Suns Nab a Pair of Big Men in 2010 NBA Draft

by Jeramie McPeek
VP, Digital
By Josh Greene,
Posted: June 24, 2010

Even though the Suns were without a first-round pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft, they still managed to make a “big” splash. Make that two of them.

With the 46th and 60th overall picks, Phoenix selected forwards Gani Lawal and Dwayne Collins, respectively.

“We liked both guys and considered both at No. 46, so to get Collins at No. 60 was a plus,” President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Steve Kerr told “We have three free agents on the front line – Channing Frye, Lou Amundson and potentially Amar’e Stoudemire if he opts out, which we believe he will, so we have a huge potential gap in the front court. Obviously, we’ll try to keep those guys, but you never know. Some of tonight was about protecting our front court, but we did have some guards and wings we would have taken if we had liked them at that spot.

“It wasn’t only about position, but Lawal is an energy guy who plays hard every second. We liked that about him, in addition to him being a great kid. Collins was in yesterday to interview. He’s another great kid with a lot of potential. He has huge hands, who’s a big-time dunker around the basket. Both guys have the potential to make it, so we’ll see.”

Playing alongside No. 3 overall pick Derrick Favors last year, Lawal averaged Georgia Tech team highs with 13.1 ppg and 8.5 rpg in 2009-10. The 6-foot-9, 234-pounder also finished his collegiate career second among active ACC players with 27 double-doubles overall, grabbing a conference-best 3.6 offensive boards two years ago. Labeled as an able finisher around the basket, Lawal shot 54.8 percent from the field in his three-year career with the Yellow Jackets, where he averaged 14 ppg and 8.9 rpg in 67 games.

“I’m really excited Phoenix is giving me an opportunity,” Lawal told via a phone interview from his Georgia home. “I’m going to make the best of it. It’s a great team, and they have a great point guard in Steve Nash and a great head coach with Alvin Gentry. It’s a playoff team with a lot of plusses… a lot of plusses.

"My experience from Georgia Tech will translate there really well. Phoenix has a wide-open style of offense with a pick and roll. When I get out on the court, that will suit my game perfectly. I like this type of system. I like to get up and down the floor. I consider myself a big man who can run the floor really well. I’m physical. I play hard, and I rebound the ball well. My energy is a strength, too."

Even though he never worked out in Phoenix leading up to the draft, Lawal did pass through the city on his way to another NBA workout.

“I talked to Coach Gentry right after I was picked, and he was really excited,” the Georgia Tech alum added. “He really likes my style of play. He likes athletic big men, and he thinks I fill that role. I’m excited.

“The last few weeks, people have been asking me who I play for. I couldn’t quite say Georgia Tech. I couldn’t quite say an NBA team. So it feels good to have a home and I’m excited. I’ll be ready for Summer League.”

Four-year University of Miami alum Collins, a 6-foot-8, 243-pound forward, has been described as a strong, physical defender with an impressive 7-4 wingspan and 9-1 standing reach. The 22-year-old finished his career at Miami as only the second player in school history with 1,000 points, 850 rebounds and 100 assists.

As a senior, Collins averaged a career-high with 12 ppg and 7.8 rpg, while shooting 60.4 percent from the field – the second-highest single-season average in school history. He averaged seven boards for his career, while leading his team in rebounding in his final two seasons.

“We’re excited about both kids,” Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry said. “They have the potential to do good things, and you can never have too much size. We think both kids have the opportunity to turn into special players. They will need to develop, and that won’t be something that happens overnight. We’re excited about adding additional size to our team.”


Obviously, only time will tell in terms of the potential impact of their final two Suns draft selections, but departing President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Steve Kerr and Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin know that they are leaving the organization in good hands, thanks to the plethora of quality people in its ranks.

“It’s a little strange,” Kerr told “We’ve been preparing for tonight for so long now that Griff and I haven’t had a chance to think about what’s next. Now all of a sudden the draft is over and there’s this sense of finality.

“What I’ll take away most are just the relationships around the office, the team and the coaching staff. There are just so many awesome people here, who I’ve learned so much from. It’s been an unbelievable experience for me and I’m taking away a lot of good life and career lessons. I’m walking away as somebody lucky to have had the experience.”

Crediting Griffin as “the guy who has made this whole thing work,” the third-year Suns GM had nothing but praise for his Senior VP of Basketball Ops.

“Griff’s the day-to-day guy who takes care of business and knows everybody in the league office,” he added. “He’s got things done, and I loved being around him and working with him.”

Griffin, whose contract expires July 1, has been with the organization since 1993 when he started as an intern in the Suns’ basketball communications department.

“Obviously I’ll remember the winning,” Griffin told “That’s why we’re all doing this. Also, the relationships that we built, carrying on and building on the foundation that was laid here... Since the organization was built, it’s been of the highest character. It’s probably the finest basketball organization there is. To be a part of that and carry on as a small piece of that tradition and help build the culture we have here is very memorable.

“We’ve just always had high quality people here. It’s always been easy from a personnel standpoint, because when you put great basketball players in front of Steve or Jerry Colangelo or Bryan Colangelo, those guys recognized great talent immediately. It was always just a privilege to have the opportunity to be a part of that. We’ve always had great scouts – Dick Van Arsdale, Dick Percudani, Al Bianchi, John Shumate and Todd Quinter. These guys took me under their wing, and I’m really grateful to them for that.”