A discussion on Lance Blanks and the Suns' front office

Editor’s Note: Michael Schwartz took a few hours away from his studies to discuss the Suns’ offseason move of parting ways with Lance Blanks. Our discussion touches on the mark left by Blanks, what Phoenix must look for in a new GM, and how Blanks’ lack of PR savvy might’ve been his biggest issue.

Michael Schwartz: Kevin, three summers ago, Lon Babby sought to find a “basketball genius” to complement his contract/negotiation skills in the front office. From the very beginning it seemed obvious that Blanks wasn’t exactly the second coming of Jerry West in that regard. Briefly describe how you feel about Blanks’ tenure and fill in the blank that Lance ended up being a “basketball _____.”

Kevin Zimmerman: In the end, Blanks ended being more of a basketball hobbyist than a basketball genius. By that I don’t mean to question his work ethic so much as point out how casual he appeared to go about his business and how few results there are to show for his efforts. Sure, a few years were spent clinging to the Steve Nash era too long and, as we often say, spinning on a wheel of mediocrity. It didn’t help Blanks’ cause that he would only make media appearances when the Suns acquired a player that appeared to be at his suggestion. And those few players that fit into that category include Aaron Brooks and Michael Beasley to name a few, though I’ll give him the P.J. Tucker signing. Anyway, Blanks would often be seen in the locker room being buddy-buddy with his players (Editor’s note: Jared Dudley told Paul Coro that Blanks made himself scarce even to players, at least in comparison to Steve Kerr), and in the big picture, the Suns don’t have anything outside the 12th-man signing of Tucker that was purely a Blanks move that has thus far been a success. For being at the helm three years, the end result is little.

How do you view his tenure? And were you surprised by the move the Suns made to fire Blanks?

Schwartz: I was not particularly surprised. If they were going to do it, they had to do it now before the heavy lifting of the rebuilding process begins. In essence all they did two summers ago was set the stage for last year, and all they did last year was get themselves in as flexible of a position possible going forward with perhaps the exception of the Dragic signing as a franchise building block.

Now this new basketball genius will be entrusted to do the heavy lifting with this year’s lottery pick and likely at least one more next year along with the other four anticipated first-rounders in the next three years. The only question was if Babby would be blindly loyal since this firing amounts to admitting he made a mistake, and that’s not always easy to do. But overall I’m not nearly as surprised this happened as others seem to be.

I view his tenure as a disappointment but perhaps not the colossal disappointment others do. That’s because he wasn’t responsible for the 2010 offseason, punted the 2011 offseason and then was put in an impossible position last offseason as it pertains to winning (Editor’s note: To Schwartz’s point, Nets general manager Billy King has earned himself a contract extension, but he took over a team that had already tanked and did not possess the burden of having an aging star such as Steve Nash). However, he has not inspired much confidence with his draft picks, and his full-fledged support behind disaster moves like the Brooks/Dragic trade and Beasley signing put him in the negatives.

Overall I don’t feel the Suns would be that much worse off without him because even with Jerry West at the helm I think such a rebuilding downturn was inevitable, yet he made too many poor decisions for his tenure to be looked at as anything but poor.

Now the Suns clearly need an actual talent genius this time around. Which GM candidate do you prefer? Would you go for a glitzy name from the Suns’ past like a Charles Barkley or Grant Hill or prefer to go with a less-heralded name with a proven track record in scouting?

Zimmerman: I think glitz from a Suns perspective isn’t important so much as glitz in the basketball community. Lon Babby said during his press conference on Tuesday that finding a first-rate talent evaluator is key, and clearly that was a big miss with Blanks. So the key is of course someone being “first-rate” which hopefully this time around means they have a better proven track record. From the sound of it, a guy like Barkley or Hill might not be on Babby’s mind — maybe he’s just playing with us — based on what he said about the likelihood of someone not having front office experience. Babby’s comments about remembering the Suns history also held strong, and that can’t help you from thinking one candidate might be 17-year former Suns employee David Griffin. Of course, I don’t know the entire story of why Griffin left the Suns, or if he’d be willing to return.

One thing I’ll say about the next general manager is this; it’s not only about talent evaluation, but character evaluation. It appears that was Blanks’ biggest issue. When you considering Michael Beasley, Markieff Morris and even Marcin Gortat, the Suns haven’t been doing a good job in bringing in guys who haven’t rocked the boat, so to speak.

Anyhow, what do you think needs to come from the next GM? Babby ultimately backed Blanks and even admitted Tuesday the essential firing didn’t absolve him of the franchise’s miscues, but what do you think he might’ve learned to get a hire correct this time around?

Schwartz: First off on Griffin, I don’t know the specifics but it was sort of an awkward ending with he and Kerr running that last 2010 draft as lame-duck execs and I don’t believe he was very pleased with how it all went down. That being said, crazier things have happened than a guy like Griffin returning to the place where he grew up as an executive and coming all the way from the bottom to what would be the top.

I also loved his energy and his meticulous skill at talent evaluation, and the one half he sat next to me in the press box (a Suns blowout of the Clippers, by the way) you could see how much the guy lives and dies with every shot.

On to your actual question, I think that’s pretty simple. The Suns need an actual basketball genius. I still like the unorthodox structure with Babby handling the contracts and a GM handling the talent evaluation. The problem was the Suns had the wrong guy in Blanks. However, the same problem remains in that most reputable GMs would not want to work under Babby but rather would prefer their own autonomy. Combine that with Sarver’s reputation to meddle (which he did for the better it seems under Blanks’ watch with the Dragic and Scola moves), and you can see why qualified GM’s were not lining up for this position when it was open back in 2010.

