PHOENIX — At the first ever “Lunch with Lance” media gathering this afternoon, Phoenix Suns GM Lance Blanks was a closed book when discussing specific players the Suns could target with the 13th pick in this year’s draft.
He spoke of the draft’s depth in comparison to last year. He touched on the lengths the Suns’ staff goes to in order to select the right player. Blanks also shared his philosophy on drafting for a need versus drafting the best available player, and even gave the media a window into his career path that was shaped by the likes of Joe Dumars, R.C. Buford, and Danny Ferry.
But not once did he utter the name Austin Rivers, Terrence Ross or Kendall Marshall. He wouldn’t break down Rivers’ superstar makeup, Ross’s NBA size and shooting ability or Marshall’s remarkable court vision. Instead, Blanks gave the politically correct response when asked about specific prospects.
“If I’m reading the Internet right there will be a lot of guys there available that can help us,” Blanks said with a smile.
While Blanks chose not to discuss specific players — rightfully so as the Suns have yet to work out any prospects or meet with the players at this week’s combine — he very clearly outlined Phoenix’s needs:
- A point guard. “One of the two hardest positions to get is point guard,” Blanks said. “You look for someone that could run an offense, get you in an offense, make plays for other people as well as themselves and either lead through their playing style or lead verbally more like a general.”
- A scoring wing. “The other area on the wing is someone that can take pressure off of what we’ve done historically with the pick and roll situation and generate offense inside and outside of the offensive system,” Blanks explained. “Whether that’s a shot maker or someone that can get their own shot, it just depends on who’s there. That would be another need.”
- Defense on the perimeter: “The last one I would say a guy that could give us some more defensive support from a perimeter standpoint where we’re not necessarily exploited at a high level on the perimeter,” Blanks said.
Blanks made it clear that the Suns will indeed be going after a perimeter player in full force come June 28. They’ll be pursuing this year’s crop of wings “pretty aggressively,” according to Blanks, as there are a handful of “potential game-changers” that could be around for the 13th pick.
He wants to add youth, scoring, and defense to a Phoenix perimeter that could undoubtedly use a facelift, and given where the Suns are picking as well as the group of talented swingmen expected to be on the board, this is the perfect draft to do exactly that.
“When you look at our roster and compare it to the draft we feel like we’ll be able to do that in a big and impactful way,” Blanks said of filling the team’s perimeter needs.
Suns open to adding second, will most likely keep 13th
Whether it be Rajon Rondo or Luol Deng, the Suns franchise is notorious for selling picks. Suns fans won’t have to worry about that this year, however, as Blanks said the team plans on keeping their No. 13 pick.
“I can tell you this that it’s likely we’ll have our pick and keep it unless there’s something that’s unforeseen that I can’t see,” Blanks said.
The Suns don’t have a second-round pick but they could be interested in acquiring another pick as Blanks said, “we didn’t make the playoffs so we’re not in a position to say there’s nothing we wouldn’t do.”
2012 draft not as ‘spotty’ as last year’s
It’s no secret that this year’s draft is regarded as one of the deepest in recent memory, and Blanks seconded that sentiment.
“I’m extremely excited about this pool of players,” Blanks said. “I think at our pick you have a great chance to get a very good player.”
He described the 2011 draft as “spotty” and said that just looking at the draft you knew certain guys would go higher than their talent suggested. Blanks added that he and his staff had Markieff Morris ranked higher than the 13th pick, where they selected him. There’s nothing spotty about this year’s draft, however.
“I think the draft will be solid for certainly the first half of the first round,” Blanks said. “Those players have the resume and what it takes at least on paper to be successful in the NBA.”
Blanks believes in drafting for need
There are two different philosophies NBA general managers adopt during the draft process: drafting based on need and drafting the best available player. Blanks made his strategy crystal clear.
“All things being equal, you go with what the need is for the team,” Blanks said. “You owe that to the fans, the organization, the ownership, to your coach, to fill that need. It’s difficult to find players that can impact your roster regardless of how you do it. Whenever there’s an opportunity to fill a need, you look to fill it.”
- The Suns have moved former longtime NBA veteran point guard Lindsay Hunter from scouting into a full-time position in player development. “He’ll be supporting the coaches and doing what needs to be done to help guys get better through the summer and also during the season,” Blanks said.
- Blanks said Mark West will also have an expanded role in the draft process.