The surprise came with the other decision.
That may be true, but only because the Suns are changing their uniforms and primary color scheme to orange and black.
Shooting guard Shannon Brown will remain with the Suns on a full-guaranteed $3.5 million contract for the 2013-14 season.
Brown handled his benching last spring in a professional manner, only commenting to the press when he was sought out for comment. After the season ended, Brown admitted the Suns "lied" to him about his opportunities for playing time in the 2012-13 season when he signed a two-year deal for $7 million last summer. The second year was half-guaranteed, allowing the Suns an outlet if they wanted to go in a different direction this summer.
Apparently, the Suns wanted Brown to stay right where he is. Hopefully, for Brown's sake, that means either a trade or playing time.
Since the end of the season, the Suns have replaced the GM and head coach who banished Brown. Maybe this signals a fresh start for Brown.
For the Suns to waive Brown and save half of his 2013-14 in the process, they needed to release him by noon today (36 hours after midnight of draft night). A source with the Phoenix Suns has confirmed that the team allowed the deadline to pass without action, which guarantees Brown's entire 2013-14 salary.
With Jared Dudley still under contract and P.J. Tucker likely to be kept (the Suns have until Monday night to guarantee his 884K), the Suns now have no less than five players to man the shooting guard position in 2013-14. Only Dudley averaged better than 35% on 3-pointers last season, a staple in a good NBA offense.
At the Draft on Thursday night, the Suns came away with Archie Goodwin and Malcolm Lee. Both are guaranteed contracts of about 900K each for next season. Malcolm Lee, a defense-oriented shooting guard who has not been able to stay healthy, is on the final year of his rookie deal.
Only Jared Dudley and Archie Goodwin are guaranteed contracts beyond next season. Brown, Lee and Tucker are all expiring contracts, totaling $5.3 million.
Wing minutes will be tight in 2013-14. Wesley Johnson, a free agent, is now unlikely to be resigned unless more moves are made this summer.
Free agency begins on Monday, and trades under the new league year can begin on July 10, after the moratorium to settle the books and open the new year.
During the highly anticipated 2013 NBA Draft which took place on Thursday night, the Phoenix Suns drafted Alex Len, a 7'1" sophomore center from Maryland with their 5th overall pick in the first round.
This was the Suns' highest draft pick since 1987, when the Suns selected Armon Gilliam at #2 overall. Understanding that Phoenix was in the rare position to take a true top-level talent, the front office and coaching staff unanimously agreed to bet the farm on the biggest player with arguably the highest ceiling, who they also reported to have ranked as the top prospect on their draft board as well.
Now that the draft is over, the Suns made it official yesterday with the introduction of the newest addition to the Suns.
After a brief introduction from Lon Babby, Ryan McDonough began by strolling down memory lane in which Ryan McDonough discussed his long-term scouting of Len which began three years ago in Lithuania. He stated how familiar he was with Alex's game and how closely he followed him over the past three years, and how impressed he was by his character, work-ethic, and potential.
So what are the plans for the future now that the Suns have their man?
Here are some excerpts taken from yesterday's introductory press conference.
Some of the more noteworthy quotes from Len were as follows:
On how he sees himself fitting in with the Suns and the NBA in general
The NBA has better spacing, so it makes it easier on the big guys because we have more space to work on the (low) block. I know I can contribute right away on the defensive end of the floor. I have size, I can alter shots, I can rebound and run the floor, and on offense we'll see what coach wants me to do.
In regard to the stress fracture of his ankle:
It's been like eight weeks or two months after the surgery, but the doctors are telling me I'll be cleared to do stuff on the court in August and I should be fine by training camp.
About his athleticism and mobility:
I know the Phoenix Suns like to play high tempo and run up and down, so I think it fits my game well. I think my agility came from a long time ago when I did gymnastics when I was young which helped with my coordination and my agility.
On what he plans to work on during his transition to the NBA
Getting stronger is the first thing, and polishing my post moves.
In my opinion, Len's best response came when asked why he wasn't able to get more shots in college and why his team wasn't more successful:
In college the spacing...sucks (laughter from the crowd). Every time I got the ball it was a double-team so the coach wanted me to kick (the ball) out to my teammates, so that's what I did.
The Suns' new GM Ryan McDonough also fielded a couple of questions about the process of making the decision to draft Len.
One of the things that really impressed me about Alex (vs other top NBA prospects) is how he rose to the occaision, and how he was able to score effectively against NBA size, length, and athleticism. And defensively, how he was able to guard those guys and lock them down on the other end of the court.
He goes on...
The best barometer of how a guy is going to play in the NBA is how he does against other NBA players, and I thought Alex did extremely well in those match-ups
One of those match-ups that McDonough may be referring to is when Maryland played Kentucky last season, in which Len matched up against none other than Nerlens Noel in the season opener. In that performance, Len was dominant against Noel, registering 23 points (10-18), 12 rebounds and 4 blocks. Comparatively, Len held Noel to only 4 points (2-6), 9 rebounds, and 3 blocks.