However, whereas there was uncertainty about this new system before, now a prospective GM knows what he will be getting himself into. Babby has also gotten some of the “rookie” mistakes out of his system that any executive in a new role will make, and the Suns represent more of a blank canvas for a new GM to craft his own team from. Before the GM knew he had to deal with the awkward final years of Nash before launching into rebuilding. Now a GM will have the opportunity to build a team from square one while possessing the cap space and draft picks to actually make some moves.

It’s no secret that Blanks and Lindsey Hunter were close. What do you think this firing means for Hunter as well as some of the Blanks acquisitions like Michael Beasley and even draft picks like Morris and Marshall?

Zimmerman: I think Hunter has a very poor shot at finding his footing again unless he blows away a new general manager during an interview. While Babby is saying he’s still a strong candidate, I see it more as a courtesy to make sure he’s respected in that regard since he did put in the work this season. That doesn’t mean I don’t see Hunter being a decent enough candidate. Look, the more you look at his situation, the more you feel sorry for him. He got a bad start when a Suns legend like Dan Majerle goes at the front office for the hire, he got a bad start simply from the lack of talent on the roster, and he wasn’t helped by the front office asking him to throw any semblance of a rotation to the curb just to see what young talent was at the end of the bench. All of that put together probably hurts Hunter in the long run, but again, I don’t see it as an exact reflection of his head coaching abilities. I’m not saying he’s perfect, but he didn’t get a good opportunity no matter if Lance Blanks opened 10 doors for him.

As for the players, I see the move not meaning all that much. I would hope Blanks would’ve entered the offseason believing all were on the trading block, anyway. But even if a new general manager wants to dump every single one of them, the guys you mentioned appear impossible to ship off.

Back to the front office structure for a second though. I agree that it’s nice to have guys who have specialties (talent evaluation and a financial expert who can mold trades around CBA rules), but when it comes to this very instance of hiring basketball talent, do you think Babby and Sarver are good enough judges themselves? How do you judge “basketball genius” without having an idea of talent evaluation?

Schwartz: That’s a fair question, but I don’t think they are doing it on their own nor did they do so in the first place. They are asking all their many contacts around the league, sifting through recommendations and taking a look at a person’s particular track record. As for making the final gut call on a guy, your point is made. Sure, it’s tough to really know a “basketball genius” when you aren’t one. Going back to Babby’s statements at the Blanks introductory press conference it’s fair to say the Suns knew what they wanted in the talent savant role and were able to justify at the time that Blanks checked all the boxes. The problem was that in hindsight that didn’t end up being the case.

I still like the structure in theory. There are four main tasks for a general manager as Sarver spelled out years ago: talent evaluation, contract negotiation, understanding the CBA and communicating with players. If you combine Babby with a guy like Steve Kerr, then you have a super GM. I do feel like Babby has a much better sense of what he needs out of this position. Back when he hired Blanks, he was still figuring out the ins and outs of his job. To me the bigger question remains whether a true basketball genius would want to work under Babby and Sarver rather than try to take over his own team.

You have gone over this issue in greater depth, but real quickly give me a best and worst move and overall how the Blanks era should be remembered.

Zimmerman: I honestly don’t have insight (maybe you do) on the acquisition of Marcin Gortat, but during Blanks’ time that whole trade would have to be up there. The P.J. Tucker signing, however, was a personal favorite of mine because I really think he’ s a guy that, if this were a winning ball club we’re talking about, would be a hell of a steal. When you consider value, his character and his role, I think he’s defined himself into a niche of player that’s rare. I think he has a good bit of trade value, at the very least.

As for worst move or moves, I can’t get over Blanks’ confidence in the Morris twins. I tabbed the Beasley deal and the whole coaching saga as the bad, and I really don’t want to be unfair since the Morris twins still have a future to develop, but I just don’t see whatever Blanks did with those guys. I’ve written about it to length and I could keep going now, but I just know what’s there and I also see too many red flags.

Anyhow, I don’t think people are going to remember the Blanks era well at all (surprise!). As I said earlier, there was a lot of treading of water for a few years and little else. Perhaps that’s why I personally don’t have a big problem with the Beasley contract or even the Hunter situation — at least Blanks finally took a risk and swung for the fences. He struck out. But behind all that, he wasn’t good at dealing with people in a professional manner, and I think that has a bigger pull in the Suns’ decision to part ways. For their sake, I hope it was.

What about you? You were on the beat during most of Blanks’ term. And I know you were not a fan of the Aaron Brooks-Goran Dragic deal.

Schwartz: Yeah, no question, that’s it for me without a doubt. Not only was it Brooks/Dragic, but the Suns gave up a first-round pick to boot! If the move had worked out and they somehow made the playoffs it would have been right there in that 15-18 range just past the lottery. It’s kind of funny that Dragic is the one thing going well for this franchise considering the circumstances of that trade. Also, it’s not a good sign when perhaps the best move of the past three years is one you had very little to do with after you traded that player away ALONG WITH a draft pick for a player who didn’t amount to anything for your franchise. I could go on, but you get the point.

One more negative about Blanks was just how he completely failed to connect with the media and hence the community. I hate to overstate the importance of that media bond because I know you can be a perfectly good general manager without it, but when you have the media in your corner more often than not you’ll get the benefit of the doubt. I remember a pre-draft session when Blanks seemed to be on a negative rampage from the start, sarcastically asking us why we were questioning him about players to improve the defense when Alvin Gentry had just told us the team needed to improve defensively. That was a rare time when he did step in front of the microphones — as most of the time he avoided the media altogether — which just fed the cycle of distrust between the two parties. Babby, on the other hand, is an eloquent speaker willing to sit down and explain himself so it’s easier to see where he’s coming from than Blanks.

