Suns Confident as Draft Nears
Posted: June 25, 2012
There are plenty of reasons why an NBA general manager could become nervous at this time of year.
The 2012 NBA Draft is just three days away. The free agent moratorium period – when negotiations can occur but contracts cannot be signed – begins July 1. Numerous trade scenarios are floating around that can change the landscape of the draft and the league.
In essence, the time is now for shaping the kind of team that will take the court next season.
But Lance Blanks, the Phoenix Suns’ second-year General Manager, has remained calm and collected through this year’s draft process, and he points to one reason as why.
“I’ll give you guys another nugget,” Blanks said to assembled media members on Monday. “We had a phenomenal dinner last night with the staff, and I’m wildly excited about our group. The biggest difference from last year to this year is just continuity.”
A year ago, Blanks was staring at his first draft as a general manager. Now that he has sculpted the group of personnel people and scouts around him in his second season, the Suns GM feels all the adjustments have been made to make the process run “like a well-oiled machine.”
Most important in that process, according to Blanks, has been John Treloar – his Director of Player Personnel. From Treloar on down, the culture of hard work has been established in the front office and trust has been built.
“The continuity, camaraderie and the trust that we’ve been able to build amongst each other, I’m certain will show up at some level in our selection,” Blanks said.
As things currently stand, Blanks said that his personal draft board has identified 13 prospects over the course of seven workouts that included more than 30 players, but it isn’t an overall ranking of players or even ranking players at a specific position.
The GM explained that he prefers a process that identifies players to place on his board that will best meet the needs of the team and the standards of the organization.
If things fall into place during the draft, Blanks feels as though he has the players identified who he feels comfortable selecting. The team also hasn’t ruled out any possibilities for the draft – including trading the pick or finding a way to gain another pick.
Still, the final workout held by the team just took place last weekend, and the basketball operations staff has loose ends to tie up before Thursday.
“Where I sit today, and if the draft happened today, and this is in a vacuum, then I think we have a player there (at 13),” Blanks said. “But I want to listen to the scouts, hear what they’ve seen. Like I said, we had workouts this weekend, and we have to get our final data in on that, get our opinions across about who’s going to make the most sense.”
Effects of a Deep Draft
Blanks made it clear that the Suns are not pigeon-holing themselves into a particular player or position heading into Thursday’s draft, because there are simply too many good players and too wide a variety.
The GM clarified a belief that the Suns might be targeting a perimeter scorer, by saying that the team would be shortsighted to focus on one particular need or position during such a deep draft.
Blanks envisions scenarios, depending on how the draft unfolds, that could cause a post player to fall further than he should. The same case could be made for a point guard.
The bottom line for the Suns will be to select the best fit, regardless of position, for the franchise.
“Because of the depth of the entire group, I think we can end up with someone solid on the perimeter,” Blanks said. “But when you look across the landscape of every position there are some pretty good players.”
Blanks does not believe, however, that his phone has been ringing more this offseason with potential trades or offers. He thinks the draft may be deeper than a year ago, but each team thinks of each draft with an equal amount of importance – thus causing for as many opportunities a year ago as this year.
“Of course, some years have been better than others in terms of the talent in the draft pool, but this is an exciting time,” Blanks said. “It’s an opportunity to add youth to your team, which is something we desperately need – as do other teams.”
Weighing Free Agency vs. the Draft
One thing that the Suns GM does not believe in is shaping his draft plans according to what might happen in free agency.
Blanks is perfectly aware that only seven of the players he had under contract last season are still under contract going into this offseason.
Role players like Robin Lopez and Aaron Brooks - who spent the last season in China - are restricted free agents. Others like Shannon Brown, Michael Redd and Ronnie Price, along with stars like Steve Nash and Grant Hill can all take a look at the open market as unrestricted free agents.
But Blanks does not want to let either the possibility of those players returning or other free agents joining, serve as reason to not draft a certain player on Thursday.
“Right now, we’re overly focused on this draft because we want to hit it right,” Blanks said. “If that means the duplication of a spot, then so be it, because at the end of the day you want to have talented players in this league to contribute to your roster.”