Lance Blanks: ‘Up front we need to get better’


PHOENIX — Lance Blanks did not give away many secrets in his first media availability in advance of the June 23 NBA Draft.

As Blanks put it, would Alvin Gentry publicly discuss his last play call to finish a game?

But the Suns’ general manager did reiterate two of the Suns’ biggest needs that may be areas of interest in the draft: power forward and shooting guard.

“I think up front we need to get better and a little more physical, and then on the perimeter it’s not a secret we have a surplus of threes, but the off guard position is something we’d like to inject,” Blanks said, “and then after that it’s a little bit of a free for all in terms of who the players might be and what the situation might be on draft day.”

The shooting guard question presents quite the conundrum. Even with Vince Carter likely gone, the Suns still have four natural small forwards in Grant Hill, Jared Dudley, Josh Childress and Mickael Pietrus.

In the Suns’ terminology all four are known just as “wings,” but none of them could be classified as a natural shooting guard. However, due to all this depth at the wing spot (assuming Pietrus is back) any drafted two guard would have a tough time breaking into that rotation.

“He would have to be a really, really good wing because I like the guys that we have and the guys that are coming back, so that would have to be somebody pretty special,” Gentry said.

Of course Grant Hill won’t play forever and Pietrus likely won’t last beyond next season, so a shooting guard of the future to slot in at the wing spots next to Dudley and Childress would be a need.

The Suns could certainly use a prototypical go-to scorer kind of shooting guard but unless somebody really surprises that guy won’t be there at No. 13 anyway.

Does that mean the Suns should pick a power forward?

Perhaps, but they could still use a point guard of the future assuming Aaron Brooks isn’t the answer and if the best player available is that future two guard that still would be an option.

But a power forward might fit best with next year’s team, and that could mean Texas forward Tristan Thompson — currently the projection by ESPN’s Chad Ford and — or a guy like Kansas forward Markieff Morris.

Gentry making progress on defensive coordinator

At one point during his 15-minute interview, Blanks turned the tables by asking the assembled media about “an underlying current” of questions concerning improving the defense.

Of course that current was the genesis of Gentry and Lon Babby’s emphatic comments at the end of the season about the need to improve on that end after a season in which Phoenix ranked 25th in defensive efficiency. As I wrote earlier this summer, the Suns have only missed the playoffs during the Nash era when their ‘D’ ranked below 20th in efficiency.

To that end, Gentry has been searching for a defensive coordinator to help aid the improvement on that side of the ball.

“Maybe hearing an outside voice will help,” Gentry said. “It’s got to be somebody who has good credentials. It’s got to be someone who I feel like — I think we’re going to be better defensively. We took a step back last year but the year before that I thought we were pretty doggone good. It’s all about consistency with us.”

The Suns will not be firing any assistants to make room for their new hire, as they never added anybody when Gentry was promoted from his assistant post in February 2009.

Gentry has a few more interviews to do but would like to make a hire before July with the uncertainty of the lockout looming.

According to The Arizona Republic, the Suns have interviewed Rockets assistant Elston Turner (who also interviewed for the Suns’ head coaching position in 2008), Spurs assistant Don Newman and Bulls scout Pete Myers.


Big workouts upcoming

The Suns worked out a host of likely second-rounders on Thursday, highlighted by Kansas State guard Jacob Pullen, Purdue big man JaJuan Johnson, Kentucky wing DeAndre Liggins and Ohio State shooting extraordinaire Jon Diebler.

Despite the lack of a second-round selection as a result of the Hakim Warrick trade, Blanks said the Suns were doing their “due diligence” (a Babby phrase) by bringing in this group.

Blanks would not reveal any exact plans for workouts, but The Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro reported Phoenix has bigger workouts planned on the horizon:

Friday, the Suns’ workout will include two candidates for the No. 13 spot in swingmen Jordan Hamilton of Texas and Klay Thompson of Washington State, as well as Pittsburgh’s Gilbert Brown and Gary McGhee, Seton Hall’s Jeremy Hazell and Virginia Tech’s Jeff Allen.

A major workout slated for Monday could feature BYU guard Jimmer Fredette, Texas power forward Tristan Thompson, Florida State small forward Chris Singleton, Kansas small forward Marcus Morris and Georgia Tech point guard Iman Shumpert, barring cancellations.

Colorado’s Alec Burks also is expected to work out for the Suns.

A draft of parity

Much has been said about how weak this year’s draft class is.

To Blanks it’s not so much a matter of weakness as it is parity, saying there’s likely a player picked at 10 or 15 that will be just as good as a guy drafted fifth.

“I think this draft has got a lot of parity,” Blanks said. “I think in every draft there have been good players that have come out of it, and I don’t think this draft is any different than that. With the 13th pick, we’re excited to have it, we feel like we can get a good player there and someone that will have the potential to help us whether it’s in the near term or far term.”

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