. At that point teams can make an offer to Brooks that the Suns have the right to match. If the Suns match the offer but Brooks rejects it, he would play out his final year at the qualifying offer rate which is reported to be $2.9m and then become an unrestricted free agent the following year.
Brooks was acquired from Houston in a February trade deadline deal that sent Goran Dragic and Orlando's first round pick (no. 23) to the Rockets. It was believed that Brooks could give the Suns a scoring punch off the bench and help get them to the playoffs but he continued to play poorly as he had done all season before the trade. Keep an eye on that 23rd pick in Thursday draft and hope that the player doesn't pan out and embarrass the Suns further.
The Phoenix Suns have worked out a deal with veteran shooting guard Vince Carter that will give the organization until the start of the NBA free agency period to make a decision on waiving him from the roster. Initially, the deadline to waive Carter was Thursday, June 30, 2011. If the Suns do not agree to buyout the former-superstar for $4 million before the extended deadline, they will be on the hook for his $18 million salary next season.
While the move certainly gives the Suns more flexibility in trade discussions -- having a slashable $18 million contract is always a good bargaining chip in today's cap-conscious NBA -- it is somewhat puzzling that Carter would agree to go down this route. It would seem that he incurs no benefits for this decision, as it only muddles and delays the eight-time All-Star's future plans. Though, who knows, this may just be a case of Carter being a good Samaritan and taking one for the team.
Official Press Release:
The Phoenix Suns and guard Vince Carter have agreed to modify the date on which Carter's contract becomes fully guaranteed, the club announced today. Originally, the Suns had until Thursday, June 30, but that date has been changed to the start of NBA free agency for the 2011-2012 season.
"This change gives us additional time and flexibility to make a decision on Vince's contract," said Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby.
The final roundup of NBA Mock Drafts are here, and apparently disagreement is the tune of the day. We've heard it time and time again, but the sentiment really is true. Even on the day of the NBA Draft, this year's crop of players still remains one of the hardest to pin down in recent memory. The reason being, after the top three-to-five players, everyone else seems to exist within varying degrees of mediocrity. As Suns GM Lance Blanks said, "I think the player (picked at) at 15 could be as good, if not better, than the player at 10."
Well that really dirties things for the Phoenix Suns now doesn't it? Uncomfortably situated at pick number 13, Phoenix falls right at the tail-end of the amorphous talent blob in this year's draft. Because of the lack of definitiveness, we essentially have no idea who will be available. At all.
Mock drafts around the Internet are all over the board with this pick, and obviously reflect the surreal amount of dissention soaking in the air. Of course, the usual suspects are there -- Jimmer Fredette, Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, Tristan Thompson, and Bismack Biyombo -- but now they are joined by a brigade of unexpected names such as Marshon Brooks, Kemba Walker, Iman Shumpert, and Chris Singleton. What's going to happen? Clearly nobody knows.
SB Nation | 2011 NBA Mock Draft
13. Phoenix Suns: Jimmer Fredette, G, BYU
USA Today | USA TODAY's final NBA mock draft
13. Phoenix - F, Marcus Morris 6'8, 229 / Kansas
Smooth, versatile offensive player. A bit of a tweener at the next level.
Sports Illustrated | 2011 NBA Mock Draft 3.0
13. Phoenix - PG, Jimmer Fredette, BYU, Sr., 6-3, 196
Every so often, there's a pick that forces a team to re-evaluate its priorities because of the opportunity that presents itself. Such is the case here as a squad looking to improve its defense has a chance to add yet another sharpshooter. The Suns still might go big with the pick, according to sources, choosing either a Morris twin (I still have Markieff available here) or Tristan Thompson.
HoopsHype | HoopsHype.com Draft 2011
13. Phoenix - Markieff Morris 6-9 PF Kansas / Junior
The Morris Twins have built a reputation for bringing intensity and toughness every time out. Some envision Markieff becoming the better pro (over Marcus) due to his size and better ability to fit a position (PF). Phoenix can use some toughness in the paint and Markief has skills to boot.
Comparison: Drew Gooden
HoopsWorld | 2011 NBA Mock Draft - Final Consensus
13. Phoenix Suns
Alex Raskin: Jimmer Fredette
Yannis Koutroupis: Bismack Biyombo
Joel Brigham: Marshon Brooks
Luke Byrnes: Tristan Thompson
Steve Kyler: Kemba Walker
RotoWorld | The Final NBA Mock Draft
13. Suns - Iman Shumpert, PG, Georgia Tech
Shumpert's stock has been on a crazy rise lately and the team I've seen him most associated with is the Suns. He's also been linked with the Knicks, Timberwolves and Nuggets, but I've got a feeling the Suns might pull the trigger at 13, where he'd likely be the third-string point guard behind Steve Nash and Aaron Brooks. If they don't go Shumpert (and I'm not convinced they will), look for them to grab the best big man available, which could be Jonas Valanciunas.
