Today's Suns workout was headlined by Tyler Ennis, Cleanthony Early, Russ Smith, and a handful of free agent hopefuls.
Today, the Suns workout featured Tyler Ennis (PG, Syracuse), Cleanthony Early (SF, Wichita St.), and the second visit from Russ Smith (PG, Louisville), along with a group of likely undrafted free agents.
Tyler Ennis is a true point guard from Syracuse who is skilled beyond his years. Ennis is a skilled ball-handler, passer, and is excellent running the pick-and-roll and the drive-and-kick. He is also a good shooter, and proved to be very clutch in late game situations for Syracuse.
As a 19 year old freshman, Ennis led Syracuse in assists with 5.5 per game. He was also second on the team in scoring, averaging 12.9 points per game, showing his versatility as a scorer as well as the floor general. The biggest knock on Ennis is his average athleticism, and his ability to finish in the paint, especially through contact. On defense, he can sometimes be beaten by quicker guards, but he is also quick enough to stay in front of many opponents. In fact, Ennis did pretty well in his athletic testing at the NBA Combine, with a 36 inch vertical and a 2.84 sec shuttle run, as well as measuring in with a 6' 7" wingspan.
Cleanthony Early, a small forward from Wichita St., was also in attendance at the Suns' workout today. Early is a versatile scorer who can put the ball in the hoop from anywhere on the floor. He is athletic enough to drive into the paint and score in traffic, and a good enough shooter to make the defense pay from the perimeter.
Early led his team in scoring, averaging 16.4 points per game. Early is not a volume shooter either, he is extremely efficient, registering a .627 TS% (true shooting percentage). In addition, Early uses his strength and athleticism to crash the boards, grabbing 5.9 on average per game, which was also the highest rebounding average on his team. Early's biggest downsides are his age and his poor passing ability. At 23 he is one of the oldest players in the draft, and has a low assist percentage. He is also a tweener, playing mostly as a power forward at Wichita St., and now making the transition to small forward.
The other noteworthy player in attendance today was Louisville point guard Russ Smith. This was Smith's second workout with the Suns...the only player we have seen make a return visit thus far. Smith is a very quick, scoring point guard who is also working on showing teams that he can play as a traditional passing point guard as well. He averaged 18.2 points per game as a senior, but also increased his assists to 4.6 per game this past season. Obviously the Suns were impressed enough with Smith to bring him back in for a second look. He could be a great option late in the draft, especially if he falls to the second round.
Here's a look at the full list of prospects in attendance today:
On his ability to shoot from NBA range:
"It's really good, I've been shooting the ball really, really well. But it's something that needs to improve like everything else...strengths need to improve, weaknesses need to improve. But it's something I'm doing daily so I know it's going to happen."
On optimism of playing in the NBA
"I know I belong here. I'm a good basketball player and I'm working hard to get even better. I have big goals and that doesn't end draft night. I'm not satisfied just being drafted. I'm not hanging my head if I don't get drafted at a certain number. I understand the things I can control and the things I can't control, so I'm manifesting my own destiny."
On fit with Suns
"I love the run and gun style. I'm a fast athlete. We just did the vertical test and I cleared over 12 feet. I can run, I can jump, I can shoot the ball."
On Suns workout
"It was a good workout. Through the grapevines you hear that it's a tough workout, you get up and down a lot. You figure with the way Phoenix plays you'll be running a lot. I just try to get up and down as fast as possible and stick to my game."
On what he's trying to show teams in the workout
"Everyone sees me as a pass-first point guard. What I want to show is that I can defend the point guard position. Coming from Syracuse, a lot of people questions that. And, I want to show that I can shoot the NBA three. College wise they know I can knock it down, but the NBA line is a little further. So I want to show them I can knock it down off the dribble, catch-and-shoot, and show them that I can also lead guys that are older than me."
On what he brings to a team
"I think my facilitating ability, making guys better, and finding guys. Just being able to control the tempo of the game. I can play in the half-court set, and I can get up-and-down as well."
On familiarity with Suns' system
"I think everyone knows the run-and-gun Phoenix Suns. They have a lot of young guys and a lot of young players. They had a really good season last year. I think anyone that has a chance to come here and be a part of this organization is lucky. They have a great staff and a great set of players. If I end up here I'd be more than happy."
On second workout with the Suns
"I tried to do my best. This is the first (second visit), then I go back to L.A. (Clippers) on Monday."