This extends to the community. When Blanks never talks to the media, he is never on TV, or in newspapers or blogs. Therefore, the community doesn’t know very much about him, and thus they don’t know where he’s coming from with some of these acquisitions. Add in some moves that don’t work out and you have a recipe for disaster.

Am I overstating the impact of Blanks’ lack of public persona or do you agree this was a factor in his downfall?

Zimmerman: No overstatement — I completely agree. No matter good decisions or bad, it doesn’t matter how good Babby is at speaking if he’s making excuses for his partner. And even if Babby had more basketball knowledge than he’ll admit, there’s no reason he should be defending — essentially being Blanks’ individual PR firm — someone else’s decisions. I feel sorry for Babby in a way because of that. Initially, the set-up was almost characterized as Babby being the individual PR firm and only that. Now we can see he’s more than a negotiator, but a guy who has the knowledge to get deals done. Of course, it takes the general manager to be creative enough to conceive of potential trade ideas and draft picks before Babby can work his stuff.

But I think the public persona issue is a sign that there were even bigger issues afoot. As Paul Coro reported on Tuesday, Blanks didn’t manage relationships well with Dan Majerle and Elston Turner after Alvin Gentry left. I don’t know for certain if he did anything to politely send Steve Nash and Grant Hill on their way this summer, either.

So for whomever the new GM might be, what’s the biggest issue at hand? Obviously hiring a coach is first on the list, but what could get the post-Blanks era off to a solid start?

Schwartz: That might be first from a timeline perspective, but the most important thing by far is formulating a plan for this rebuild. In theory this would have already been done, yet I also would have said that entering the 2010 offseason in which the Suns made myriad mistakes in a critical summer without any general manager whatsoever.

The new Suns GM must immediately come in and determine how this rebuild is going to go. That will start with finding a cornerstone player to pair with Dragic in the upcoming draft and then figuring out what kind of value the Suns could get for assets such as Gortat and Scola. Unlike Babby and Blanks, who basically had to start out with Nash Ball, this new GM can craft the Suns however he likes (with Sarver and Babby approval of course). That kind of challenge makes this more of an enticing job to me than it would seem at the surface. At last the heavy lifting of getting to this point has been done.

So overall the new GM must figure out the direction the franchise should take going forward, first and foremost.

Before we wrap this up, what is the biggest issue at hand for you?

Zimmerman: I think it’s correct to formulate a plan for what type of rebuild and how they’ll go about it. But with that, it’s important the new general manager has a style or identity in mind; that goes a long way in choosing the next coach and obviously the resulting targets as far as personnel is concerned. The Suns are in a weird position, because no matter which era Phoenix has been in, this city has always been about run-and-gun basketball. I’m not saying it needs to be SSOL, but this can’t be the Indiana Pacers for the city to respond well — it’s just another interesting twist in this long process of rebuilding that we don’t quite understand having grown up watching the Suns. Who knows if a fresh start can lead to a larger step forward than we’ve seen under Blanks?

Tags: Lance Blanks

  • Mel.


    Now all we need is suns also rises and Tony having a catfight in here, and it’ll be the Class of 2010 all over again. :D

  • john


    Where has sun also rises been? Haven’t seen him around in quite a while.

    Great stuff guys. Good commentary. I agree with pretty much of all of it. I think Blanks walked into a tough situation with an aging Nash and Amar’e walking. Ultimately, his failings (like Brooks) outweigh anything positive he might have done (like Tucker). He might have had a tough job, even an impossible job, but he most definitely failed at it.

    I’d like to see him land somewhere else and show us whether the PHX situation was simply too much to overcome or if he really is that incompetent. I’m guessing he’s probably not as terrible as his Suns track record might indicate, although that’s certainly not saying much.

  • Scott

    My impression was that Majerle – who had coached Tucker in Summer League – was the one who went to bat for Tucker and got Blanks to add him to the team.

    Blanks was more autistic than genius, in pretty much every aspect of his job. He should not have passed his interviews; someone seriously dropped the ball.

    IMO, Kerr is average or below average at assessing basketball talent, not all that much better than Blanks, so Kerr + Babby would not have been a “super GM.” Kerr, though, was definitely better at managing and communicating than Blanks. Can you imagine the fireworks that would have erupted if Blanks had been GM for D’Antoni instead of the more easy-going Gentry? D’Antoni would not have suffered Blanks, and probably before the first summer was out would have put the ultimatum to Sarver: “Either he goes or I go.”

    Regardless of who takes the GM spot (Griffin / Barkley / McDonough / ??), I’m thinking I’d like to see Majerle be head coach. And if he retires and is willing, I’d like to see Grant Hill brought in as an assistant / summer league / developmental coach. I think having a solid Hall of Fame type guy like Hill coaching the rookies would be exceptional. I’d like to see Corey Gaines retained on the coaching staff as well, and – as I said before – preferably some time at least in the summer for coaching by Chambers and Eddie Johnson, if they wish to do so. Majerle, Hill, Chambers, and Johnson all have different character traits, but it’s all winning character, and it would be good to have them around, even just in small doses, as role models for the younger players.

  • Ty-Sun

    Grant could be a very good choice as the new developmental coach. Any younger player who didn’t have instant respect for him would throw up a big red flag to me. He knows offense, he knows defense and has always been a great team player. The only unknown is whether he can actually teach what he knows to younger players but I would give him that job in a heartbeat if he wanted it.

    Giving the head coaching spot to Majerle would be at least a good PR move. If the Suns can’t convince a bigger name head coach to take the job, Majerle at least deserves a shot (if he still wants it) although he’s not really high on my want list for potential head coaches.

