5-on-1, Part 2: What was the brightest part of the Suns’ season?

With the Suns’ season over and the offseason already in full swing as the team searches for a new general manager and a head coach, questions are aplenty. So instead of the traditional 5-on-5 to recap the season, we’re going to — like the Suns — start from scratch and work through five 5-on-1 sessions. Because if you can’t run an offense during a walk-through with a coach, no chance it’s working against five defenders.

We started off the discussion asking for one word to sum up the Suns’ season. In our second installment, we’re looking at the best of the year, as difficult as it may be.

Is it safe to say Goran Dragic was the brightest spot this ugly season? If so, where did he finish compared to your preseason expectation? If not, what was the brightest part of this dark year for the Suns?

Michael Schwartz: In terms of contrast to expectations, I would have to say Jermaine O’Neal because he wasn’t necessarily going to figure into the rotation when he originally signed with Channing Frye healthy, and he ended up delivering a healthy and overall solid season in which he looked younger than he has the past few seasons (kudos once again, training staff).

But yes, Dragic was the brightest spot of this dark season although he wasn’t quite as good as my preseason expectations for him. Last season in 28 games as a starter in Houston, Dragon averaged 18.0 points, 8.4 dimes and 3.5 boards while shooting 49 percent. This year he put up a 14.7-7.4-3.1 line on 44.3 percent shooting. I doubted he would duplicate the Houston numbers over the course of a full season, but as the focal point of the Suns’ attack I thought he would come a bit closer and shoot a little better to boot.

That being said, Dragic is the one piece the Suns can exit this season knowing is a building block. He is the prime of his career turning 27 in a few weeks and is the one player from this season who should remain amid the rubble of a disastrous campaign.

Ryan Weisert: Goran Dragic was the only bright light in the Suns’ dismal season. Dragic was the only player Phoenix could count on night in and night out for both effort and production. He led the team in scoring and assists per game. He increased his output in both those areas every month starting in December. Carrying the load as both a scorer and distributor is not an easy job in the NBA. Not many players pull it off, and most of the guys who do are All Stars. Dragic isn’t quite there yet, but he definitely proved this season that he has potential to be the guy in Phoenix. All that said, until the last month of the season, Dragic fell short of the stats many people thought he would put up. Last year, Goran averaged 18 points and 8 assists per game as the starter in Houston. Many people assumed he could duplicate that production in Phoenix. I don’t believe Goran really failed to meet those expectations. I think those expectations were misguided. The truth of the matter is that in his first season as a full-time starter, Dragic was excellent, and he is right now the only player whose future in Phoenix is assured (unless Chris Paul suddenly develops an unrelenting desire to live near saguaros this offseason.)

Kevin Zimmerman: P.J. Tucker was a nice story, so was the rejuvinated Jermaine O’Neal and the opportunity given to Hamed Haddadi. But there’s no way to sail past Dragic’s season. The poor on-court chemistry on the Suns this season made Dragic’s performance even more impressive beyond the numbers. As Phoenix searched for an identity, he was often caught in between his aggressive, attacking nature and attempting to get his teammates involved. His role with Marcin Gortat seemed to improve greatly just before the center sprained his foot, but Dragic’s rising production continued as he was forced to be the focal point as the regular season neared its end.

He only improved once it became even more clear that he needed to be the key scorer and playmaker on a sub-par roster. And to produce considering the talent around him only makes it fun to imagine Dragic playing off of another primary ball-handler or even the return of a healthy Gortat. Simply put, it’s hard to imagine many other point guard contributing as much despite the lack of talent surround them. Another summer of individual growth should only help.

Dave Dulberg: Unquestionably, Goran Dragic was the brightest spot in 2012-13. While the bar wasn’t exactly set very high, he proved that he could be a very capable starting point guard in the league. He finished right around where I thought he would be this season in terms of overall production. I thought he was a great long-term solution to replace Steve Nash at the point, but honestly, even in the short-term that might already be true.

I’m not ready to put him among the top-10 point guards in the league just yet, but if he played in an offense with bona fide perimeter shooters he could be a 16 and 8 guy. This season, he had to create for himself far too often. I think not only would his assists go up if he had more capable options, but his three-point percentage would as well.

