Phoenix Suns flush with options on draft day

The Phoenix Suns’ murky future will receive a modicum of clarity Thursday night, but the direction the franchise goes in tonight’s NBA Draft is anybody’s guess at this point.

What we know is that the Suns own the No. 13 pick in the draft, which begins at 4:30 p.m. Arizona time. The Suns are expected to pick around 5:30.

If they keep the selection the Suns could go in many different directions.

They want:

  • An athletic power forward to provide a presence on the interior and on the boards.
  • A wing who can develop into a go-to scorer.
  • A backup point guard who can double as the squad’s point guard of the future.

That means they will inherently be selecting the best player available since they have so many needs across the board and ideally would like to draft a player who offers future star power.

“We felt we needed to get better up front, maybe bulkier and stronger,” said general manager Lance Blanks. “We thought some wing scoring could be helpful, and after that it’s a little bit of a sliding scale. If a player we feel is really good and plays the three then we’ll do that. It’s a difficult puzzle that you’re trying to predict, trying to make it make sense for the current roster that we have.”

Beyond the pick, a variety of trades could interest Phoenix, involving the following elements:

  • Although Lon Babby has emphatically denied the availability of Steve Nash and Marcin Gortat, the Suns covet Derrick Williams and Minnesota has not done much to hide the fact that the No. 2 overall selection is available. It’s unlikely this gets done with Nash and Gortat supposedly untouchable, but such a trade would be a franchise-changer.
  • Golden State has shown interest in Robin Lopez, but at what cost? Depending on who is available when the Warriors are on the clock at No. 11, perhaps these talks can be revisited.
  • Vince Carter’s $18.3 million semi-expiring contract is still in play, as any team acquiring him can dump a long-term deal on the Suns and only take a $4 million hit for this season. The Suns reportedly want a 2012 first-rounder to broker such a deal.
  • Mickael Pietrus’ $5.3 million expiring contract looms as bait if the Suns find anything interesting.

Unless the Suns pull off a blockbuster, the events of tonight are unlikely to change the franchise’s future trajectory although they will make a dent into those future plans.

Especially if the team eventually trades Nash and earns a top-10 pick next year, the loaded 2012 draft could be the time to select that future star, but the Suns should be able to land at least a future rotation player tonight nonetheless.

“I feel great, excited,” Blanks said. “We’ve got our staff here who’ve put in their 10,000 hours if you will, referring to Mr. [Malcolm] Gladwell, in regards to their work ethic and what they’ve done over the course of the season, and I feel excited. We’re as prepared as we can be up to this point.”

Suns tender qualifying offer to Brooks, modify Carter deadline

The Phoenix Suns extended a qualifying offer to Aaron Brooks that makes him a restricted free agent and pushed back the date on which Vince Carter’s 2011-12 salary becomes fully guaranteed on Thursday.

Brooks’ qualifying offer is for $2,976,636. The Suns now retain the right to match any offer Brooks gets on the open market as a restricted free agent if there still is restricted free agency in the new CBA. Assuming the likely Carter buyout, the Suns would have about $53.5 million committed to nine players if Brooks accepts the qualifying offer.

The Suns very well may use Brooks as a trade chip in a sign-and-trade deal. They likely would be OK with him playing out this year at the $3 million qualifying offer price as well, but it would be hard to believe they would match the kind of long-term deal Brooks will likely seek on the open market.

As for Vince, the Suns now have until the start of free agency before his deal becomes fully guaranteed rather than June 30, which allows Phoenix to decide what to do with Carter after the lockout. Perhaps a team will offer an interesting asset for his contract at that time based on what the new financial landscape will look like at that point.

“This change gives us additional time and flexibility to make a decision on Vince’s contract,”  Babby said in a release.

And 1

DraftExpress has the Suns selecting Tristan Thompson and ESPN’s Chad Ford and NBADraft.net have them going with Markieff Morris in their draft day mocks. … Bill Simmons AKA The Picasso of the Trade Machine drummed up some entertaining potential trades including three involving the Suns. None of them were particularly appealing to me, though. … Marcin Gortat will be working with Hakeem Olajuwon next week. Not a bad guy to learn post moves from. On Wednesday, Gortat teamed up with Jared Dudley and Grant Hill in Nash’s “Showdown in Chinatown” soccer game. … Blanks on running his first draft as a general manager: “This is something that you dream of.”

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