    As for the GM spot, that I really don’t have a strong opinion other than giving it to Barkley could be a potential disaster. It could also be a potential gold mine. I just don’t think it would fall anywhere in between. Charles has very strong opinions and could clash with Sarver and Babby which could create chaos in the FO. But is Sarver and Babby were willing to give Charles free reign to do as he pleases, he might be successful. The biggest problem I see with Barkley is that once he decides he is right he has to be proven that he is wrong. Until then, no one will ever persuade him that he’s wrong. But also I’m sure that if he ever screwed up, Charles wouldn’t try to avoid the blame. At least giving Barkley the GM position would lead to interesting times in the Valley.

    But then there’s also supposedly an old Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.”

  • shakedaddy

    Zimmerman has got it… suns need a totally synchronized strategy.. first decide what team style will be created to become a perennial play off team (like AS or OKC) . Then synchronize all decisions to that style and strategy. So that means GM who can find the right talent, a coach who can develop and manage the resources to deliver that style,. Dragic is only known starter here now. Trade and draft and sign a team of players who fit that style.. who collectively can shoot, rebound, defend individually and behave as a team and have heart and soul and character to perform as a team Babby is a lawyer by trade who speaks with 100% qualifiers and is generally net content free. Sarver is Teflon..accepts no responsibility for his mistakes, doesn’t know how to pick people and is jerky and short term minded. The team needs to get basketball knowledgeable leaders and hold a 3-4 year consistent strategy to build a team through the draft and with free agents…. to develop and grow together as a team…. with a few selected veterans to help lead as team members. Look at free agent pool and college talent and plan a team of the future. No more Warrick”s Beasley’s, Hedo’s or Brooks, etc etc….. this is about leadership…. Sarver should sell but this is his toy and with TV contracts he is happy to make money while destroying the franchise because of all the mistakes

  • https://twitter.com/ZeroWolf88 John Devance

    Markief morris has rocked the boat ?

  • Scott

    @John Devance -

    Yeah, I’m not sure how Markieff rocked the boat. Maybe the statement was originally about players not having their head in the game, and then it got edited.

  • Ty-Sun

    I usually don’t pay much attention to Bleacher Report articles but sometime they actually do make some sense. I like this idea for a trade between the Suns and Portland:

    Phoenix trades Michael Beasley for $3 million cash and a 2013 second-round pick (from Denver). Portland trades their own 2013 second-round pick. From a pure basketball standpoint, this is not a scenario that improves Phoenix. However, they rid themselves of the enigma that is Michael Beasley. For Portland, they get a potential double-digit scorer, at a discounted price, for the worst-scoring bench in the NBA.

    Also: Phoenix trades Shannon Brown and a 2013 first-round pick (from Miami). Brooklyn Trades MarShon Brooks. Phoenix gets younger at shooting guard and receives a player under club control until the 2015 offseason. Brooklyn gets a comparable player in Brown and an extra first-round pick to draft a young player or move around in the draft.

    Also: Phoenix trades Marcin Gortat to Dallas for their 2013 first-round pick. Phoenix trades Gortat, who is not in the long-term plans of the franchise, and gets a lottery pick to help rebuild. Dallas gets a proven center, who can consistently get 15 points and 10 rebounds per game, and finally pairs Dirk Nowitzki with the center he’s desperately needed.

    None of them are “great” deals for the Suns but they all sound pretty reasonable and could help the Suns in rebuilding.

  • Scott

    @Ty-Sun -

    I don’t see Portland taking Beasley. They’ll find a suitable free agent who is a steady scorer instead, because they want to win.

    A team that might take him – with no cash inducement – would be Charlotte, as they are probably aiming to be in the lottery again in 2014 despite their years of stockpiled lottery picks. For that matter, the Suns can keep Beasley for the same reason (to be in the lottery in 2014).

    As for Brown, I doubt the Suns will pick up the option for his second year.

    I don’t see Phoenix trading Gortat to Dallas for their first round pick either, because Dallas would probably prefer to wait and sign free agent centers Al Jefferson, Tiago Splitter, or even Dwight Howard. If there weren’t so many FA centers available this summer, I would think Gortat to Dallas would be a slam dunk, but this summer …? Possibly not.

    The only way I see it happening is if Cuban gets cold feet about depending on the FA market and ending up with nothing, like what happened last year, so he decides to take Gortat for a first round pick.

    At the moment, OKC, Dallas, Utah, the Bucks, the Celtics, and Atlanta all have picks in the range where the players I most want are likely to be, so if the Suns can go shopping or work out a trade with any of these teams, I’m for it.

    BTW, if the Suns decide to go dumpster diving to cheaply fill out the roster (like if they fail to re-sign Johnson), they could consider FA wingman Xavier Henry.

    Henry went #12 in the first round in 2010 (a huge mistake), and at age 22 has yet to gain traction in the NBA. He’s a bit like Wes Johnson in that he’s got a long wingspan (6′ 11″) and can hit the spot up 3. He can also defend, but like Dudley he lacks lateral quickness, so he’s probably best at SF. He also has average handles, lacks explosiveness, isn’t very good in transition, can’t create his own shot, can’t shoot off the dribble, and shoots an awful 63% from the FT line. He doesn’t block, assist, rebound, or steal either. I’m not suggesting the Suns will squeeze him and turn him into a diamond, but when you consider he’s similar to Tucker but willing to shoot the 3, then you can see that on the Suns team he has potential. ;)

  • Scott

    If the Suns did do simple trades of vets for picks, they might get shortchanged, but as of today here’s the moves I might like to see:

    Gortat to Dallas for their #13 pick (Gorgui Dieng),

    Scola to Boston for their #16 pick (Archie Goodwin),

    Dudley to Atlanta for their #18 pick (Dennis Schroeder).

    I would also not object to turning Tucker into a first round pick or young player, as I think he could possibly be exchanged for value. Potentially he could be bundled with the Suns #30 pick to move up.