Matt Petersen: Dragic had to be the brightest spot, though that has as much to do with Marcin Gortat’s failure to improve and Michael Beasley’s failure to not disappoint as much as Dragic’s performance. His post-All-Star break play in particular (16.1 ppg, 9.5 apg) was encouraging. It’s worth noting, however, that Dragic had a similar surge after All-Star weekend in 2012. The Suns need him to be that kind of player year-round, not just when the playoffs are out of reach and expectations are nil. When that happens, Dragic will go from good deal to free agent steal.

  • phxfan88

    Just wait until Dragic has a scorer to feed…

    Just wait, a really long time, because it ain’t happening on this team with this ownership in place.

  • Scott

    I think the brightest part of the season, if you can count it, is the loss of Blanks.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    Other than the surprisingly good play of Jermaine O’Neal (which means he probably won’t be back next year) the best part of the season was watching the Lakers self-destruct.

    btw…saw a recent mock that had Suns taking Oladipo 4th & Allen Crabbe (sg Cal) 30th…..uninspiring.

    Forever has mentioned a few times about taking a player with upside…if the Suns stay in the 4th spot, then that would have to be Anthony Bennett.

  • Sam

    To me the best part of season was being able to see Hamed-Haddadi play up to 28 minutes and to see him raise the team’s performance instantly by opening the road for all to get to the basket or shoot and score while he defended the paint, rebounded, blocked and gave the opponent centers all the trouble they could handle. Haddadi, Dudley, Tucker and Marshall together performed the best defense.

  • Rich Anthony


    That’s the man. I hope he’s there for the Suns. Bennett is good, but OLADIPO is a demon. A two-way demon. The Dragon and Victor defensively as a backcourt? Vicious.

    I don’t expect PHX to arrive at the draft with only 2 firsts. Expect at least 3 or, at the very least, that 2nd pick to sit in the 12-18 range.

  • Scott

    Rob Hennigan, the GM for the Orlando Magic, is the guy the Suns should have got for their rebuild. Since they don’t have him, the Suns should imitate what he’s done.

    This summer they start the 2nd season without their superstar (Howard), and he’s already accumulated 4 exceptional young players. He’s going to get another one in this draft.

    This summer the Suns start their 2nd season without their superstar (Nash), and they have … well, they have Dragic, who by strange luck they were able to get back after the bizarro Rob Hennigan (Blanks) gave up a first round pick to get rid of him.

  • Forever is2long

    Scott very true. If you are engaged in a promising rebuild I think you need a few future starters on the roster who are 25 and under. Some how at the end of this summer the Suns need to establish at a minimum they have 2 guys 25 and under who have NBA starting ability. If Wes Johnson stays which I do not think is promising, he could count for one. We need to get at least one in the draft if Johnson stays. If Johnson leaves and we only find one in this draft, we need to find 2 next summer.

    In counting back we have what 4 consecutive drafts and the only NBA starter is Lopez and he starts for someone else. Not good so this needs to change NOW>

    Rich I hope you are right that we pick up another 1st round pick this summer. We need Dieng badly along with a high flying wing who can create his own shot and defend. That is my only concern with Oladipo is his ability to create his own shot. Hopefully he shows something in the camps.

  • john

    I hope Johnson doesn’t stay. He’s awful. I keep hearing so many fans talk about his improvement and his potential and he couldn’t really turn into something…

    He’s 25 years old. He has been in the league for three seasons and shown zero signs of improvement. How is it that he inspires ANY more hope in Suns fans than someone like Michael Beasley (who is younger than Johnson, might I add)?

    Johnson, even during his “hot” streak, had one game with a game score over 15 (3/27 @ Utah). That was his ONLY game all season with a game score over 15. Michael Beasley, the man everyone loves to hate, had seven games with a game score over 15. Johnson played in 25 fewer games than Beasley and had a negative game score on 10 occasions. Beasley had a negative game score 17 times.

    Beasley’s PER was 10.8. Johnson’s PER was 10.3.

    Beasley’s WS/48 was -0.047, Johnson’s was 0.0.

    Beasley’s net rating was -22, Johnson’s was -13.

    Both of them are bad. This isn’t to prove I think either of them has a future, this is just me expressing my bewilderment that anyone has any hope for Wes Johnson. He’s just not good enough to be a heavy contributor in the NBA. That has been on display for nearly 200 games now. How many more do we need to see before we give up hope in him like we gave up on Michael Beasley?

  • DBreezy


    Did you see Jermaine O’Neal stumping for a return to Portland the other day in an Oregon paper? My favorite quote was when he said, “At this point for me, it’s all about competing and winning and the Blazers are doing those things.”

