Suns News

Suns Draft Workouts Kick Into High Gear

Blanks talked to reporters after the Suns' draft workout Thursday.
(Josh Greene/Suns.com)
By Stefan Swiat, Suns.com
Posted: June 9, 2011

With the 2011 NBA Draft looming just 14 days away, the Suns' front office will play host to three draft workouts over the next week, as it tries to determine what it will do with the No. 13 overall selection.

After already holding one workout in late April with players targeted as possible free-agent signings, the Suns officially began their workouts of players they could wind up drafting. With only one player out of the group in Thursday’s workout considered a possible first-round pick, Suns GM Lance Blanks said that this screening process was about “doing our due diligence.”

On Thursday, the Suns brought in combo guard Jacob Pullen of Kansas State, shooting guard Jon Diebler of Ohio State, power forward JaJuan Johnson of Purdue, point guard Diante Garrett of Iowa State, Florida power forward Alex Tyus and Kentucky shooting guard DeAndre Liggins.

Director of Player Personnel John Treloar was credited with organizing and setting up the workout.

“There (were) some NBA players in there,” Blanks said. “A lot of times, whether or not a guy makes or not is situational and (dependent on) who drafts him and what they’re looking for.”

Of the entire group, only Liggins, Johnson and Diebler were invited to Chicago’s NBA Pre-Draft Camp last month. Pullen was named Third-Team AP All-American as a senior and became the first player in Kansas St. history to earn first team All-Big 12 honors twice since the inception of the conference.

Pullen is also known for his defense, earning Big 12 All-Defensive honors in back-to-back seasons. However, despite his numerous accolades, ESPN Draft expert Chad Ford projected him to go undrafted.

The most highly touted player in this workout was Johnson, who is predicted as a late first-round pick by Ford. Johnson, who was named the 2011 Big 10 Player of the Year, earned Big 10 All-Defensive Team honors the past three seasons.

The 6-10 power forward was named AP First Team All-American and was named the 2011 Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year. Defense, which appears to be a recurring theme with these particular players, is also embodied by Florida’s Tyus.

The 6-8 junior led the Gators in blocks last season, while ranking second on the team in rebounding. And while all of those players have earned reputations on the defensive end, Kentucky’s Liggins may be most renowned for his ability as a lockdown defender.

A long 6-7 shooting guard, Liggins is known for his athleticism and his ability to guard three different positions. According to The Sporting News, one NBA scout likened his defensive acumen to Grizzlies guard Tony Allen.

The other shooting guard in the group was the 6-7 Diebler, who is known for his lights-out shooting. In his senior season, Diebler drilled 50 percent of his shots from behind the arc for the Buckeyes.

Lastly, Garrett is known for his athleticism at the point guard spot, displaying exceptional quickness and size for that position. The 6-4 playmaker earned All-Big 12 Second Team honors in his senior season.

“We’re looking for guys that will help us get back into the playoffs and keep this organization moving forward,” Blanks said. “We feel like we need to get tougher but that doesn’t mean that we don’t want to score points. You have to score points to win basketball games.”

Overall, Blanks said that the team is looking to bolster its frontcourt, as well as its shooting guard position this offseason. The Suns GM is open to finding help through the draft or free agency, but he credits the draft with the unique possibility of adding both talent and youth.

Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry, who was also there observing the workout, said that adding a go-to scorer was tops on his wish list for the offseason. He cited the last six teams remaining in the postseason as evidence of how necessary a player like that is to an organization.

But he’s also aware of how difficult it is to find such talent, especially one that will have an immediate impact.

“John Treloar and those guys have done a great job of going out and seeing these (college prospects),” Gentry said. “They have a much better handle than the coaching staff would on who would fit and who wouldn’t fit. I spent a lot of time talking with Lance, John and (Suns President of Basketball Operations) Lon (Babby) about the type of player we need to add to our team.”

While attaining a franchise player at No. 13 may be a dubious task, Blanks believes talent can be found at that position.

“We feel like we can get a good player there,” Blanks said. “Someone that has the potential to help us in the near-term or long-term. There’s probably a player at No. 13, No. 10 or No. 15 that could be just as good as a player drafted at No. 5.”

Blanks also left the door open as far as moving up, back or out of the draft. But if the Suns stay put, he feels like they’ll land the right pick.

“I think this draft has a lot of parity,” Blanks said. “In every draft, there’s been good players that have come out of it. I don’t think this draft is any different than that.”

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