    If the Suns wind up short of big men, one obscure international possibility for their late 2nd round pick is a 7′ player from China who is 19 and needs a lot of development work. Sadly, though, if Yao was nicknamed “the Great Wall” of China, this guy is destined to be the “Big Wang.” His name is Wang Zhelin.


  • DBreezy

    While I think there’s zero chance of this happening for at least another two years, I believe the current front office structure of the Suns has to go away. I remember back on the AZC boards when Kerr/Griffin departed, one of the first things I said is don’t be surprised if Sarver goes way out of the box on his front office hires. I joked that he would hire a MBA or something similar. Not long after that, he put some guy(can’t remember the name) who I believe was the head of accounting in charge of fielding calls from other teams until the new front office was in place. Not his remaining hoops people like Gentry, Quinter, and West or even his most experienced NBA guy in Welts, but the money man.

    That was a pretty good indicator of what Sarver felt/feels is most important and how we ended up with Babby as PBO. Sarver first and foremost wants excellent value on market or below market price deals that can compete for a championship but also have the flexibility to retool easily for sustained winning in those non contender years. It’s an unwritten story around town media wise, but how come a bunch of writers who salivated over the faintest possibility of Kobe coming here in the summer of 2004 missed out on envisioning the Suns being players in the great free agency class of 2010? People saw it coming years ahead of time and talked about it just as long. The Suns had one of the free agents that was part of why it was such an anticipated offseason.

    The Suns lack of interest in that idea said a lot to me about how Sarver wants his team built and also why he wanted to put a pure contract and negotiations guy at the top of the power structure. Even the meddling talked about above in the Scola and Dragic deals to me is a an example of Sarver jumping on what he saw as a great asset value. So what if they don’t work out perfectly, they make great trade pieces for the future just like he and Lon played up the acquisitions of Hedo, Chilly and Hak in the summer of 2010 for those that remember that presser.

    The problem isn’t having a contracts/cba guru in the front office, it’s the market effect of having that person be the boss when they have no basketball experience. Babby said this is the summer of analytics, but he’s not about to go hire some analytics genius who just graduated top of their class at MIT to be the GM and expect that person to fill out the rest of the staff with ‘basketball geniuses’ He’d hire that guy under a GM and hope he combines what he does know well with what he learns about the NBA game from others.

    The market essentially told the Suns the same thing 3 years ago about Babby being PBO and odds are it will tell them that again. Babby’s not an idiot though and he has more time and experience than he did in 2010 so I wonder what he’ll do. If he doesn’t find what he wants, I wonder if he’ll just hire a bunch of younger unknown types for various office positions. Griffin or McDonnough types before they were known as anything, guys looking to cut their chops as scouts, etc. IOW if he can’t get a basketball genius try and get more voices in the room so that Lon himself can make a more informed decision. For the last 3 years he trusted his 4th GM choice to make the personnel calls and it didn’t get him anywhere. If the market sticks him with that again or worse, what choice does he have?

  • DBreezy

    The comments about Kieff are interesting, but not surprising. The Suns are basically covered by AZC with mostly only reporter following them closely, KTAR, and two blogs. If you understand their situation, it’s kind of hard to expect the bloggers to dish whatever dirt they have in a timely manner. I believe Dave King over at Bright Side went into this a month or so ago talking about the differences in what he does and asks versus the SBNation guys.

    That basically leaves Coro, Gambo, and occasionally Bickley/Young/Boivin/Bordow to break down behind the scenes stuff. Often we see a lot of stuff swept under the rug until later like the Peaches faux injury to trade to buyout deal.

    I believe Young or Bickley wrote an early season comment about Marshall not showing up early or staying late for extra work despite being out of the rotation and having a lot of holes in his game. Outside of that they were pretty kind overall to Kieff and Marshall until Blanks got tossed. Now everyone pans the picks officially and quotes about the attitudes and work ethic of young players make it into print whereas they might not have before(outside of Poland.) Michael Beasley is far from the only thing wrong with this team so it shouldn’t be surprising that we’re starting to hear a little more and more each day about what is.

  • Scott

    @DBreezy -

    I’ve heard the story about Marshall both ways: that he isn’t working hard and that he is. And of course both stories could be true from different perspectives and at different times.

    That’s why I have Schroeder as a possible selection if the Suns were to get a pick from Atlanta. Marshall may feel he doesn’t have to work very hard or develop (only to change his mind after he gets traded away from the team that drafted him). Perhaps Lopez and Clark felt the same way.

    Suns coaches should just welcome their rookies in the summer and then say, “We know you’re not going to take this stuff seriously till we trade you away, so don’t expect any special consideration from us. Till you prove us wrong, you’re just freeloading spoiled brats.”

  • DBreezy


    I tend to believe that the AZC account was accurate at least from pre-draft time through at least the early part of the regular season. Like you, Hawki, and Foreveris, I follow the draft stuff pretty closely and I remember reading both before and after the draft that Marshal felt that the biggest(not only) area he needed to work on was his strength/stamina for the grind of the NBA season. Part of that focus could also have to do with how he felt after the layoff and recovery from his wrist injury, but I do think some if it has to do with his opinion of himself and his game. The AZC story simply said that they didn’t observe him working before or after practice and that the indication from the coaches was that it wasn’t an isolated incident at the time. Looking at the attitude he displayed when he was sent to the D league, which was picked up on by scouts around the league and media, my guess is that he really didn’t start working hard until sometime after that. Like you said different perspectives, different times. We’ll see where he goes now, though I’m not holding my breath. We definitely need people who are self motivated around this joint.