  • john

    Ha, I think he must have had Portland confused with Indiana.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    @ DBreezy

    No, didn’t see that, but it looks like his audition for the other teams in the league this year was a success.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    Some unrestricted Free-Agents I’d like to see the Suns go after.

    Brandan Wright ….Mavs
    Paul Millsap….Jazz
    Leandro Barbosa….Wizards
    JJ Hickson….Blazers

    Wright or Hickson should be a priority.

    Wright is still young & gives us some length up front as would Hickson….we all know how good Millsap is, but he is definitely a long shot.
    Leandro would probably like to come back & would provide a spark off the bench & take some pressure off Dragic in the backcourt.

  • Azbballfan

    I feel like Beasley played worse defense than Johnson and Johnson was alot more consistent when given playing time

    i am not sure what you mean by game rating over 15?

    Beasley is so frustrating to watch as a fan

    he had a 21 point 15 rebound 7 assist 3 block performance against Charlotte

    and then only had a few good games rest of the year

    most of the time he played little defense and chucked up bad shots

  • Forever is2long

    John, Let me preface this by saying Wes Johnson is a decent not a great player but I think has more upside. However I take issue with the assertion he is a bad player who has not shown any improvement. You also incorrectly claim he scored over 15 points only once.

    His career average is 7.7 pts per game. As a starter for the Suns for I think 21 games, he averaged about 12 points a game. His field goal % was 43% during that stretch of games. His career field goal % is 40%. Contrary to your assertion, he scored over 15 points on more than one occasion.
    On March 8 he scored 19, March 24 he scored 21, March 20, he scored 18, March 27, he scored 22, April 3 he scored 20 and April 10, he scored 17.

    Absolutely he showed improvement over his career as a starter. However not only did he improve offensively, he is at least an average defender with athleticism who can guard point guards , 2s and 3s.

    Just my personal opinion but his numbers as a starter shows improvement over his career and he is athletic something this team needs. If The suns think they can get better quality elsewhere great but I doubt good players are lining up to come to Phoenix.

  • Forever is2long

    Hawk, Who do you think has more upside, Trey Burke, Bennett or someone else? I am definitely an upside guy this summer and next.

  • Ty-Sun

    I like the idea of going after Millsap. He doesn’t fit the youth movement but he’s only 28 and could be a good veteran influence for a team going young and a solid scoring option and rebounder./ Yeah, he’s a little undersized for a PF at 6’8″ but he’s already proven himself. Wright or Hickson would also be good options and probably cheaper options than Millsap.

    As for Wes Johnson, I think he’s proven himself to be a valuable role player but I’d much rather see him coming off the bench instead of starting. I still think he has some upside but I think that upside is for him to just become an even better role player. If the Suns do wind up drafting Oladipo, the Suns might be wise to keep Johnson as the starting 2 to give VO a chance to acclimate to the NBA as his backup for a while and I would bet that they would swap roles before the end of the season. I don’t see Oladipo as someone any team can count on from day one to be a starter but he could grow into it quickly if he’s not too quickly thrown to the wolves.

    But until the lottery is done, there is no way to know where the Suns’ draft pick will fall. The could get lucky and have the 1st pick (which I assume would be Noel) or fall all the way to the 7th pick and see Oladipo (as well as some of the other top prospects) go to another team.

    And I’m not sure this is the year that Phoenix should try to get another 1st round pick unless it’s part of a trade for a player that the Suns aren’t planning on keeping as part of their future.

  • john

    *Game score* is different from points scored. Game score is like an efficiency rating for a single game similar formula to PER, thought it tends to be a little bit lower (a guy of PER 15 would probably have an average game score around 10, for instance). That was just to show that a guy Suns fans universally declare as awful (Beasley) still did arguably better than Wes Johnson last year, yet somehow Suns fans inexplicably fell in love with Johnson.