ESPN | Dick Vitale's 2011 NBA mock draft
13. Phoenix - Bismack Biyombo, PF, Congo
CBS Sports | Mock Drafts
13. Phoenix Suns
Matt Moore: Kemba Walker, PG, Connecticut
Ben Golliver: Marcus Morris, PF, Kansas
FOX Sports | NBADraft.net mock draft 4.0
13. Phoenix Suns - Markieff Morris, PF, Kansas: The Morris Twins have built a reputation for bringing intensity and toughness every time out. Some envision Markieff becoming the better pro (over Marcus) due to his size and better ability to fit a position (PF). Phoenix can use some toughness in the paint and Markieff has skills to boot.
Sporting News | NBA Mock Draft: Cavs mull options, but Irving still the one
13. Phoenix - Chris Singleton, SF, Florida State
Another small forward? Well, yeah. The Suns need to upgrade their defense, and Singleton might be the best perimeter defender in the draft. One of the Morrises could go here, too.
We already know the Phoenix Suns won't be trading Steve Nash. President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby said so in no uncertain terms. The man couldn't have been more clear and specific in his denial in response to more Nash trade rumors if he put his hand on a bible and swore an oath or took the Unbreakable Vow.
So there it is, story over. Steve Nash is not being traded and Steve Nash agreed...except he sort of opened the door just a tad. Uh oh.
azcentral.com blogs - Coro's Orange Slices - PaulCoro - Nash reiterates stance on staying
"This is a tough question for me," Nash said. "When you're in a situation (where) you've given a lot of you career to one franchise, you feel at home there. I feel a loyalty to my team, our community in Phoenix. I want us to try to get back and try to compete for a championship like we did two seasons ago so that's kind of all I think about."
And if Nash had stopped there, his boss back in Phoenix would be a happy man having not risked magical death by breaking the Unbreakable Vow. But instead, Nash threw just a hint of chaos into the mix. He's a trickster like that sometimes...
"So I don't plan on leaving but obviously if the opportunity were ever there, where Phoenix were rebuilding or whatever happens, Toronto would be an amazing place to play. It's a great city. It'd be at home in Canada. To be a part of their, hopefully, future success would be great but I don't really have any plans other than try to get our team back in the playoffs and contend for a championship."
Toronto. The Raptors. The team with the fifth pick in Friday's draft and one of the best offensive players in the game (Andrea Bargnani) who they seem ready to give up on because he can't play defense (IRONY ALERT!). Nash would be a hero in Toronto and it would position him well for his future run for Prime Minister.
The last time it came up it was just a silly hoax, but let's not forget what Nash said at the time, "I mean, obviously I'll be prime minister one day, but I wasn't going to do it until after I finished playing basketball."
It all makes sense now. Nash plants a story in the local paper showing his willingness to go to Toronto which gives the Suns an out with the fans when they trade him. Nash returns to his home country and turns the Raptors from a 22-win team to a 42-win team and then announces his plans to run for office. Clever, Steve. Very, very clever.
But it doesn't matter, the Suns aren't trading Steve Nash to the Toronto Raptors. They said they weren't and I take them at their word.
In just another sign of the craziness that surrounds the NBA Trade Deadline and it's summer alternative, the NBA Draft, the Phoenix Suns were once again forced to forcibly deny they were trading Steve Nash. The initial ESPN report said that the Timberwolves would dangle the number 2 pick in Thursday's draft in return for Nash (salary mismatch issues aside) but quickly realized that wouldn't work (which should have been obvious before anyone had to pick up a phone).
The Wolves, according to the report, were willing to part with the second pick to get Nash but since Nash only has one year left on his deal (a year the might be shortened by a lockout), it doesn't make sense to give up an asset to get him for such a short period of time unless Nash were willing to sign an extension or otherwise indicate he would be willing to stay in Minnesota (and why would he do that?).
So, that brings us back to Suns President Lon Babby telling the Arizona Republic that the Suns are not trading Nash. This might sound familiar since Babby has said the same thing about 10 times.
azcentral.com blogs - Coro's Orange Slices - PaulCoro - Babby firm on not trading Nash
"We are not trading Marcin Gortat. Period. End of sentence," Babby said Wednesday morning. "We are not trading Steve Nash. Period. Exclamation point."