  • Scott

    @DBreezy -

    Your memory may be playing tricks on you. While Marshall was indeed still rehabbing at the time of the draft, he was putting in 12 hour days with the other prospects at IMG Academy in Florida, which included lots of shooting.

    BTW, it wasn’t until he got to IMG that he found out he had fractured his right elbow.

    As for development of his game, here’s what he said in June before the draft:

    JT: Looking to the NBA, is there anything you feel you could really improve upon or the thing you’re spending the most time working on from a skills perspective?

    Kendall Marshall: Definitely. I definitely want to become a consistent, knockdown shooter. The last thing I want to be is a liability for any team I’m playing for. I feel like I’m blessed with a gift of getting my teammates involved, but that’s not going to matter if guys are defending 10 or 15 feet off of me. And also, working on my body and becoming more flexible — I think that will help me become quicker on defense. You know, being able to keep guys like Tywon [Lawson], Derrick Rose, and Russell Westbrook, these highly explosive guards — I’m not trying to shut them down, but I want to be able to contain them and do a good job staying in front of them.


    And an interview with Marshall in Summer League, having lost all their games to that point:

  • Scott

    I can’t find a single video clip or written interview regarding the final game of Summer League, but IIRC after stinking it up for all the prior games, on the last game – against the Grizzlies – they finally won, and in that game Marshall played like he was supposed to. He really hasn’t played that way since, unfortunately. That’s probably because, as Hunter said, it’s hard to get Marshall out of his comfort zone and into doing new things. And Marshall won’t do things unless he has done enough reps to feel comfortable with it, so … he ends up locked into not developing, at least not during live games.

    In that final game of SL, Marshall shot the ball well (11 pts, I think) and actually penetrated and dished. In the earlier games – which were all losses – he did the thing we’ve seen all season where he brings the ball up the court and passes it to someone, which is infuriatingly lame.

    Marshall has to realize that when he’s on the court the team is carrying him. He’s got to put more pressure on the opposing defense by actively probing and setting himself up to score, and not just from the 3.

  • DBreezy


    That’s why I put not only in parenthesis in my comments as I know he was working on more than just his body and stamina. It’s just that he mentioned those things as being most important a few times before and after the draft. I was more getting at what his mindset might have been going into the season and how it could have affected how he prepared for his first NBA season. There’s only so much time and if you think your body and stamina are the most important thing to work on, perhaps you’re doing something else with that time besides working on shooting and other drills with the coaches.

    I wasn’t trying to say that he was unaware of or didn’t work on the shooting issue, just wondering about his prioritization. Listening to guys like Chambers and EJ talk and they seem to wonder as well. Two things will always stick out for me in Kendall’s rookie year as I already knew he could pass. One was the game where hit a couple of treys early on in a still contested game and he was acting like he was Jordan vs. Portland back in the day. I remember Duds and a few others telling him to calm down. I also remember him making a simple left-handed layup off a drive after his defender played him for the pass. He got excited and kinda jumped after it, and I remember thinking I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a pro player get excited about making a simple layup in the middle of a game. I’m pretty sure if I played long enough, I could make a layup in the league and I wouldn’t be too impressed with myself.

    He talks about it the stamina thing a bit post SL in this interview:


    Also in the DX interview at IMG you mentioned about he says , “The main thing I’m trying to do is just take care of my body. I don’t just want to prepare for the NBA draft; I want to prepare for an 82-game season.”

    Kendall wasn’t really on my personal radar as a pick for the Suns back then, but I remember that interview because that quote stood out to me. Mainly because it’s rare to hear young players talk about the grind of the NBA season, most just talk about getting stronger without any real understanding of why they need to. But also because it was an interesting focus for a guy who clearly had questions on his shooting and scoring ability.

    Perhaps it’s just my perception, but reading a lot of the pre-draft workout interviews in the past, it seemed like other guys focused more on shooting than Kendall did including some who were thought of as shooters already like Mayo. Kendall seemed to be focused on stamina and becoming a better athlete along with shooting. Again that doesn’t mean he’s a slacker, just that perhaps his priorities weren’t/aren’t where they should be. Now that the apple cart has been turned over upstairs, Kendall’s name is being mentioned a lot for a reason.

  • Scott

    Yes, Kendall did mention repeatedly in interviews that it was important for him to get more limber, stronger, and in good shape to run, and he did mention that in the context of the longer NBA season. He also mentioned it in the context of questions about his ability to keep up with the faster pace of the NBA, and to keep up with the lightning quick guards he’d have to defend. Marshall almost always spoke at the same time about keeping injuries low. Obviously this was on his mind, as he was still recovering from injury at the time of the draft and was not 100% for draft tryouts. He had missed a lot of his college year with the injury, which also caused his team to drop out of tournament contention. So in draft interviews he wanted to project himself as a player who was not going to be injury prone.

    However, I would agree with you that despite Marshall’s assertion that he wants to be a knockdown shooter, I still don’t think he really understands how much more involved he needs to get with the offense in the NBA. I saw him do it in the final game of Summer League, so I know he can do it when his back is against the wall. But what we saw last season was a lot of him deferring to his teammates on offense, to the point where much of the time he wasn’t really even creating anything for anyone on offense, but being merely opportunistic.

    Hopefully this summer will be different from the last, in that being injury-free he’ll be able to practice not just his shooting, but his creation for others. I’ll be watching him in Summer League to look for improvement.

    As for his reactions when he scored in a game, I’d say he’s been thinking a lot about (and probably overthinking) his unpreparedness to score in the NBA, and his confidence was so low he celebrated his baby steps.

  • foreveris2long

    Huh, Scott you know that Marshall can be a knockdown shooter? I am not sure where that confidence comes from but just because he hits a few shots when teams are begging him to shoot, does not give me that optimism. I could be wrong but he is open for a reason. He might be the least confident point guard I have ever seen in the NBA. I think that is why he over reacts at times because he surprises himself. He passes so much on the perimeter because he hates going in the lane where there is traffic. He even hates shooting layups unless he is all alone.

