PHOENIX — With three of their big men in limbo this offseason, the Phoenix Suns added some much-needed size and toughness in the second round of Thursday’s 2010 NBA draft by way of power forwards Gani Lawal (Georgia Tech) and Dwayne Collins (Miami).
“You can never have too much size, I mean you saw that in the Lakers series,” said head coach Alvin Gentry. “We think both those kids have an opportunity to turn into special players.
“To get those two kids 46 and 60 I think is phenomenal,” he added. “I think you’ll really like both those kids.”
Lawal, who was the 46th overall pick, spent three years at Georgia Tech, starting his final season as a Yellow Jacket next to Thursday’s No. 3 overall pick Derrick Favors.
During his time as a Yellow Jacket Lawal averaged 11.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game on 55.2 percent shooting, which was good enough for a pair of third-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selections.
After going for 15.1 points and 9.5 rebounds his sophomore season, the 6-foot-9, 234-pound big man entered the 2009 NBA Draft before withdrawing his name from the pool.
He came back to Georgia Tech to average 13.1 points and 8.5 rebounds and earn consideration for the Naismith Award halfway through the season. Lawal was on the Suns’ wish list heading into the draft, most notably for his defense and physical presence.
“I watched some tape on him with the scouts and one of the things I like about him, I think defensively his weak side, coming across, blocking shots and doing some things, I think is pretty special,” Gentry said of Lawal.
“The thing with Gani is that he was the leading rebounder on that team playing alongside Favors, so obviously that was a big factor for us,” Gentry added of the player who also led the Yellow Jackets in scoring.
The 21-year-old out of Norcorss, Ga., offers a 7-foot-2 wingspan and a 31.5-inch vertical he uses to attack the glass and body up defensively. He doesn’t boast much of an outside game, but his ability to finish in traffic and run the floor makes up for his lack of shooting touch.
Lawal had a pair of 29-point games and an 18-rebound game on the season, to go along with 12 double-doubles. While Lawal was somewhat of a big name around the ACC, Collins is a bit less heralded out of the University of Miami. But the 6-foot-8, 243-pound power forward certainly made his mark as a Hurricane, where he averaged 9.9 points and 7.0 rebounds on 56.3 percent shooting in four years.
Collins, who was the last pick in the draft, was the second player in Miami history to record 1,000 points, 850 rebounds and 100 assists, and totaled 21 career double-doubles in 126 games. The Suns brought him in for a workout but he was unable to participate due to a knee injury. But regardless, he left quite the impression on Gentry and company.
“You know he’s got a 7-foot-4 wingspan first of all,” Gentry said. “Plays extremely hard, very competitive. One of those guys I think you’ll really like being around. Kind of an energy and good personality. He’s one of those guys that if he develops and hits, he could be something special.”
Between Lawal and Collins, Phoenix added a pair of bruisers who could very well make the Suns’ roster, especially considering they might lose Amare Stoudemire, Channing Frye and Lou Amundson this offseason. But Gentry made it clear that the Suns didn’t keep that in mind when drafting.
“We drafted based on what we thought were going to be good players on our team,” Gentry said. “We drafted these guys because we think they’re going to be good players regardless of what our situation is.”
It’s easy to say the Suns didn’t have their roster in mind, but selecting two power forwards likely means the end of Lou Amundson’s tenure in Phoenix. There is no saying what will happen with Amare Stoudemire and Channing Frye, but regardless of why they drafted them, the Suns got a pair of raw big men with a ton of upside. Between their size, athleticism and enormous length, Lawal and Collins could very well be donning the purple and orange when the 2010-11 season kicks off.
“We think that they have the potential,” Gentry said. “Obviously they’re going to have to develop and it’s not going to be something that’s going to happen overnight, but we’re excited adding some additional size to our team.”
Measurables: 6-foot-9, 7-foot-2 wingspan, 234 pounds, 6.3 percent body fat, 31.5-inch vertical
Measurables: 6-foot-8, 7-foot-4 wingspan, 243 pounds