Although this was only the first game for the freshman Noel while playing against the sophomore Len, it was still Alex's best performance of the season, and just happened to be against the very player he would be competing against in the draft. One has to believe his dominating performance against Noel was at least of some significance in making the decision to rank him higher.
Finally, the Suns' new head coach Jeff Hornacek was also given an opportunity to discuss how Len may be used by the Suns.
We're going to be pushing the ball...He's either going to be the first one down (offensively) in that post up area, or he's going to trail the play, swing it, go into quick pick-and-rolls. He's got a great pick and roll pop action where he can make that 15-17 foot shot. So there's a variety of ways we can use him...especially in the post where he's going to command double-teams and open it up for a lot of other guys.
Although Len wasn't the most mobile big in the draft, the Suns seem to think he is more than capable of playing their up-tempo style and using his size and agility to create match-up problems for the other team.
In the end, the Suns seem to believe they got exactly the player they wanted, and it also seems as if Len shares the same enthusiasm about playing in Phoenix.
While fans, analysts, and everyone in between may continue to dissect this pick, or scrutinize it based on who the Suns could have taken instead, the Suns clearly had a vision and a plan going into the draft, and they stuck with it.
Good for them.
Full video of the press conference courtesy of Suns.com
If the Phoenix Suns were a playoff team, this scenario at center would be ideal - make one more run with Gortat getting the bulk of the minutes in the pivot while the rookie grows into an NBA player. And, if the rookie proved not to be ready to start in 2014-15, even consider giving Gortat a 3-year extension to stay in the Valley.
But the Suns are not a playoff team. The Suns are a team who's best hope for the future is to look toward a high pick in the 2014 Draft, and while they're at it give any help they can to Minnesota to make the postseason.
While in 2012-13 Gortat proved he's no obstacle to keeping the worst record in the West, there's still the matter of chemistry and player development. Marcin Gortat is not a player development specialist. He doesn't own the locker room, or rally any troops around him. He's not an example for young kids to emulate, as he simply goes about his job and talks more about "I" than "we".
Gortat wants to win basketball games, and he's not going to do it in the Valley. He needs to be a valuable contributor on a veteran team, playing his role and nothing else.
Speculation ran rampant on both the Blazers blogs as well as the Suns' that Gortat could be traded for the #10 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. That did not happen. It could have been logistics - no trade package works until the 2013-14 season begins, so it could only have been a "promise" deal. Or, it could have been that Portland would rather pay Nikola Pekovic or Tiago Splitter $12+ million per year than pay Gortat less.
Whatever the case, the Suns and Gortat are still married.
"It's clear they are in a rebuild and they drafted a center, so [a trade] would make sense, but for now they want to hold onto him," Gortat's agent Guy Zucker said Friday afternoon to RealGM. "As with everything in the league, it should be stated: As of today."
Right after Alex Len was taken with the 5th pick in Thursday's NBA Draft, new Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek riffed on the dynamic between the two centers.
"We always talk about rebuilding," Hornacek said when asked about Gortat. "However, we have to remember we have some very good players on this team, and that sometimes when you add a piece or two all of a sudden that could change a little bit. We have a lot of possibilities.
"I don't know that we'd go the twin towers route but if Alex gets in there right away and it's like this kid should be playing right off the bat, maybe we try that and that's a weapon we can use every once in a while."
Obviously, Hornacek has no idea how they will play together and, with Len's injury, won't get a chance to see that until training camp at the earliest. I am guessing Hornacek was just talking off the top of his head while Gortat was still on the team. He was allowing for the fact that they might earn more minutes, between them, than the 48 in the pivot.
General Manager Ryan McDonough iterated the Suns' stance on the local media, just as he did to Gortat's agent.
"We're not looking to move him," Suns general manager Ryan McDonough told Arizona Sports 620′s Burns and Gambo Friday. "As you guys I'm sure know, Alex had foot surgery, and he's not ready to play.
"Marcin is one of our best players here. He's a core guy for us. He is one of the more athletic bigs in the league, he screens, he rolls, he finishes and he blocks shots."
To me, that's simply a message to the rest of the league to step up your bush league offers. There are a few centers available in free agency that won't be very free. Yet the teams who need a solid, veteran center might want to feel those options out before giving the Suns an asset or two for Gortat.
Al Jefferson, Andrew Bynum, Nikola Pekovic and Tiago Splitter will all get at least $10-12 million per year for several years. While Bynum and Jefferson are free to sign with anyone and are likely unwanted by their incumbent team, the other two are very likely to stay right where they are.
Both Pekovic and Splitter are restricted free agents, meaning their team can match an offer. And both are considered priorities by their incumbent teams, Minnesota and San Antonio respectively.
Most likely, teams that need a veteran center will try that route first, then circle back to the Suns for a cheaper option.