PORTLAND, OR - APRIL 29: Rudy Fernandez #5 of the Portland Trail Blazers hunches over as Steve Nash #13 and Grant Hill #33 of the Phoenix Suns celebrate during Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the NBA Playoffs on April 29, 2010 at the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon. The Suns defeated the Blazers 99-90. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Entering into the 2012 NBA Draft the Phoenix Suns have major decisions to make on the roster and direction of the franchise. Are they looking to replace Steve Nash or create a new identity?
A lot can change in three weeks in what is the reality of the high paced world of the 2012 NBA Draft. This year especially with the lockout rushing the regular season and playoffs it almost feels like the draft process is barely beginning, but we are now a mere few days away.
The Suns made the decision to fight through a tough, talent light season which put them in the position they are in today - drafting No. 13 Overall.
They are a team that needs an influx of talent between the NBA Draft and the pending off-season that starts 13 days after the draft. Lance Blanks addressed the teams' philosophy on both, "Free agency starts in the ladder part of the season when you begin to evaluate the roster. The largest pool of players is going to come from the NBA. Robert (Sarver) has given us the resources to scout other teams and we are constantly going back and forth with most of the emphasis as of late being on the draft."
The team itself has a lot of holes to fill with one pick (as of today) in the draft they need to hit this one big.
Overall the talent pool is much deeper and much more talented across the board looking at all positions. The roster for next year has a lot of uncertainty, but also has some obvious strengths. With Marcin Gortat (28), Channing Frye (29), Markieff Morris (22), and potentially bringing back Robin Lopez (24) the Suns have a lot of talent in the paint.
The question marks lie on the perimeter where the team needs to make decisions on Steve Nash (38), Grant Hill (39), Shannon Brown (26), Sebastian Telfair (27), and late season addition Michael Redd (32) on whether they are going to be a part of the team next year.
Early in the draft process Blanks had referenced a philosophy on targeting a perimeter player that can create offense in and outside of the traditional offense. With most of those types of talent likely going ahead of the Suns, the philosophy doesn't necessarily shift.
"No philosophy change. The perimeter scorers is mostly a function of our roster then it is the draft class because we think there are good players at every position. Incidentally we have had players in here from every position. It's not a situation where because we think guys are going to be gone at that position and definitely draft a five or a one. It is a sliding scale maybe you take the best player for whatever reason; maybe you go away from the point guard spot and go to the three. There really is no philosophy shift."
Take that for what it is worth. The team would like to add a perimeter scorer, but with talk of all the top players at those positions going higher than originally projected the team is clearly switching gears. Talents like Austin Rivers and Dion Waiters did not work out for the Suns and will go Top 10.
On Saturday (June 23rd) the team had Jeremy Lamb in for a workout and Blanks was pretty vanilla about the results, "Pretty much every guy that came here showed, showed significance. All of these workouts were solid, sound, healthy workouts."
Two players they did have in for workouts not only once, but also for a second look as well were North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall and Mississippi State power forward Arnett Moultrie.
"I will give a nugget or two, but I want to be sensitive to the players and our process. Those guys are potential guys that can fit needs of ours. More specifically one (Marshall) is an obviously well accomplished winning point guard. Quiet frankly that is what I like the most about him, he is a winner. That is something that we aspire to do in this business and more specifically that is a position of need. The other kid (Moultrie) offers a level of athleticism and is still trending up as a player. He is one that can potentially grow with an organization."
Outside of those three prospects that are at the very least viable at the No. 13 spot, the team has been working out prospects that are not in their draft range. Acquiring another pick is always an option, but then again Blanks evaluation process is a different than others in that they do not go off of conformity and "rankings" that are out in the public, "We try to stay away from projections, for example say there may be a guy "projected" to go in the 20's. We are not in the business to try and figure out exactly where a guy may go." The team looks at players that fit their need and culture.
One commonality with the draft and the team philosophy is the influx of youth, "I will tell you youth is something that is extremely important for us right now given where we are right now. These are important decisions. By no stretch will we shun away from adding another pick, but it is not a function of who we brought in."
Keeping in mind the weaknesses of the team, the element of free agency, and having an open eye to all the moving pieces around them is key to having a successful draft. On the Steve Nash front the Suns are cognoscente of his pending free agency and the draft. When asked if the direction in the draft has anything to do with decisions on free agents, "A little bit of both."
What does this all mean for the draft?
Like last year the team knows who they like and in a deep class like this they have more options where they pick. Based on who they have brought in the likelihood of acquiring another pick is most certainly in the realm of possibility.
Last year they locked in on Iman Shumpert and Markieff Morris. With both on the board the rest is history and the team did not take the opportunity to take a risk on a player instead opting for the safer route.
This is a different type of draft where the talent pool from the 7-15 is fairly similar. The team is doing its homework and improving as a unit leading up to their second year together making franchise altering decisions and overall Blanks is positive about the group, "I am wildly excited about this group and the biggest difference is continuity. The continuity, comradery, and trust built amongst each other I am certain at some level will show up in our selection."
It is the final countdown to the NBA Draft here as it happens on Hune 28th, 2012 at 7pm EST meaning the Suns should be on the clock close to 8:30pm EST to make their selection.