    I remember teams backing off Jason Kidd but in part it was because he was so fast attacking the basket they would prefer he shoots. With Marshall there is no threat for him to blow by anyone unless they are dead, so they just want him to shoot. The worst thing IMO for Marshall is this team is so bad if defenses wanted to they will guard him creating more doubt in his mind whether he can make a perimeter shot when someone is guarding him. His form is as much a problem for him as his confidence.

    I guess we’ll see.

  • Scott

    @forever -

    So far as I know I’m just quoting Marshall re: “knockdown shooter.” Did I make a typo?

  • Scott

    @forever -

    If you have questions about the Suns – Grizzlies game that ended Summer League, Marshall shot a reasonable 6-10, with 3-4 from 3. He had 15 points and 10 assists. His +/- in that game of +19 was tops, beating MVP Josh Selby and Markieff Morris (who had 25 pts and 11 rebounds).

    So Marshall can score in double figures with decent efficiency if he tries, and he can penetrate and dish if he tries. The problem, apparently, is that so far it hasn’t been in his comfort zone to do that in a regular season game.


  • Scott

    FWIW, by my count Marshall took more than 5 shots in only eight games last season (out of 48 played), and only once shot more than 8 times (12 FGA against Sac 3.28).

    Nash shot an average of 10 shots a game for his career. Kidd averages 11 shots a game. However, Marshall has been on the court this season for roughly half the minutes per game, so maybe he’s not that far off on attempts.

  • foreveris2long

    Scott I think you said I know he can do it, was I mistaken? Just my opinion but this guy is one of the worst point guards I have ever seen drafted in the NBA lottery.

  • Scott

    @forever -

    I think you were mistaken, in that I only quoted from Marshall on his desire to be a “knockdown shooter.”

    But I did say Marshall shot well and was penetrating and dishing – creating for others – in the final Summer League game, so it IS possible for him to do it. The sad thing is I’ve only seen him do it once, and that was because his pride was pricked by losing every game to that point, so he finally determined to do what he should have been doing from the start.

    Maybe Marshall needs to get fined for every time he brings the ball up to half court and merely passes to someone who doesn’t have a shot. A simple $5 fine each time would make the point. They could have an assistant coach call out “five dollars!” from the sidelines when it happens.

  • DBreezy

    Well even though we don’t know who the next GM or coach is, I’ll go out on a limb and say that they won’t be drafting Trey Burke. So we know that Marshall is likely to be penciled in as the backup for at least the beginning of next season. We’ll see how he handles that knowledge this summer preparation wise. Same for the Morris twins although there is a greater chance that one of them will be seeing more competition for their spot next season from a draft pick.

  • foreveris2long

    Here is your statement Scott,

    “However, I would agree with you that despite Marshall’s assertion that he wants to be a knockdown shooter, I still don’t think he really understands how much more involved he needs to get with the offense in the NBA. I saw him do it in the final game of Summer League, so I know he can do it when his back is against the wall.”

    Scott I really would not make an issue out of this except you said I am mistaken when the above is your quote. In reference to Marshall’s stated desire to become a knockdown shooter you said “I know he can do it…” That seems pretty clear.

    Yeah DBreezy the Suns will likely draft a wing with the 1st pick, not necessarily because the new GM wants to but because Babby and Sarver will likely still have veto power no matter what they say in public. Watching Golden State operate in the playoffs with essentially 2 point guards shows you still should give considerable attention to the best player available instead of need when especially when you are as talent depleted as the Suns are. I think Burke has a better chance of being an allstar than probably everyone in the draft.

    No matter what happens this summer it will be exciting or frustrating depending on everyone’s respective idea on how to rebuild the Titantic as Barkley refers to the Suns as.

  • Scott

    @forever -

    It’s not as clear as you think, and by “it” I mean my writing.

    There is a second part of that sentence, “I still don’t think he really understands how much more involved he needs to get with the offense in the NBA.” That’s what I was referring to in the next sentence, which was “I saw him do it in the final game of the Summer League …”

    Now, as it happens, Marshall did a decent job of shooting in that final game of SL as well. 6 of 10, with 3-4 from 3, is a decent stat line for a floor general type PG. The main thing is that Marshall needs to stop being merely opportunistic on offense and must actively create offense for both himself and others.

  • DBreezy


    The reason I don’t think the Suns will draft Burke isn’t Sarver or Babby, it’s based on the current draft order and odds. There’s a good chance Burke cools off a bit from his NCAA high as an undersized guard who isn’t particularly fast like a Lawson, much like Kemba did after UConn won. But if he doesn’t and rises further in workouts, there’s a good chance the Magic snag him with Smart out of the picture. So to me, unless the Suns rise in the order, Burke will either be gone or he won’t prove to be any better than the rest of the guys on the board at their pick meaning the team likely goes with a position of need in that case.

  • foreveris2long

    DBreezy it goes without saying the Suns could not draft Burke if another team chooses him. All I can say is I think of all the potential lottery picks, he has the most upside. If he is available and the Suns do not draft him I cannot believe they pass on him because they placed more weight on pre-draft workouts over what he did when he won college player of the year and was one of the best players in the tournament.Then again it is the Suns so nothing should be predictable.

  • DBreezy


    At this point I can’t say I’d be outraged by them passing on anyone other than Noel with a clean bill as I don’t really think anyone else has separated themselves. I have my personal preferences like everyone, but there’s more story to be written.