    What I mean by showing no improvement:

    2010-11: 10.2 PER/47.3 eFG%/49.1 TS%/11.0 AST%/1.4 STL%/2.0 BLK%/-11 Net/1.3 WS/ 0.030 WS/48, his per36 numbers now, 12.3 PTS/1.7 TOV/0.9 BLK/1.0 STL/4.2 REB/2.6 AST
    2011-12: 8.0 PER/46.5 eFG%/47.7 TS%/6.4 AST%/1.2 STL%/2.3 BLK%/-14 Net/0.6 WS/0.021 WS/48, per36, 9.6 PTS/1.5 TOV/1.2 BLK/0.9 STL/4.3 REB/1.4 AST
    2012-13: 10.3 PER/47.0 eFG%/48.5 TS%/5.9 AST%/1.2 STL %/1.4 BLK%/-17 Net (I was wrong on his Net before)/0 WS/0.000 WS/48, per36, 15.1 PTS/1.8 TOV/0.7 BLK/0.8 STL/4.6 REB/1.3 AST

    He has shown no significant improvement in any area. The only thing that changed last season was the rate of his shot-taking (not the efficiency, just the rate). He has been bad in all three of his NBA seasons. His advanced numbers show it. His traditional numbers show it. His per36 numbers show it. The eye test shows it to me as well. He does nothing that impresses me so much that I would be willing to pay him anything more than the min.

    If I had an easier way to break down his starter stats, I would do it, but it would take more effort than I want to put into proving Wes Johnson is bad. It probably wouldn’t change any opinions anyway.

  • john

    Ah, Johnson’s starter stats

    21 games started

    29.2 mpg/13.4 ppg/3.2 REB/1.1 AST/42.9 FG%/31.7 3P%/80 ft% (I would say this is his biggest area of improvement)/

    Beasley’s starter stats:

    20 games started

    27.5 mpg/11.4 ppg/3.9 REB/2.4 AST/37.4 FG% (atrocious)/26.9 3P% (stop shooting!)/73.8 FT%

    Those numbers are not all that far off from each other.

    And again, my argument is not to prove that Beasley is any good. I think he’s bad, too. My point is that I don’t understand why Suns fans (who are constantly complaining about the lack of talent on the team) want anything to do with Wes Johnson.

  • Forever is2long

    Thanks John. I think both can improve a lot and am ok if they both remain on the team. I think the biggest difference Johnson is a much better defender but I still think they both have a decent upside. I just like guys who have raw talent despite the fact I have never been a Beasley fan. I think Johnson would benefit from seeing a shrink because he needs to be more aggressive offensively. He also needs to get stronger, improve his ball handling skills and work on some low post moves as there were games opponents would place point guards on him because they knew he would only shoot 15 to 22 foot jumpers.

  • Forever is2long

    Hawk, Ty-sun, I am definitely in your camp to get Wright or Hickson on board.

  • john

    I definitely agree with you that the potential is there for Johnson (he was a top 5 pick, after all). And I would also agree that he’s more likely than Beasley to put it all together, at this point in their careers. And I would definitely, emphatically agree that Johnson is a better defender. Beasley is historically bad. I’m honestly not sure if I’ve ever seen someone so freakishly gifted be so devilishly bad defensively.

  • Scott

    Beasley – if he plays – has to play at PF. While his performance all around was pretty stinky, IMO he stank less while playing at PF. (If the Suns could trade Scola for Sullinger, Beasley could play PF next year while Sullinger recovers from back surgery.)

    Johnson, if he’s re-signed, has to be re-signed with the idea that he’s not proven himself at all, and is not yet part of the rebuild. So a short, cheap contract.

    While I thought Johnson stood out on the lackluster Suns squad for his defense and willingness to shoot, his accuracy flickered in and out.

    Johnson and Dragic both shot 32% from 3, which statistically puts them in the same company as Kobe Bryant, Eric Gordon, Russell Westbrook, Rudy Gay, Kemba Walker, Luol Deng, Byron Mullins, Andre Iguodala, and Alonzo Gee.

    While this might sound pretty good, it is also at the bottom of the 3 pt leader board, basically around #120.

    A lot of players are shooting better, such as Matt Barnes, Metta World Peace, Jeremy Lin, Kyle Singler, Charlie Villanueva, and so on. Basically, if you were to average it out, every team has 4 better 3 pt shooters than Wes Johnson and Goran Dragic.

    On the Suns there were 3 players who shot better from the 3 than Johnson and Dragic: Dudley (39%), Marcus Morris (36%), and Markieff Morris (34%). (If Frye had been cleared to play, his 2011-2012 3 pt % was 35%.)