The inclusion of Gortat in the denial is actually more interesting since just yesterday GM Lance Blanks didn't fully deny rumors of a possible deal sending him to Minnesota. Not that Blanks indicated they would make a move, but in totally typical GM-speak he did leave the door somewhat open. Babby closed it.
"It's speculation," Blanks said Tuesday. "It's obviously founded speculation, but that's part of the business. We're going to build the best team we can. We love Marcin Gortat, and hope that he's a part of our core going forward for a long time."
Babby turned "we hope that he's part of..." to "we are not trading Marcin Gortat" which of course really only means they don't plan on trading Marcin Gortat right now. But if we've learned anything about covering the NBA it's that anything is possible.
Sometimes it's just better to wait until something actually happens before talking about it...but that's not really possible either so the rumor game rolls on.
When we first heard Iman Shumpert's name floated as a possible draft pick for the Phoenix Suns with the 13th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft the universal reaction was, huh? Shumpert tested off the charts athletically but his shooting efficiency at Georgia Tech and decision-making as a point guard has left most draft "experts" thinking he'd be a late first round pick.
Here's the thing about draft experts -- and they will admit this -- they are wrong every year. Guys get drafted both too high and too low for the simply reason that this process isn't a science. With a guy like Shumpert there's a few critical things to consider.
We know that he's an elite NBA athlete with incredible physical traits. He stands 6-5.5 with a wingspan of 6-9.5. To compare, the average power forward has a seven foot wing span. Shumpert's max vertical leap of 42 inches is right up there with Vince Carter (43) and more than Rudy Gay (40.5) and Derrick Rose (40). He's a tenacious defender considered a potential lock-down guy at the guard and wing positions and rebounds well above average for his position.
What we don't know about Shumpert is if he can play the point guard position or shoot well enough to play off the ball. He's certainly not done that well in those areas after three years at Georgia Tech but his other attributes put him high enough up the board that it's worth looking at.
Does he have the instincts and mind-set to learn the game at the next level and take better shots when he's playing with better players? Or will he be the next Gerald Green who was a great athlete who could never figure out how to play at the NBA level?
That's the point of the draft workout process. Scouts can tell you what he's done in a certain situation but if you want to understand what a player can do in the future, you have to look at the combination of his physical abilities and mental make up.
Gani Lawal on his former teammate, Iman Shumpert
We asked his former George Tech teammate, Suns forward Gani Lawal, some questions about Shumpert to see what he had to say. Lawal himself is a high character guy with a very good head on his shoulders (albeit prone to some rookie mistakes last year) who played two years with Shumpert and considers him a friend.
"He definitely can run a team. He's very intelligent. That's one thing that hasn't been reported as much. He's very intelligent, he knows the game. I feel he can play the point," Lawal said.
"It may be a stretch but as far as his defensive ability and athleticism I'd say a throw-back Scottie Pippen...Just kind of an all-purpose do everything kind of player. You know how Scottie was kind of a point forward. As far as players now, I would have to say Trevor Ariza. He's a lot bigger than Trevor Ariza (Ariza is 6-8, 200 lbs. Shumpert is 6-6, 220)...When I think of how Trevor Ariza is defensively, how explosive he can be on the offensive side of the ball I think he might have some similar qualities."
Lawal said there's really not a direct comparison for a guy like Shumpert who's comparable to Ariza defensively and athletically but is a better ball handler and distributor.
Gani, of course, is prone to talk positively about his friend and former teammate, but if you think about the potential of a guy who has that combination of defensive ability and size at the guard position, you have to give him a second look at 13. Even if he's more of a play-making two guard like OJ Mayo, that's a lot of upside.
Teams (and draft experts) don't think twice about drafting bigs who have size and defensive promise and "raw" offensive ability. If you can get the same at the guard position you have to consider it over some rather mediocre-looking power forwards.
His rise late in the draft process reminds me of Jrue Holiday who the Suns ended up passing on in favor of Earl Clark. Holiday was slotted anywhere from late first round up to the top-five but teams seemed scared by his poor numbers at UCLA and questions about his ability to play the point guard position. There's a lot of folks regretting letting him fall to 17 in 2009.
This is a (almost) 21-year-old guy who's played in one place. If you have a chance to draft a player with known elite athletic ability and high-potential to be an above average defender, you have to explore the possibility that his offensive game could develop.
You look at his raw shooting mechanics. You look at him in specific ball handling drills and situations. You look at him running pick and roll sets compared to Jimmer Fredette with bigs like Marcus Morris and Tristan Thomas. And most importantly you spend time talking to Shumpert to get a sense for his ability to learn the game.
