Suns face awkward draft day with late picks

The pending departures of Steve Kerr and David Griffin have changed the dynamic of the Suns' draft day operations.

It’s not quite like going to battle without a commander or sailing a ship without a captain, but the idea is the same. The Phoenix Suns head into one of the biggest days on the NBA calendar Thursday with lame duck leadership whose offices may nearly be all packed up.

Fortunately for the Suns, they only hold the 46th and 60th overall picks in the 2010 NBA Draft so the imminent departure of general manager Steve Kerr and senior VP of basketball operations David Griffin isn’t quite so troubling.

While Kerr said on the day that he announced he wouldn’t be returning that his role in the draft wouldn’t really change, clearly coach Alvin Gentry and managing partner Robert Sarver will have a bigger role than they would otherwise.

Obviously, there has been nothing to suggest that Kerr and Griffin will be giving nothing but their best in the Suns draft efforts, but their status simply makes for an awkward situation. Essentially, they’ll draft and go, but it’s likely they’ve been working in scouting roles the past week.

It’s no surprise though that Sarver is taking a more hands-on role and shifting power to Gentry. Giving Gentry the lead on making the Suns’ picks is a smart move. Gentry has proven through his player development so far (Goran Dragic, Robin Lopez and Jared Dudley the prime examples) that he has an eye for talented players who can contribute.

The Suns’ draft team led by Kerr and Griffin has done pretty well the past couple seasons, especially considering the picks they had to work with, so Gentry and Sarver would be wise to look to them for advice during the process. Under Kerr, the Suns have drafted Earl Clark, a player with a lot of upside who will likely move into a regular rotation role next season,  and starting center Robin Lopez, who continues to look better and better. But maybe more impressive was the draft day trade with the Spurs that brought Goran Dragic to Phoenix.

In the grand scheme of this offseason for the Suns, the draft is not that big of a deal (some guy named Amare is a free agent or something…). The Suns’ late second-round picks may prove to be of little consequence on Planet Orange, but the Suns no doubt want to select players who will stick.

The team could lose three big men to free agency this offseason, including All-Star Amare Stoudemire, and Jason Richardson’s contract expires at the end of next season. Steve Nash and Grant Hill are both getting older (though you wouldn’t really know it) and will eventually have to be replaced. The Suns do have strong bench players who may very well slide into those roles, but then they’d have to restock the bench. Thus, even late second-round picks can be important, just not right away.

The draft begins at 4:30 p.m. MST and Valley of the Suns will be bringing you wall-to-wall coverage live from the Suns’ draft headquarters in US Airways Center. The Suns are expected make their first pick just after 7:30, but, as with any draft day, an unexpected trade could change everything.

The draft marks the start of what is certain to be a roller coaster ride through the offseason (or maybe it was Kerr’s announcement…). The free agent negotiation period begins in a week and players can sign a week later. With leadership on the way out and a lot on the line, the Suns will have to walk a tightrope to reach the 2010-11 season in a state they want to be. Thursday’s draft will be the first step onto the high wire.

Suns officially re-sign assistants

The Phoenix Suns announced on Thursday that they have re-signed assistant coaches Dan Majerle, Bill Cartwright and Igor Kokoskov for the next two seasons.

“I could not be happier to keep Dan, Bill and Igor on our staff,” Gentry said in a release. “Finalizing their return was just a matter of time.  Our success this season was a product of how well our team worked together and how badly our guys wanted to win, and that included our entire coaching staff.”

Tags: David Griffin Nba Draft Phoenix Suns Steve Kerr

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