  • Ty-Sun

    Yep, Forever. Johnson beat Beasley hands down as a potential “keeper” because he actually plays defense. Beasley is either too slow to defend opposing 3′s, too small to defend opposing 4′s or, more likely, just a poor defender at either spot. If Beasley could get his sh!t together and use his talent to consistently score the 25+ points a night that he’s capable of, then his lack of defense wouldn’t be that big of a deal. At least Johnson seems to have some idea of his limitations on offense. Beasley still throws up shots from anywhere on the court when the mood strikes him. I wouldn’t doubt that Beasley winds up playing in China within the next 2-4 years. Wes will find a place in the NBA even if he doesn’t stick in Phoenix. Not because he’s that good but because not as bad as some people seem to think. Good defense will keep you as at least a backup role player in the NBA.

  • Scott

    If the Suns have a hole at SF next season, another player expected to be available is Omri Casspi. He’s got a PER of 13, he’s 24, 6′ 9″, and he shoots 33% from 3.

    Brandan Wright, who was mentioned as a possibility above, will probably be retained by Dallas and be expecting a much larger paycheck. He’s got a PER of 21.

  • Scott

    @Ty-Sun -

    I thought Beasley did a fine job defending against several PFs, including Blake Griffin and David Lee.

    However, my recollection is that he almost always looked awful defending SFs.

  • DBreezy


    Outstanding podcast with a former Suns front office staffer who worked under D’Antoni, Kerr/Griffin, and Babby/Blanks. A must listen.

  • GoDuns

    Can we trade Johnson for reddick, I liked the way JJ help lead Orlando before being traded to Milwaukee

  • Scott

    @DBreezy -

    I’m having a hard time with that podcast. One voice is super loud and clear, the other – the guest – is faint and indistinct. I can’t understand it at all.

    Can you summarize the interview?

  • Ty-Sun

    @Scott – How often did the Suns actually play Beasley at the 4 instead of the 3 this season? I don’t disagree that he might be a better 4 than a 3 but there is really no proof of that. At either position he just seems unfocused and doesn’t keep his head in the game. As long as he keeps playing like that, he will be labeled a bust and will ultimately have to play overseas instead of in the NBA.

    @GoDuns – I like Redick but he’s a free agent now which means there is no way the Suns can trade anyone for him. They can pursue him as a free agent but to trade for him for Johnson, or anyone else, is impossible.

  • Scott

    @Ty-Sun -

    The Suns played Beasley at PF mainly after they acquired Marcus Morris and Scola started playing more center due to Gortat’s injury. So it was late in the season. Beasley’s defense at PF, where he didn’t have to contend with the perimeter so much, was noticeably good.

    Please understand I’m not saying the Suns should keep Beasley or place their hopes on him becoming an All-Star or something. But they have him for another year, assuming they can’t trade him. My point is that if they’re going to keep him, and if they want to get the most out of him while harming the team the least, they should play him at PF ONLY.

  • Ty-Sun

    @Scott – I understand your reasoning. But I think most Suns fans would agree that if Beasley remains with the Suns next year that his best position is on the bench unless absolutely necessary.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    @ Forever

    imo Anthony Bennett has the most upside in this draft along with Noel & Carter-Williams the long PG from Syracuse.

    Every time I saw Bennett I was impressed…a great outside shot for someone of his size & it seemed like his teammates either couldn’t or wouldn’t get him the ball inside when he posted up…their guard play was spotty at best…
    however Bennett also poses the most risk….could be a tweener & his dedication to getting in top shape & playing defense also raises legitimate concerns.

  • Mel.

    Pardon the disgusting amount of schadenfreude that I’m about to spill, but I’d call one of the bright spots–entirely conditional to being a long-suffering Suns’ fan–was the fact that overpaying for Nash and STAT was finally, irrefutably proven out as being a dodged bullet.

    I really like the Knicks a lot–Woodson is one of my favorite coaches–but the gung-ho manner in which they saddled themselves with a max contract bench player whose knees are crumbling and who even isn’t the ninth-best offensive option on the squad just proves out what Kerr said about the Suns’ awareness that this would eventually happen (And the shocking amount of prescience that they showed by letting STAT walk when he refused any sort of prohibitive insurance-based clauses in his new contract regarding his post-surgery performance).

    And as for Nash… well. I feel bad for the guy, more than anything. One can argue angrily that he knew exactly what he was getting into and deserves the debacle that was the Lakers’ season, but reading article after article about the poor guy desperately popping painkillers and taking epidurals to the spine just so that he can get on the court REALLY throws the notion of PHX paying ten million dollars to the guy for the next three years under the proverbial bus.

