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Now that SG Victor Oladipo (5th overall) and C Rudy Gobert (10th overall) are Phoenix Suns, should the team just draft a guy at 30 and walk away happy?

No, I say!

This is a mock draft, my only chance to be something slightly more than an armchair GM. After this draft is over, I just might be banned by BSotS from participating in next year's Mock Draft, but for now the baton is mine. Mine!

Recap

I went into this draft with a desire to remake the Suns roster with youth, and allow free agency to surround that youth with short-term rental veterans until the young guys matured.

My version would be better than Dallas' a year ago,who only did the short-term veteran part. More along the lines of Houston, who drafted three guys in the first round last summer and then supplemented the kids with veterans in July (Lin, Asik, Delfino) and October (boom! James Harden).

First, you have to start with youth. With the help of the BSotS front office, I drafted 21-year old SG Victor Oladipo and then traded soon-to-be free agent Marcin Gortat for the #10 overall pick. Everything was going great, until I picked a guy at 10 that everyone and their unborn child hates: 20-year old French C Rudy Gobert. But I still love Gobert's upside, so I'm happy with that pick.

Next

Next, I decided that the roster needed even more youth - and not just what the #30 pick would bring.

My best trading assets were: recent lotto picks Kendall Marshall, Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris, Shannon Brown (1 yr, $3.5 million, $1.75 guar), Hamed Haddadi (1 yr, $1.3 mil, mostly non-guar), P.J. Tucker ($.788, non-guar), #30 pick and... Jared Dudley (3 yrs, $4.25 mil/yr).

Once I couldn't turn Dudley into a top-10 pick (both Detroit and Minnesota offered bad deals, IMO) or even a late lotto pick (more on this in a moment), most of the BSotS front office said it was time to pull Dudley off the table.

Yet, I'm looking at Dudley and I see a guy who would do great on a winning team but cannot be "the man" on a losing one. Last year took its toll on Dudley emotionally. He prefers, and thrives in, a winning environment. Another 2-3 years of losing before he was a free agent - past his prime by that time - is probably not the best plan for him.

Once I decided the Suns were better off turning Dudley into a rookie who could grow - either now, at next year's trading deadline, or next year's draft - I had to decide "who" would be worth the trade.

I did that with Marshall, the Morrii and Dudley all together and apart.

Options

The middle of the first round was unexpectedly unfertile.

Sacramento had just traded down to 7 from 11, so they wanted to keep their pick (Michael Carter-Williams).

Oklahoma City (12) had wanted Gortat, but he was gone by that time. In hindsight, the deal offered by OKC might have been better than what I ended up with by the time OKC was on the clock. OKC had offered Perkins' $20 million, the #12 and Jeremy Lamb for Gortat and Dudley. At the time, I had wanted something better than Lamb for Dudley (was still in talks for #8 or #9 to take McCollum) and didn't want to take on Perkins' $20 million for two seasons. Plus, I already had the #10 for Gortat.

In hindsight, I could still have taken my favorite big man at 12, had Perkins play most of the C minutes while Gobert/Adams/Zeller/Plumlee developed into starters, and had Jeremy Lamb to share minutes with Victor Oladipo. Actually, if I had agreed to the OKC deal pre-draft, I could have taken Anthony Bennett at #5 instead of Oladipo (remember, Alex Len was gone at #4). A perfect scenario would have been Len at 5, Zeller/Muhammad at 12, Lamb for the shooting guard position and Perkins as 2-yr stopgap C while Len developed. But Len was gone and Oladipo was the pick at 5, leaving the 10 or 12 pick needing to be a C to replace Gortat.

Anyway, moving on.

Unexpectedly, Dallas (13) was completely uninterested in any deal I had to offer. I thought they would want to dump the pick for some future seconds, even the Minnesota 2014 lottery-protected #1. I even offered to take back Marion in exchange for non-guaranteed contracts that would have saved them $7 million for free agency. But my pitch was wrong, apparently, and Dallas kept their pick after all.

Utah (14 and 21) was a potential trading partner with a GM interested in trades, but they already had youth all over their roster. Everywhere except PG. We talked about Kendall Marshall for either the 14 or 21 (most likely 21). If I could have done that (Marshall for 21), I would have taken Dudley off the block. But alas, Utah took PG Dennis Schroeder at 14 and the Marshall deal was dead.

Milwaukee (15) was a non-starter. They didn't want anything I had to offer, which I guess meant I wasn't offering the right deals. They announced to all the bloggers that they would anyone BUT Henson or Sanders. With most of the roster about to be free agents, that didn't leave much left. Nothing got done here.

