On Monday, the Phoenix Suns invited members of the media to eat lunch with general manager Lance Blanks and hear him address the topic of the NBA Draft coming up at the end of the month. Once I waded through the cryptic answers and non-answers given, there were a few interesting draft nuggets revealed.
First off, one of those nuggets was not about the Steve Nash Rumor Mill. No information on that front was given.
The biggest nugget was on the teams potential draft strategy. They sounds like they are targeting a wing scorer with the 13th overall pick in the draft. Another is that owner Robert Sarver is giving the team resources necessary to find the right players for the roster.
This was strictly a draft related question and answer session with the Suns GM leading up to the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago this week on June 7th and 8th. At that time, as Blanks said, he and the team's large staff will convene to start the draft process and begin looking hard at prospects.
The comprehensive staff includes college scouts, analytics experts, sports psychologists, and the familiar names of Blanks, Vice President of Player Programs Mark West, and recently promoted (to Player Development) Lindsey Hunter.
Using analytics is not an exact science, but has patterns, "some do apply, and some do not apply, but you have to be very careful with those numbers," was Blanks take on the new wave of stat-based analysis.
The team has been making strides in the way they want to build their roster. It has been an organic and natural learning curve for this regime as they are now beginning to come together after nearly two years as a group. They have the experience from last year's Draft, Off-Season, successes, and mistakes to look at.
One direction Blanks mentioned in going is adding a non-traditional type of Suns player to the roster. With the 13th overall pick he mentioned getting help on the wing, someone who, "can score baskets inside and outside of the offense taking some pressure off of the pick-and-roll."
Blanks was very good in leaving "fill in the black type" answers in regards to specific prospects. He did not mention any prospect by name. Some players in that range the team could look at as scoring guards that are known for getting their own shot are Duke's Austin Rivers, Syracuse's Dion Waiters, and Connecticut's Jeremy Lamb. Again, no players mentioned by name, but those are prospects expected to go between 10-15 in this years draft.
Drafting based off need is important on many levels according to Blanks, "All things being equal you go with a need for the team. You owe that to the fans, the organization, the ownership, and the coach to fill that need. Whenever there is an opportunity to fill a need you want to take advantage of it."
With the team improving on defense last year -- and to be honest -- having to rely on the defense to win games at times this year, the team wants to add versatility to the roster. Blanks referenced all the talk in the playoffs of teams making changes on defense and how that has impacted a team going deep in the playoffs.
This is what Blanks had to say about the philosophy of trading offense for defense: "We want to add other ways to win ball games. By no stretch do we want to take away what has been so successful here for so many years, which is scoring points. I hope as long as I am here that is still the case. We just want to add more ways to win ball games."
In assessing the prospects on the wing the team has looked Blanks thinks, "In a perfect world you want a guy that can do all of it, but in this draft pool, most of the players trend to be offense minded."
As Blanks heads out to Chicago for the NBA Draft Combine this week to meet up with his team of decision makers they will be trying to find the best strategy to draft a player that can score, defend, and fit into the Suns system. With where the team sits at No. 13 that is not out of the question.
As Blanks stated, "this time of season is quiet depressing," but among fans it is an exciting time of year as they are all clamoring towards Mock Drafts and information about the teams next potential star.
Phoenix is still getting used to how Blanks the GM is and he referenced his influences coming up in basketball family. "I come from a basketball family, when I get done here I will get on the phone with my dad," was how Blanks described his basketball background. For those who do not know, Blanks has had the opportunity to learn from Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, R.C. Buford, and Danny Ferry since he ended his playing career.
This draft will play a big role in the franchise going forward. They have player decisions to make on who to bring back and who to let go. The player (or players) they come out of the 2012 Draft could be the building blocks for the next 10 years of Phoenix Suns basketball.
More pieces to the puzzle are yet to come. The team has hosted zero player or group workouts as of today and will not begin them until after the Combine. Based on what Blanks and Co. see in Chicago they will begin to invite prospects here for closer looks.
You can get more Suns coverage at Bright Side of the Sun.