    And yes, the warlocks would have likely altered this situation had either/both stayed, but–IMHO–it’d be a matter of months before the inevitable reality settled in. Cheap bastard or not, Sarver dodged thirty million dollars’ worth of payroll on two players whose post-Valley careers are the stuff of pro sports pathos; not that it endears the guy to me, but with the new CBA in mind, I’d rather be looking at the future with Goran Dragic and a clean slate than a lame-duck payroll built on trying to recapture past glories.

  • Scott

    @Mel. -

    Agreed. The Suns did dodge some misfortune.

  • Ty-Sun

    Bennett would be my 5th choice in this draft. He’s good and shows promise but my 1st choice would be McLemore. 2nd would be Noel. 3rd/4th would be Oladipo/Porter. Porter may have less upside than Oladipo but he just does everything very well although nothing great.

    At 6’8″ Bennett is an undersized NBA PF although at 240 lbs he has the bulk to play the position. He actually outweighs Noel by 25 lbs. And that Is my main concern about drafting Noel if the Suns get lucky and get the 1st or 2nd pick in the draft. Noel is 215 lbs soaking wet. How many NBA centers won’t be able to out muscle him? His athleticism and quickness could compensate for his lack of bulk especially if the trend to playing “small-ball” really is the wave of the future in the NBA.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    @ Ty-Sun

    Noel is only 18 yrs old….in 3-4 years I would expect him to be in the 235-240 lb range.

    The likely 1st three drafted players should be Noel, Mclemore & Porter unless someone decides Trey Burke is their PG of the future.

  • Forever is2long

    DBreezy, Great podcast. I did get interupted so I could not finish but I did hear about Babby and Blanks not being as hands on as one might expect and that Kerr and Griffin seemed to be improving. It is because of this perception I would have strongly considered not extending Babby as it appears we have gotten very little out of the past two drafts and Amin seemed to allude to the past couple of drafts. I probably heard about 30 minutes of it and was impressed with his candor. Thanks

    Hawk, While I too like Bennett, he would not get my vote because I definitely want someone who can defend.I saw him in two regular season games, one against University of New Mexico and was not impressed defensively. I saw him in other games but not the entire contest. My vote goes to Burke as having the most upside. However even Burke has questions (size) so I would not be opposed to trading down if it would net the Suns Dieng and J. Franklin who I think may be better than Oladipo. Anyway as usual, good discussion.

  • Ty-Sun

    @Hawki – Way back when I was in high school, a very good friend of mine was 6’8″ and 190 lbs. After HS he grew another inch and gained another 20 lbs even after extensive weight and martial arts training. After it all he was a 6’9″, 210 lb black belt… and I, at 6’1″ and 200 lbs, could still push him around and outplay him on the basketball court.

    My point is that no matter how much my friend tried to bulk up, it just didn’t work for him. On the basketball court, I beat him by pushing him around even though I was shorter and, in the end, out weighted him.

    But we also spared a few times and he always kicked my ass.

    My real point is that Noel is undersized for an NBA center and that there is no way to know for certain that he will be any more than a great collage/HS player. Yes, he looked great early on in college but the ACL injury cut his season very short. I think after he recovers that he will be a valuable NBA player but he hasn’t shown enough yet for me to say that any team should draft him at the #1 spot over anyone else this year.

  • Forever is2long

    Hawk, I can’t believe work got in the way of my response about Bennett and Carter Williams. Ok I too really like Carter Williams and agree he could have the most upside of anyone. While my vote goes for Burke, If Williams keeps working on his jump shot he could be the best player in the draft. This is one of those so so drafts where anyone in the top twenty could win rookie of the year and or be an allstar in 5 years. Then again it is possible no one in this draft will ever be an allstar.

  • DBreezy


    Yeah I had to run the audio thru my Atv so I could crank the volume but it’s worth it. I can’t really do the guys words justice, but I’ll try to summarize. He worked for the Suns FO from 2006-2012 starting off as an intern and ending as a college scout with a lot of FO roles in between. Not a higher up, but it’s clear he was involved in a lot of talks and had a good feel for the inner workings of the team.

    He talked a lot about the differences in working for D’Antoni, Kerr/Griffin, and Babby/Blanks. He said D’Antoni was/is a big believer in personal responsibility, which didn’t surprise me as I’ve heard the same about Adelman who I believe D’Antoni played with back in the day. He said Sarver expected him to win a championship and that he spent 99% of time on that, while expecting the other FO people to do their jobs on a day to day basis. That pretty much jives with what Coro has said about him in blogs as well.