On workouts/interviews and impressions with Suns
"I feel like I did what they asked, I did good. In the three-on-three settings, two-on-two, one-on-ones. Definitely if I get into a five-on-five setting it will be a lot better. This is great, I like the pace, the style, the staff, and what they (Suns) are about. So I feel really good leaving today."
On Cleanthony Early
"I think he'll be able to play some small forward. He shoots the ball well enough. He's long, he's athletic enough. I think that will be a fairly easy transition for him. I don't think it will be that big of an adjustment for him.
On Russ Smith's second workout
"Russ has great energy. Some of these guys if you ask them to come back they kind of complain and say how tired they are. Russ I feel like could play two games and three more workouts tonight and be fine, he's just that kind of well-conditioned athlete. We like how he pushes the ball, his energy, and his defensive ability. And, he has some pretty unique stuff off the dribble...and he's able to create his own shot and create shots for others. He's a guy we're interested in, and we give him credit for coming back."
On Tyler Ennis
"I think the thing that stands out most about Tyler Ennis is his composure. He was unbelievable in late game situations this year. If you look at his possessions in close and late games he was off the charts in how many game winners he hit, and how many big plays he made down the stretch. He's also got a really good feel. He just catches (the ball) and makes a simple play. He doesn't over complicate it. He had a great year as a freshman and he's a guy we're certainly interested in."
On Tyler Ennis
"He's got a good feel for the game. He doesn't try to force things. He just takes what's given, he makes great reads. He pulls guys toward him and makes a pass. In the point guard position that's what you're looking for."
On competition between Ennis and Smith today
"They're different. Russ is very active. He plays like a playground game going between the legs, whereas Tyler plays more fundamentally and plays it straight. So there was a contrast there and they both did a nice job."
On Cleanthony Early
"He can shoot the ball. He's in great shape conditioning wise. He filled the lane, he shot it, he was active. He was physical with guys, and he played the four in college but obviously has to play the three in most of the league, and he's got the good quick feet to make that move."
This will be the last public workout with media availability, though the Suns may be holding a few more private workouts before the draft next Thursday. Stay tuned for more draft coverage as we approach the big day!
Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe will become a restricted free agent on July 1. According to one NBA expert, he's the fourth-best "available" talent in the league this summer.
SB Nation's Tom Ziller put together a ranking of 75 NBA players who will or could be either restricted or unrestricted free agents this summer. Bledsoe's position so high on this list says a lot about his star potential and the future of a Suns team who will almost certainly keep the talented young player in Phoenix.
Eric Bledsoe is going to get paid a lot of money. Luckily for the Suns, he's a restricted free agent, which means that Phoenix can match any signed contract offer. The worst that can happen for the Suns? A front-loaded max. Even that's not too bad for the team, all told, though it could hurt their attempts to improve specifically for the 2015 campaign. GM Ryan McDonough is doing the whole "we're keeping him, no doubt about it" signal to scare off other teams, and it's worth noting that Bledsoe is a player he brought to the team. He's likely not bluffing.
It's pretty clear that it will cost the Suns a max deal to keep him, so we could very well see a quiet agreement reached on July 1. Is Bledsoe worth that? Probably, but that's what we'll find out over the next five years.
Check out the rest of the rankings here.
Golden State head coach Steve Kerr reportedly has hired Alvin Gentry as his lead assistant. Per Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports the Warriors doubled Gentry's pay to get him to leave the Clippers.
You can't always be on top. Everyone falls down at some point. The trick is bouncing back up.
The Phoenix Suns franchise has the 4th-highest winning percentage in NBA history, made the playoffs two-thirds of the time, and participated in two NBA Finals series (without a ring). But there are always dark days in every franchise's history.
The 60s saw the Suns lose the coin flip, settling for Neal Walk instead of Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul Jabbar to you younguns). The 80s was a terrible time, rife with drug scandal and high picks that did not pan out as planned.
And now the early 20-teens was awful. No one wanted it to be awful. The Suns had just reached the Western Conference Finals for the 3rd time in 6 seasons. Bellies were fat. Noses in the clouds. People took winning for granted and decided that cutting corners here and there wouldn't make a difference on the bottom line.
Rumor had it that the wunderkind GM/President Steve Kerr and managing partner Robert Sarver had a disagreement over pay for the front office staff. Rumor said that while Kerr wanted to stay as GM beyond the day Amare Stoudemire signed a max offer with another team, managing partner Sarver didn't want to give him a raise. Rumor tacked on the nugget that Kerr wanted raises for the entire staff, and again Sarver refused.
