Phoenix Suns ink draft pick Gani Lawal to three-year deal

With a three-year contract in hand, Gani Lawal now has a chance to prove his NBA-worthiness in the desert.

The Phoenix Suns came one step closer to rounding out their 2010-11 roster Sunday as they agreed to terms with second-round draft pick Gani Lawal, according to The Arizona Republic.

The report by The Republic’s Paul Coro said the Suns signed the power forward out of Georgia Tech, taken 46th overall in this year’s draft, to  a three-year contract that will pay him the rookie minimum of $473,604 this season. The first year’s salary is guaranteed, and the Suns will hold his rights with partial guarantees the next two.

The signing of Lawal gives the Suns 12 players under contract, leaving at least one spot left open. The other spot could go to Summer League point guard Zabian Dowdell, who impressed the Suns. As Coro reports, the Suns had hoped to have Villanova All-American Scottie Reynolds in camp, but he instead signed for guaranteed money with Italian club Prima Veroli.

Lawal led the Suns’ summer league team with 15.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. With a glut of big men, Lawal isn’t likely to see much floor time this season. Barring injuries or surprising development, he could fill the role that Earl Clark or Taylor Griffin did last season.

GM search rolls on

The speculation circus that has been the Suns’ search for a general manager continued this weekend as two new names were added to the list of potential suitors and two old names resurfaced.’s Marc Stein reported Sunday that new Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby is now considering ousted New Orleans Hornets GM Jeff Bower and Washington Wizards vice president of basketball administration Tommy Sheppard to fill the role vacated by Steve Kerr.

Bower spent almost 15 years with the Hornets with stints as GM and head coach. He held both at the end of last season before the team fired him in mid-July. Bower has shown skill in player evaluation, which the Suns are looking for, with moves like the drafting of Chris Paul and the trade for Tyson Chandler.

Sheppard’s last seven seasons have been as a top executive with the Wizards, a right hand to GM Ernie Grunfeld. Prior to his time in Washington, Sheppard spent time with the Denver Nuggets in media relations and basketball operations roles.

The ESPN report also noted that Cleveland Cavaliers assistant GM Lance Blanks, who interviewed with the Suns Friday, remains in consideration for the post, as does Bucks executive Jeff Weltman. Weltman, however, appears to be more inclined to remain in Milwaukee.

Los Angeles Lakers assistant GM Ronnie Lester, who already interviewed before Babby’s hiring, is also believed to be in consideration as well.

The list is long and ever-changing, but it appears that Babby is really taking his time to find the right fit. It’s not a decision that needs to be rushed at this point, but waiting too long could make some candidates prefer to stick with their current gigs.

Babby’s decision will certainly come with a lot of pressure as Suns owner Robert Sarver experiments with a new front office model.

The Suns’ other MVP point guard

It doesn’t exactly compare to being a two-time NBA MVP, but Suns backup point guard Goran Dragic still deserves some praise for earning MVP honors of the Stankovic Cup while leading Slovenia to a 71-60 win in the championship game against Australia. Earlier in the tournament, Dragic dropped a triple-double against China while leading his team in every statistical department.

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Tags: Gani Lawal Goran Dragic Jeff Bower Jeff Weltman Lance Blanks Lon Babby Phoenix Suns Ronnie Lester Scottie Reynolds Tommy Sheppard Zabian Dowdell

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