    He really liked the way Kerr/Griffin ran things internally. Said those two along with West and Quinter were really into professional development and gave everybody opportunities to round out their resumes beyond their official duties. Said Kerr was a great communicator with everyone he came into contact with inside and outside the team, said he’s pretty much the same guy you see on TNT behind the scenes. He said their meetings were collaborative and everyone’s opinion was solicited and welcome. Zero hard feelings on disagreements and that they never put their foot down and warned them who they were talking to if there was an argument. Reminded of some of the comments about Ainge in the McDonnough article.

    He then talked about Lon and Lance while being sure to mention that he left last year so he doesn’t know what they are doing today. He said it was a closed loop with Lance and Lon taking info and making decisions, but not giving much info if any the other way. He said Lance never offered his opinions on anything and wanted every one in their ‘silos’ as Lance called them. Iow if you’re a college scout for example, only report to him on that, offer no opinions on anything else, and disappear once the draft was over. Same would go for people in the other silos.

    He said Lon coming from an office background really affected how he ran things. He said Lon is very much into hierarchy and chain of command. He takes his info from Blanks and sometimes Treloar and that’s it. The enslisted men were to be silent. He has minutes taken of all the meetings. He said he has zero basketball knowledge which is a big problem because he’s the final decision maker. He said that he didn’t think he needed to know minute details, but he gave the example of Marcus Smaet. He said that Lon should know the basics that he’s not a great shooter and that he uses his strength to score for example, not that he likes to go over his left shoulder 80% of the time. Thing is that Lon doesn’t even know that. He said Lon didn’t travel to do any scouting and that Blanks rarely did. Said Blanks wasn’t a slacker, but wasn’t a basketball junkie either and that was important when you report to a decision maker with no hoops knowledge. He said Lon is a good guy and does an important and complex job, but it’s tough having him be the final decision maker in this structure. Said everyone in the league views the Suns GM job as an Asst. GM job and that automatically pares down the candidate list. He wouldn’t name names for who he thinks should get the job, but intimated that most ideal names likely wouldn’t be interested because of the structure.

    The rest of the stuff was mostly about the draft, but he was purposely vague in a lot of areas as he didn’t want to give away trade secrets. I also forgot that he kinda hinted that the Suns have paid lip service to analytics vs really using it as a tool. He didn’t think it was the end all be all, but he hinted that they didn’t even really consider it in their decisions. Even with all of this, I’m probably forgetting some good stuff he said.

  • Scott

    Thanks, DBreezy.

    So … Blanks said he was a basketball junkie, but he wasn’t.

    Still, I don’t think you have to be a basketball junkie to be a good GM. I think you have to be thorough, and measure, measure, measure before you cut.

    As for Lon’s role on which players to take or move, I assumed he just ran with the recommendations he received from Blanks. Are we hearing this isn’t so? I wonder how much of Lon’s decision making regarding players is real and how much of it is just griping and sniping by scouts trying to dodge blame.

    If Lon is the real decision maker, and he was the one who chose Beasley and so on, then he needs to go and the system needs to get canned.

    As for using analytics … I think they are mainly used to support the choices a GM wants to make, or possibly to help choose between two players believed to be close in merit.

  • DBreezy


    Imo Elhassan doesn’t seem to think one has to be a basketball junkie to be a good GM, but he does think you have to be one for the Suns position because of Lon’s lack of basketball knowledge and the organizational structure.

    While I don’t think Elhassan was too impressed with Blanks’ silo and one way information approach, what I think he was getting at is that it wouldn’t matter as much in a traditional front office where both guys in the GM and PBO positions are basketball people.

    Instead you’ve got Blanks’ who takes in information individually from his silos without offering feedback that could lead to refined decisions taking his recommendation to Babby who doesn’t have hoops knowledge. It also probably doesn’t help that Babby’s desire for hierarchy vs the collaborative approach limits the amount of other voices he hears on a given issue.

    While Elhassan didn’t talk about any specific personnel outside of Goran and R.Lo, but personally I think you could see how what he said would apply to latest rumors around the Beasley decision. I can see Blanks getting together all of his info on Beas from his silos and deciding to recommend signing him, but also recommending that they not give him a long deal with guaranteed money because of his experience with Delonte West.

