Draft day a success, now the real work begins


By the end of draft day last year, the Suns’ offseason plan was in full bloom. They had dumped Shaq, picked Earl Clark in the lottery, saw their best chance to trade Amare fall apart and knew they would need one more big and a re-signed Grant Hill to be competitive.

At the conclusion of draft day 2010, all we really know is that Lou Amundson’s chances of returning are pretty slim with the Suns drafting a pair of high motor, physical power forwards with limited offensive skill.

Beyond that, the most excitement for the Suns revolving around the actual draft came in 2004 (when they dealt what would have been the ninth pick in the draft, which ended up being Gordon Hayward) and 2007 (when they dealt the 26th pick, which ended up being Quincy Pondexter).

Going into the draft, the Suns likely would have been thrilled to get one usable piece going into the future. They appear to have gotten a pair of forwards who could end up playing the Lou Amundson role as a hustle forward/10th man off the bench one day. If either Lawal or Collins end up becoming that guy than this was a good draft considering where Phoenix was picking.

This draft will be better remembered for what it wasn’t than what it was. Not only will it be remembered as the draft where the Suns dealt one eventual lottery pick as well as a late pick that earlier this season we thought could be another lottery selection in a pair of salary dumps, it will also be seen as the draft run by a lame duck GM and assistant GM who could be working for other teams in the near future.

Typically at a draft press conference, the general manager will trot to the podium and drool over players that he never expected to be available when his team picked.

Tonight only head coach Alvin Gentry came out to speak, with Steve Kerr and David Griffin essentially performing their final tasks as Suns executives.

That’s not to say that Kerr, Griffin and the rest of the Suns mailed in the draft. ESPN’s Chad Ford called the Lawal pick a value selection and even joked, “Nice pick for Suns owner Robert Sarver — who knew he was also an NBA scout?”

He’s not. He may be calling the shots, but you’ve got to give Kerr and Griffin credit for still working hard on the draft, often staying until 8:30 or 9 the past few weeks on preparations for an organization they’re about to leave.

“He still has the best interest of the team,” Gentry said of Kerr. “He and Dave both, they worked extremely hard. Those guys have a lot of pride and they’re going to do the best job that they can.”

Of course, there’s not much to screw up when all you have is a pair of picks in the bottom quarter of the draft. The Suns could have given these picks away and it wouldn’t have really made a dent in the future of the franchise. With late second-round picks you take a shot that a guy could be a productive NBA player while understanding the slims odds of that happening.

But now the stakes are raised. While Chicago and Miami spent draft day gearing up for the arms race that will be free agency, the Suns are seeking permission to speak to assistant GMs around the league to figure out who will be calling the shots for them.

While the Knicks are planning a lavish party to entice LeBron and the Bulls and Heat are trading away player after player to clear more and more salary space for a big splash, the Suns may not even have a general manager in place to offer such a deal, with Sarver, Gentry director of player personnel Todd Quinter likely to be doing the majority of the bargaining.

Gentry downplayed how this changes his role in the summer affairs.

“It’s not anything different for me,” he said. “As a head coach I would want to talk to obviously anybody that we were going to try to bring into our franchise and you know the guys that we have here already know me and know what their roles are, what’s expected of them and know that we would like to have our whole team back if we could do that.”

It may not be different for Gentry personally, but I just don’t see how the Suns won’t be affected by this lack of front office stability entering the most important NBA offseason in league history.

Sure, the Suns aren’t players for the top three guys, but if they don’t re-sign Amare they at least need to find an adequate replacement. And although they drafted a pair of power forwards Thursday night, that’s obviously not what I’m talking about.

Despite the turmoil in their front office, the Suns came out of the draft with a pair of solid athletes, both of whom have the potential to develop into quality, high-energy backup bigs.

I’m skeptical that the offseason as a whole will turn out so rosy without a new GM in place soon.

Mike Schmitz contributed reporting.