That's what it seems the Suns have done and if they decide to take him over one of the power forwards, I'd be on board with that. Guys like this don't come around very often. 6-9 power forwards with a mix of potentially average NBA skills do.
As the days wind down until Thursday's NBA draft, the activity within the Phoenix Suns front office is just beginning to heat up. Yet, with the heavy influx of mock drafts, player evaluations, and bogus trades rumors thrown towards the public, it gets difficult to wade through the morsels and find a legitimate meal. This sentiment is only compounded by the fact that this draft may be the most hard to pin down of the last decade.
"One of the challenges about ranking this draft is there is not as much clarity in terms of who is going to pick when," explained Suns general manager Lance Blanks during Tuesday's pre-draft media session. "I think the player (picked at) at 15 could be as good, if not better, than the player at 10. From all of my research, it looks like this draft is going to be fairly deep, and hopefully you're one of the teams that gets the right guy that aligns with your organization."
The name Suns fans may have been surprised to hear lately is Iman Shumpert, the hyper-athletic 6'6" guard out of Georgia Tech. Recent reports indicate that the Suns may be much higher on the Yellow Jacket than most. Draftexpress.com lists the 20-year old as a likely late-first round, early-second round pick, but rumors say the Suns are looking at him with the 13th pick.
"He's a combo guard, that can play both the one and the two," said Suns director of player personnel John Treloar. "He's at the top of the list athletically in the draft."
"I think he can defend really well," GM Lance Blanks elaborated. "Probably not the greatest shooting percentages from three and such, but some of that might be a function of not (having) the best shooting selection."
Without question, the biggest knock on Shumpert is his strangely poor shot selection. In his last year at Georgia Tech, the guard averaged 14.1 shots per game, while converting only 5.7 of them successfully, for a 40.6 field goal percentage. To extrapolate, almost 68% of his shot attempts were jump-shots, yet he sunk them at an alarmingly-low 28.4% rate. Further making matters worse, Shumpert converted a dreadful 19.5% of his shots when pulling up off the dribble.
Of course, throughout all this, Jimmer-Mania continues to swirl around the valley, as some fans have already tabbed the BYU standout as the Suns' point guard of the future. Certainly it does seem as though stars twinkle in the front office's eyes when the idea is brought up.
"He's fun to watch, and he was very impressive in the workout he had here. He has a confidence and a swagger about him that is very unique," Blanks reverently remarked. "I don't want to overstate it, but he's high character, and given the right opportunity and the right situation, he's going to figure it out."
No doubt the Suns have given all indications throughout the past few weeks that Jimmer is near the top of their draft boards. Yet, for a team that continues to preach an organizational shift towards a defensive mentality, the decision to nab Fredette -- a player infamous for his defensive shortcomings -- seems counterproductive.
Blanks understands the sentiment, but disagrees with definitive nature of it.
"It's an entire game, and there has to be balance," he explained. "Defense is very important. But it's a sliding scale. There may be an offensive player that seems more worthy of being a part of this organization.
"I don't want us to go out and draft Jimmer, and (the public) thinks we were dishonest or misleading," he continued. "You've got to play an entire game, both sides of the floor, we feel, in order to be competitive in this league."
Also flooding Phoenix news feeds recently have been rumors of a Marcin Gortat deal to Minnesota that would result in the Suns receiving the #2 pick in the draft. Blanks would neither confirm nor deny the discussions.
"It's speculation," he said. "It's obviously founded speculation, but that's part of the business.
"We're going to build the best team we can. We love Marcin Gortat, and hope that he's a part of our core going forward for a long time," Blanks finished.
The 2011 NBA Draft will be held Thursday at 5:30 MST on ESPN. The Phoenix Suns hold the thirteenth pick in this year's lottery.
Suns general manager Lance Blanks on where he feels the Suns will look improve: "We need to get better up front, maybe bulkier and stronger. Some wing scoring could be helpful. After that, it's a little bit of a sliding scale. If a player is really good and he plays the three, then we'll do that. Or the five. Whatever the case may be."
"We've (also) got to figure out the back-up point guard situation."
Blanks on rumblings that this is a weak draft: "I think this is a deep draft, and you do have players that are going to be able to impact rosters around the league."
Blanks on whether the Suns should aim to draft for potential or immediate impact: "In a perfect world you'd like to draft both a guy that has shown some shown performance throughout the season, but also, may be on a trajectory where he is showing some potential to be good for the organization."
"I'd like to believe, assuming we keep this pick, that we'll have an opportunity to get a player that can help this organization."
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