Boston (16) decided to keep their pick as well. So did Atlanta, surprisingly uninterested in trading either of their 17 or 18 picks. I thought sure ATL would want to clear cap space for Howard/Paul, but they weren't interested.

And then they went and took one of the guys I was targeting for a mid-first pick: Giannis Adetokunbo. But ATL snapped him up at 17.

As these picks were being made, I kept watching another one of my favorites - Jamaal Franklin - falling down the board. Franklin has been injured and is just now rising up the boards. Franklin is a SG/SF swingman who led his under-talented team in every category last season - points, rebounds, assists and steals. Franklin is a crazy-hard worker and, with a 6'11" wingspan, a top notch defender. He does everything well except long range shooting, but even that has been impressive in recent workouts.

To take Franklin this late in the first round would be a steal, in my opinion. I could easily see him as a secondary ballhandler/scorer in the lineup alongside Goran Dragic and Victor Oladipo. That three-guard lineup could wreak havoc offensively and still play defense, getting turnovers and easy points.

By this time, with the Marshall trade off the table, and no one interested in the other Suns assets (in a mock draft, the value of Brown/Haddadi/Tucker non-guaranteed deals is nil) at this point, I was ready to trade Dudley if I could pick up Franklin.

However, no one else in the BSotS front office was of the same mind. While they didn't lynch me, or execute a coup to replace me, many expressed a desire to keep Dudley if he couldn't get a lottery pick in return.

I disagreed. Dudley was #21 pick himself, and is best suited in a 6th man role or 5th best starter. If I could draft a guy who could within 2 years (and for 10 years after that) be a full-fledged starting-caliber shooting guard/small forward, I had to make the move.

I was targeting Cleveland (19) and the Bulls (20). Cleveland could really use a guy like Dudley to make the playoffs next season. And the Bulls could always use another veteran who could shoot. Rip Hamilton just wasn't giving them what they needed.

Watch the mock draft today to see how it shook out.

Coming up

The Suns will acquire new players both today and tomorrow.

The last six picks will be announced on Friday, including the Suns final pick. The Suns still had lots of young tradeable assets and the #30. And surprisingly, late in the first round there was a lot of chatter about the Morrii, Marshall and the 30 for proven, but still young, veterans who would help the Suns transition while the kids learned how to play the NBA game.

Stay tuned for today's pick, and then tomorrow for what the Suns do with the #30.

20130528_mjr_su5_006

The NBA game experience is like none other. I have been regularly attending Phoenix Suns games for going on nine years now and still get amazed with how much effort they put into Game Operations every night.

From the national anthem to the final buzzer, there's rarely a quiet moment to be had. From constant music to the Suns Dancers to the emcee to the timeout games to the kiss cams to every other gimmick you can think of, NBA teams decided a long time ago that more is better.

Why?

Because no NBA team can keep today's ADHD fans constantly engaged non-stop for two to three hours because of the stops in play. Minds wander. Smart phones come out. Eyes downcast. Minds wander again. It's not like a movie, that goes non-stop the whole two hours. There's timeouts, fouls, free throws, halftime and on and on.

All those breaks need filler. That's what Game Ops is all about. Music is the easiest filler. It plays non-stop. Some of the songs are oldies, some are new. All are meant to rile you up without offending the sensitive ones. The songs have reverberate with people in their 2 to 92 years old.

The last couple of years, the Suns even employed an in-game DJ. They gave him a corner of the arena and let him spin his records during timeouts to try to rile the fans.

And they have to be constant. It's not about putting on the 3-D glasses, sitting back and watching a ton of non-stop action in a comfy movie theater recliner.

Pro games are about engagement. You have keep people engaged so that when the team is going on a run, or when they need an emotional boost, the fans are there for them.

The term 6th man (in basketball) or 12th man (in football) are a real phenomenon. Fans DO make a difference.

It's been two months now since I've been to a Suns game. So long that I even miss the music, the timeout games, the floor announcer (hey Kip!), Tom Zenner who would yell at people to get them excited for no good reason (I miss Ced Ceballos!). I miss it all almost all of it.

For those who have attended, what's your favorite "filler" in an NBA game?

Poll
What's your favorite in-game entertainment?

  61 votes | Results

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The draft, free agency and trades. The triumvirate of roster building. The perfunctory answer of GMs across the league when posed the question, "How are you looking to improve the roster?"