Rumor's a cool cat, by the way. He's always got a juicy story to tell, as long as you listen close enough because his voice is always just a little too low to hear everything clearly. And he rarely repeats himself, always moving on to the next juicy story.
Whatever happened in the shadow of the Western Conference Finals, Kerr was suddenly gone. So was his Assistant GM David Griffin. And within two years, so were most of the front office staff who worked for them, including Assistant Director of Basketball Ops Amin Elhassan and President Rick Welts, who took care of the business side of the house.
The old regime and the new regime just didn't get along, no matter how hard anyone tried. Rumor said that they didn't try too hard, but his older brother Fact never corroborated the story.
Fret not, Suns fans. The front office that brought you the WCF in 2010 has landed quite nicely on their feet in other venues, as has the head coach who won 10 playoff games that year after winning 54 regular season games.
First, Rick Welts went to Golden State to hold a similar position while Kerr went into the broadcast booth for probably better pay and definitely fewer hours and headaches. Asst GM Griffin took a similar position in Cleveland to fill the spot vacated by L____ Bl____.
Two weeks ago, after four years back in the broadcast booth for TNT, former GM/President Steve Kerr (who had never previously held a front office position in basketball) has now been named the head coach of the very talented Golden State Warriors, despite never coaching a single game of basketball in his life.
And just like in the broadcast booth, Kerr does not have to worry about salary demands. Kerr is being paid $5 million a year to learn NBA coaching on the fly. Regardless of the money committed to Kerr, this becoming a head coach despite never walking a sideline thing is hit-and-miss. It worked for Mark Jackson, but failed for Lindsey Hunter.
But Kerr is such a smart guy, he's bound to succeed. This is the guy who turned average (by NBA standards) athleticism into a decade-plus NBA career as a marksman who helped teams win 5 championships. Then he excelled in the broadcast booth, making enough money to become part-owner of the Suns. Then he slipped right into a GM/President position and, after a fitful start, helped the Suns reach one more apex before the team fell apart.
And then, to prove his intelligence more than anything to date, he stepped off the front line of the Suns just before they approached to cliff.
Gentry, who spent last season on Doc Rivers' staff with the Los Angeles Clippers, has agreed in principle to a three-year deal with the Warriors, a source said. The Warriors had to come close to doubling Gentry's salary with the Clippers to convince him to leave a similar position with their Pacific Division rival, a source said. Gentry previously worked under Kerr, a former Phoenix Suns executive, in Phoenix and is the first addition to Kerr's staff.
--Marc J. Spears, Yahoo! Sports
Not a bad gig if you can get it. You get tons of money but don't have to talk to the media or take the blame if anything goes wrong.
For sure, Steve Kerr made a very smart hire as his wingman. He's never roamed a sideline. But he's got a great friend and colleague showing him how to do it.
No word yet, but it's not likely they bring back Lindsey Hunter to the staff. Hunter had joined Mark Jackson last summer after lasting only 41 games as the Suns coach.
If you're counting, that's Welts, Kerr and Gentry all landing Golden State within four years of being together in Phoenix.
Who's next on the Phoenix-to-Golden State bandwagon?
Kerr has already taken Suns staffer Nick U'ren with him to be a special assistant related to video work.
While most of the big-name folks from Kerr's regime have already moved on from Phoenix, a lot of the 'out of the spotlight' folks are still around. Don't be surprised if a few more names matriculate to Oakland.
I will be watching a couple of names though, to see if they are soon to roam the sideline with Kerr and Gentry.
David Griffin has since been elevated to GM in Cleveland, just in time to take his 3rd #1 overall pick in 4 years. Sounds great, right? Except that his former boss was just fired for drafting Anthony Bennett #1 last year, and this year he just witnessed the only real #1 candidate break his foot yesterday. If this pick doesn't work out, his franchise player might bolt in a year. Griffin might want to check his other options soon.
And then there's friend of BSotS Smin Elhassan. Kerr and Griffin helped shape Amin's career in the front office, only to leave Amin behind when they bolted. Amin landed on his feet with ESPN, but will he be asked to join Kerr and Friends in Golden State?
Does Amin even want the job, given that he he'd likely have to wear a tie every day and swear off twitter? Amin lives on twitter. That's like asking a guy to stop having sex for several years. You think "I can do it if the money's right" but that's before you've actually sworn off it. Amin would less of a man without twitter. He'd be 'min'. Don't do it, Amin! Don't drop the 'A'!
Oh, and by the way, I wonder how great those former Phoenicians will feel when they lose out on Kevin Love to the Suns in the next few weeks. Kinda bittersweet, I imagine.