    Elhassan made it clear that contracts and trades are purely Lon and his personal team’s purview. So you could see Lon ignoring Blanks’ contract advice and signing him to a deal he found acceptable, probably thinking that he was getting a steal $$$ wise if he pans out as Blanks’ projected. It also could go a long way into explaining why Blanks and Gentry jumped out in front so early in pumping up Beasley and why Lance was supposedly working with him personally the first half of the season. Perhaps they thought doing so would keep him focused and working hard vs falling back on his guaranteed money.

    I do think the system has to be scraped or altered somehow. It’s one thing for media writers and people like me to say that the structure is a hindrance in attracting candidates, it’s another for someone who’s been in the business and this organization to say so. If Sarver wants this kind of structure, he should have hired Tom Penn 3 years ago instead of Babby. Or even Larry Coon. Somebody who has intricate cba knowledge but also understands the game. Then it wouldn’t be the end of the world if you didn’t have an absolute basketball fiend in the GM role. Elhassan didn’t say that Blanks didn’t know the game or work hard. He said that wasn’t the kind of guy who in the dead of summer would come into the video room and ask for footage of some obscure Euro B league game of players looking to move up to the A league and that the Suns structure demands that kind of nuttiness.

    It just really seems like whomever they hire is going to have a whole lot of responsibility and wear a lot of hats for someone who isn’t really a decision maker. Elhassan didn’t even get into things like picking and working with a coaching staff, but it seems clear that Babby isn’t the man for that. I really just don’t see what makes the position attractive to good assistant GM candidates let alone GM types. It seems to be most attractive to guys like Blanks who are lower on the totem pole in an organization looking to make a leap.

    While there clearly could be stuff going on behind the scenes, it doesn’t seem surprising that we aren’t hearing of much concrete interest in the Suns job. Even Weltman who has confirmed permission to interview, hasn’t been reported to have actually interviewed yet. There have been no other reports of people actually interviewing for a position that they want to fill before the draft combine on the 15th. Usually an agent will leak something out to someone in the media.

  • DBreezy

    Looks like there was in fact something going on behind the scenes. According to Wojo, the Suns are down to Weltman, McDonough, and Scott Layden as finalists. I guess Layden is Sarver’s obligatory Spurs guy this time, but does anyone in the FO remember his tenure with the Knicks? Out of this crew I guess my vote would be McDonough, Weltman, then Layden a very distant 3rd.

  • DBreezy
  • Scott

    I would not necessarily vote for Layden, but FWIW while he was in charge of the Knicks, that was the only time I watched a lot of Knicks games.

    I would definitely not vote for Weltman. Too many athletic knuckleheads in his history.

    SB Nation says Ryan McDonough has Sam Presti, Masai Ujiri, and Rob Hennigan as peers, so of the three he’s got to be the Suns’ guy.

  • DBreezy

    Layden taking over the Knicks is kinda of like when Sarver took over the Suns. Coming off a magical run to the finals, a lot of the pieces were in place and it took awhile for Layden’s mismanagement to start the mess that Isiah Thomas takes most of the public blame for.

    Donnell Harvey, Lavor Postell, Michael Wright, Eric Chenowith, traded Nene for injured McDyess and Frank Williams, Milos Vujanic, Michael Sweetney, Maciej Lampe, and Slavko Vranes were his picks with the Knicks. He was around for some great picks with the Jazz, but that was a different era draft wise.

    He gave Spree a huge extension and made Allan Houston the highest paid player in the league at the time. He constantly took on more cash on longer deals for players that were either mediocre or past their primes. Howard Eisley, Shandon Anderson, Mugsy Bogues, Mark Jackson, Othella Harrington, Dikembo and so on. Jeff Van Gundy resigned on his watch.


  • Scott

    @DBreezy -

    So you’ve got to ask yourself why the Suns are even talking to Scott Layden, eh?

    It’s probably more accurate to say I watched the Knicks when Riley was coach, but it was so long ago I barely remember it. And I don’t remember Don Nelson coaching at all, though I probably saw some of his games. Mainly I remember Jeff Van Gundy coaching, and I’ve paid them little attention since he left.

  • DBreezy


    I assume it’s the San Antonio connection which they’re known to love, and perhaps he’s claiming that he believes that he can bring Budenholzer in with him as coach. Not that I’d really buy that with less than one year on the job in SA, but he could be selling it nonetheless.