But is it really that simple? Isn't a team's ability to develop their young players of tantamount importance? Top 10 picks still bust with regularity while some teams are resourceful enough to find key components from less heralded prospects. Do these picks bust because they are landing with bad teams... which may suggest that organizational issues may be landsliding right from the top? This may explain why every player selected by the Charlotte Bobcats cringes when his name is called on draft day.

Do teams that overachieve just scout better? That is certainly part of the equation, but I think player development is vital to maximizing roster potential through less obvious routes. For teams not in the sexier markets, who can just plunder teams for already developed players, a nurturing soil that is conducive to help young players realize their potential is a key cog to success.

"How are you looking to improve the roster?" How about coaching up the talent that is already there.

San Antonio Spurs:

The perdurable core: Tim Duncan #1, Tony Parker #28, Manu Ginobili #57

Gary Neal signed as undrafted free agent

Tiago Splitter #28

Danny Green (drafted #46 by the Cleveland Cavaliers where he played 115 minutes before being waived and joining the Spurs where he was waived again before sticking)

Kawhi Leonard (drafted #15 by Indiana Pacers and acquired in draft day trade)

Indiana Pacers:

Paul George #10

Lance Stephenson #40

Tyler Hansbrough #13

Danny Granger #11

Roy Hibbert (drafted #17 by Toronto Raptors and traded to Pacers, which is the only team he has ever played for)

Milwaukee Bucks:

Ersan Ilyasova #36

Brandon Jennings #10

Larry Sanders #15

John Henson #14

Phoenix Suns:

**crickets chirping**

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Judging by the pesky chirping crickets it appears that the Suns have fallen short of creating an environment that fosters positive growth. There has been a change in the culture, but it has been for the worse, which bottomed out as the team sunk to new depths last season. Not only has a somber pall shrouded the team, causing many pundits to predict multiple top five picks for the team in its bleak future, but to be blunt... the young talent on the team pretty much sucks.

P.J. Tucker, basically a 27 year old rookie that the team pulled off the scrap pile, was better than any player on the roster under the age of 26. That was more of a scouting win, though, because it's difficult to make the argument that the Suns "developed" a 27 year old player who came right out of the gate swinging.

Here are the Suns last 12 draft picks (newest to oldest):

  1. Kendall Marshall
  2. Markieff Morris
  3. Gani Lawal
  4. Dwayne Collins
  5. Earl Clark
  6. Taylor Griffin
  7. Emir Preldzic
  8. Robin Lopez
  9. Malik Hairston
  10. Rudy Fernandez
  11. Alondo Tucker
  12. D.J. Strawberry
Robin Lopez is easily the best player on this list that the Suns developed. I would also concede that he's the best player on this list still in the league. The second best player? Rudy Fernandez, who was shipped out to the Portland Trail Blazers, when the Suns were still in the practice of selling draft picks for cash, before returning to Spain three years ago. That's a full roster of "talent" that could very well comprise the worst team fielded in the history of the NBA. Good job Suns.

Now let's shift gears back to the lists of other teams I sampled.



San Antonio Spurs:

I know that a large contingent of Suns' fans despise this team, but the truth of the matter is that they are just flat out better than Phoenix. Sure, having a bona fide franchise player in Tim Duncan gift wrapped to the team helps, but from front office to coaching to scouting to drafting to player development to trades the Spurs have been consistently better than the Suns for the entirety of this century. It's a bitter pill, but it's also the truth.

San Antonio is case study #1. A team that has been able to maintain excellence by adding youth from mid to late first round picks, second round picks and undrafted players. One of the best players on the Spurs in the NBA Finals this season is Danny Green, a player selected 46th overall who was waived twice. Did he just blossom solely on his own sheer determination or did the Spurs coaching nudge him in the right direction?

The Spurs haven't drafted higher than #20 since they picked Tim Duncan #1 overall in 1997. In the 16 years since taking Duncan the Spurs worst single season winning percentage is .610 when they went 50-32. If the Suns want to learn about conbuilding (contending while building) they should ask San Antonio for some pointers.

Indiana Pacers:

Case study #2. After enjoying a successful stretch of basketball from 1989/90 to 2005/06 where they made the playoffs 16 times in 17 years, the Pacers entered full on rebuild mode. Interestingly, during that 17 year stretch the Pacers lost five Conference Finals and one NBA Finals... which is exactly the same as the Suns from 1988/89 to 2009/10. The Pacers never bottomed out quite as fabulously as the Suns, but they did win between 32-37 games over a five year period. NBA purgatory.