    The thing about the NCAA from an evaluation standpoint is that it isn’t what it used to be. You look at the list of Naismith winners in recent years and yes you have Durant, Griffin, and Davis, but you also have Hansborough, Jimmer, Reddick, Turner, Nelson, TJ Ford, and Bogut. Go back to the 90′s and earlier and most of the guys are guys you wouldn’t want to pass on, but now it doesn’t mean as much.

    Also inthe era of one and done, most don’t get to do what guys like Melo and Davis did and win as freshman with deep tourney runs and championships. Many get bounced early and it often means nothing about their pro careers. Some have subpar deep tourneys like Barnes and have been just fine in the league.

    It’s much harder to read into the tourney now than it used to be with young teams often running into a bad day vs a team of upperclassmen who’ve been together for awhile. If Wiggins does in fact go to Florida State next year, what are the odds he has a longer and better run in the tourney than Parker at Duke? What are the chances he doesn’t even make the tourney like Kentucky this year?

  • DBreezy

    Looks like Payne is staying in school Foreveris, Austin as well Sxott.

  • DBreezy

    That should say Scott, not Sxott

  • Scott

    Thanks, DBreezy. I was looking at stuff on Austin last night, figuring he probably was going to return, and same for Payne.

    Some of the other players should have returned as well, like Goodwin, but I’m sure they have their reasons … one of them probably being that they’ll get drafted higher this year. ;)

  • foreveris2long

    Dbreezy, Thanks for the insight on my man Payne. Objectively you can’t blame him as being a possible 2nd round pick is not very attractive. While I like Burke’s upside over everyone, I too will not be upset if the Suns pass on certain players because you are right most have not separated themselves from the others. Scott’s idea to trade down still has appeal especially if the Suns do not trade Gortat for a draft pick.

  • foreveris2long

    DBreezy I forgot to respond to what weighs more body of work, NCAA tourney or pre-draft camps. I don’t know the answer but when I like a player’s skill set and they played reasonably well in the tourney, the pre-draft camps should not weigh that heavily. I think you liked K.Irving a lot and he really did not play much in the regular season so I guess the pre-draft workout were important for him. If you recall I liked Westbrook as a point guard before any pre-draft camps and it turned out pretty good.

    So I guess IMO there is not a formula for what weighs the most. I do like however when a player plays in a tough conference. See I would take Burke, Franklin or Dieng no matter how they perform in the pre-draft camps. On the other hand I am interested in how Oladipo plays in the pre-draft camp.

    Who knows?

  • Scott

    Hey, I have a stupid question.

    Barkley has apparently said that he doesn’t believe the GM job is a year round 24/7 job, as basically the GM runs the draft and might make a few trades during the season. He confers with scouts. Babby retorts that Barkley has no idea what a GM does, and that it is an “all-consuming” job.

    So … I’m basically in Barkley’s camp on this. What is a GM doing that is taking up so much time and energy?

  • Scott

    Let me add that the GM “picks a few free agents, mainly in the summer” and maybe “sends young players back and forth to the D-League.”

    If the GM isn’t all that responsible for bids and contract negotiations, and he only picks a coach once every few years, and he periodically recommends the hiring / firing of this or that scout, what else is there?

  • DBreezy


    Remember that game Trivial Pursuit where you had the little circles that you had to fill up with the little pie pieces? I think in the old days when players stayed in school longer and you typical college team was much deeper than it is today, NCAA tourney play was a much bigger piece of that pie than it typically is today. Although you are correct that it’s much more of a sliding formula these days.

    Before most of the top prospects either had a deep tourney run or at least multiple tourney appearances often against top tier competition before they went to the league. Now you typically see one maybe two tourney appearances and guys like Anthony Davis or Melo who have the perfect season are rare. To me even guys like Harrison Barnes and Sullinger who each had two deep tourney runs are rare these days.

    As for the pre-draft camp stuff, it’s really tough for teams who pick in the top 5 as the Suns are about to learn. These guys simply do not workout against anyone, let alone each other anymore. Michael Bennett isn’t working out vs Zeller. BMac isn’t going up against Oladipo, Shabazz, or
    Goodwin. Oladipo might not mix it up either. I don’t even think Len will go up against Zeller or Olynyk.

    There’s also a lot of analytic stuff that we as fans don’t get to see, but in the end I tend to rely heavily on what the scouts say for the foundation of ranking these guys and branch out there with my own observations, and what we hear about workouts. When I say scouts, I mean the guys that rank these players up to the tourney when the GM’s take over and the board gets all jumbled. Nobody’s perfect, but to me the consensus of those guys is typically more accurate than that of their bosses.

  • Forever is2long

    DBreezy absolutely it will be tough for teams in the top 5 especially this year when it appears potential allstar talent is slim to none. I suspect each team has their own formula which they juggle with a number of intangibles before they make their pick.

    Scott, I think the GMs who handle contract issues and player personnel have a fulltime job year round. However in the Suns structure with Babby handling contract issues, like you I do not think the Suns job has to be that encompassing. However a lot of us have worked for bad management where they micro manage and make the job much more difficult than it has to be.

    If I am an owner and my GM gets me one future NBA starter every year through draft or trade and every 3rd year gets me a future allstar, he can take two months off every year. I think it should be a result oriented position not a time consuming one. What have we gone 3 years with Blanks working fulltime year round and we do not have one future starter who the Suns have drafted or traded for? I guess you can say Wes Johnson who the jury is still out on and he is an unrestricted free agent.

    Therefore I think I agree with you and Barkley.

  • Ty-Sun

    Being a GM probably isn’t a “year round 24/7 job” but I think that being a really GOOD GM is.

  • m.i.milliman

    I’m I wrong in saying that Lance shot Blanks his entire run as the Suns GM? (sorry if this tasteless joke has already made, but I’m not scrolling through forty long winded posts)