If Thursday’s NBA Draft is the final exam for all of the Suns’ scouts who have been traversing the country looking at college players all year than Saturday’s workout was like that final group study session before your last-minute cramming binge.
And with the host of characters at US Airways Center Saturday afternoon, don’t be surprised if one of the participants makes a return visit next week when the Suns officially announce the 14th overall pick.
Specifically the Suns took a second look at swingmen James Johnson and Austin Daye and a first glance in a workout setting at forward Earl Clark and point guard Brandon Jennings.
“A number of these guys are probably in the wheelhouse of the 14th pick,” Suns owner Robert Sarver told reporters in video captured by Suns.com.
David Griffin came away impressed by Johnson, saying the Wake Forest forward did a good job of leading the group and bringing energy, something he apparently did not do so well in an earlier workout.
Steve Kerr went through the strengths of all the players in his interview, but he seemed to be particularly smitten by Clark and his all-around ‘D.’
If the Louisville forward ends up making Phoenix his home, that would be just fine by him.
“I love their style of play, the way they run,” he said. “They score a lot of points, so what kid doesn’t like that? It’s a fun environment. The coaches told me they sell out mostly every game, so I feel great to be here. It was a great experience, and I enjoyed it.”
Moving on to Johnson, the Wake Forest swingman said one thing in his interview that caught my attention when asked about the workouts.
“It’s like a game, really. It’s the same thing. In the college game guys on the other team are trying to impress pro scouts, and they’re trying to win and you’re trying to win, so it’s the same thing. It’s challenging out here and it’s fun at the same time, doing what you love to do.”
I doubt anyone on the 13th-seeded Cleveland State team that upset his 4th-seeded Deamon Deacons was thinking about impressing any pro scouts, but hey, can’t fault the guy for honesty.
Johnson has been chided for not always playing hard, but Griffin basically said he has satisfied those concerns for the Suns’ brass. NBADraft.net’s current mock has him coming to Phoenix, and he certainly seems very much in play for the Suns.
The Suns also loved the quickness of Brandon Jennings and believe it’s possible that he could fall all the way to No. 14 in what’s shaping up to be an uncertain draft. He thrived in an up-tempo game at Oak Hill Academy and could be a perfect heir to Steve Nash’s throne if he slips to the Suns’ pick.
“I think they’re looking for a point guard that can get up and down, so that’s what I tried to show today,” Jennings said.
“I’d be playing behind one of the best point guards in the game, Steve Nash. He’s a two-time MVP, and I can learn a lot from this guy. Also, you know, he’s getting old, he probably has a couple more years, so I’d really embrace the experience being down here with him.”
If the Suns select him, Jennings probably shouldn’t mention anything about Nash being old. People around here don’t like that being stated too much, but he certainly would make for a hell of an heir apparent (sorry, Goran), and I would love to see an ultra small ball lineup with Nash, LB and Jennings on the floor at the same time.
It’s still anyone’s guess as to who the Suns will select. Griffin said there’s “really a split camp in our room for the first time in a long time” about who should be picked, volunteering that any tie would likely be broken by Mr. Kerr (uh-oh).
Overall Griffin called it “a very, very bizarre year” because after Blake Griffin (no relation) he has no idea where anybody is going and thus no idea who might slip all the way to No. 14.
“The draft is not as top heavy as it is deep, so I think there’s a group of players maybe 15 deep that can all be the same,” Griffin said. “We’re looking at a much deeper pool than we’ve ever really looked at quite frankly at any pick we’ve had. This 14th pick has been really enigmatic for us thus far.”
Whoever it is, Griffin said the Suns will pick the best player available being that they feature an aging core with a point guard, small forward and center who might not be around a whole lot longer.
That means any young player who is good enough at any position has a great opportunity to eventually join the new core of the Phoenix Suns.
“We don’t know,” Kerr said about who his team will pick, and from everything Griffin said, it sounds like he means it. “This is a really wide-open draft. … This year we’re all over the map because there’s not a clear delineation between the groupings. There are a lot of very intriguing players, but where we’re picking right now nobody has jumped out at us as ‘our guy.’”
The clock is ticking for the Suns to figure out who “our guy” is.
Let’s just hope he doesn’t turn out to be the latest Phoenix draftee dealt for cash.