The Pacers managed to rebuild without going completely subterranean using mostly mid first round picks. While the Suns were busy drafting the likes of Earl Clark, Taylor Griffin and Gani Lawal, the Pacers were building a core by selecting Paul George, Lance Stephenson and Tyler Hansbrough. What's the difference? The Suns weren't unfathomably reaching on their mid firsts, they were picking players in their range on the big boards. Did the Pacers just get really lucky by building a contender by drafting in a nearly identical range to the Suns over the last five seasons?

Did they scout well? I'd say yes. Did they get a little lucky? I'd say luck usually favors the prepared. Did they develop nearly all of a competitive roster because they are strong in that area? Ding, ding, ding.

Milwaukee Bucks:

Case Study #3. The Bucks are another intriguing example to insert in this analysis. The Bucks bottomed out in the mid 2000's and drafted between #1 and #8 four times. The best of the four picks was the oft-injured #1 overall Andrew Bogut, who ended up falling short of his ceiling based on those issues. The other three, T.J. Ford, Yi Jianlian and Joe Alexander, were basically garbage.

Then the Bucks upticked just enough so they could start getting better results from lower draft picks. Milwaukee is still hovering around the #8 seed in the Eastern Conference (meaning they are only marginally better than the Suns), but I'd take their young nucleus over the Suns' counterparts while laughing hysterically.

It is interesting to note that the Bucks swung and missed on high lotto picks before Scott Skiles became the head coach and developed middies during his tenure. Draw your own conclusions.

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I think that what I've delineated above is symptomatic of a laundry list of self-defeating behaviors that have permeated the franchise in recent years. Now the Suns have basically blank slated the organization, with a similar roster shake up that will hopefully ensue, in an effort to write a new book instead of just flipping the next page of the horror story that has haunted the fans' dreams.

Surely there is at least some optimism that things will improve with the infusion of fresh faces led by architect Ryan McDonough. The culture needs to change again, but this time the change needs to be improvement. And creating a structure that emphasizes player development is one of the most vital parts of escaping from the dungeon.

So not only do the Suns need to start tilling the land by putting the right coaches in place and creating a positive culture for players to flourish in, but it might not hurt to scatter around some Ryan McMiracle-Gro.

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I know what you're thinking. Actually I don't, but if I ever become telepathic I'll give you a heads up.

Back to what I was alluding to... What the hell is Sergio Rodriguez doing gracing the cover of the podcast episode?

Well....

Rodriguez is the last player the Suns selected with the #27 pick (2006 draft). 27. Hopefully the Suns fare better when they draft #30 (at least likely) next week. Sergio was sold to the Portland Trail Blazers on draft day (Remember the good old days when the Suns were firesaling all their draft picks? Good times.) and left the NBA after the 2009-10 season for Spainier pastures.

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I want to thank Kris Habbas for letting me back on the show this week after my vacation. I always have a level of trepidation when I step away from something I'm embarrassingly underqualified to do. The worry -- that somebody will step in and reveal my gross incompetence. Bad thing for you... you're stuck tolerating me for at least one more week. :)

I also want to thank Paul "PLR" Richardson from the Sports Kave for covering my ass filling in during my absence.

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Phoenix Suns Podcast Episode 27

Markieff_summer_league

Today, the NBA announced the schedule for the 2013 Summer League in Las Vegas, Nevada. 22 teams will be participating over the 11 day session (July 12-22), including your Phoenix Suns.

This year's Summer League will be debuting a tournament style schedule to crown the first ever NBA Summer League Champion. The schedule will include each team playing three preliminary games from July 12-16, after which they will be seeded accordingly in a tournament that will feature the last two teams standing in a championship game on July 22. Each team will play at least five games, with the additional games dependent on its success in the tournament.

The Suns will make their Summer League debut on July 13 against the Portland Trail Blazers. This game will also mark the debut of new Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek, who has revealed that he will be leading the Suns' Summer League sqaud. This makes sense for the rookie Head Coach, as five current Suns - Diante Garrett, Kendall Marshall, PJ Tucker, and Marcus and Markieff Morris - will be playing in Summer League, as well as all the rookies the Suns will draft in a little over a week. With what could be most of the Suns' 2013-2014 roster competing in the Summer League, Coach Hornacek will get an early start in trying to handle this Suns roster.

Most of the games will be televised on NBA TV, (the complete broadcast schedule will be released at a later time). Check out the complete schedule of matchups here.

For Suns fans aching to see some on-court action, the Summer League will offer a great precursor to the upcoming season. Here's wishing Coach Hornacek and the Suns Summer League roster the best of luck in their efforts.

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