Lester

First reported by Paul Coro of azcentral.com, the Suns hired two front office guys to unspecified front office roles to supplement McDonough and current Director of Player Personnel John Treloar. Now the Suns have a large contingent of scouts to evaluate the Suns' most important period of drafting since the 80s.

Ronnie Lester

Ronnie Lester, 54, was the Assistant GM in LA for 10 seasons after 14 years as a scout and front office member. His contract, along with at least 20 other Laker personnel, was not renewed when it expired during the 2011 lockout. Lester was a lifer with the Lakers, and was very disappointed when the Lakers cut so many ties in 2011.

Lester worked next to Mitch Kupchak for a decade as they rebuilt and reshaped the Laker team around Kobe Bryant that won two championships, and was the "loudest voice in the room" when the Lakers took chubby high school C Andrew Bynum the #10 pick in 2005. Lester scouted Bynum personally that year, and told Kupchak there's no way they could pass him up if he was still available when they drafted.

The supremely talented Bynum helped the Lakers win two rings as he earned a max contract extension as one of the three best centers in the game. Bynum was traded to the Sixers in the deal to acquire Dwight Howard last year, a year after Lester was cut out of the picture. Bynum, still only 25 years old, is now a free agent with major health and commitment issues.

Other than Bynum, the Lakers' drafts were hit and miss during his tenure as leader of the scouting staff for 10 seasons. Draftees with solid NBA careers:

  • first rounders (none higher than #19) Brian Cook, Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic, Javaris Crittendon, Toney Douglas
  • second rounders Luke Walton, Ronny Turiaf, Von Wafer, Patrick Beverly

None but Bynum were stars, but only Bynum was drafted higher than #19 overall.

Lester has not worked in the NBA since being let go by the Lakers in 2011.

Pat Connelly

Pat Connelly graduated college in 2002 and was in the Wizards front office for the past seven years, starting as a scout. He was promoted to Director of Player Personnel three years ago when his brother - the prior Director of Player Personnel - was hired away from the Wizards to become the Assistant General Manager of the New Orleans Hornets. His rapid rise and contingent of brothers holding various sports front office roles sound quite similar to the career path of McDonough himself.

Generally speaking, to get a person out of their current contract requires either (a) a mutual parting from his current employer ("Thanks for taking him!") or (b) a promotion.

Last week, new Suns GM Ryan McDonough said that hiring anyone currently under contract was a dicey proposition because they are so ingrained in their own team's draft preparations. Connelly's forte, per the Wizards media guide, was college and international scouting, along with analytics and salary cap management. He wasn't the top personnel man in Washington. They have a large contingent of titles in the basketball operations group, including a Vice President of Player Personnel to whom Connelly had reported.

Connelly was never the biggest voice in the room, and has not been credited with any one draft pick. The Wizards have drafted high for years, and since he became Director of Player Personnel the Wizards drafted a huge bust in Jan Vesely at #6 before taking Bradley Beal at #3 a year ago.

Small front office of "Master Evaluators"

When he was hired, Ryan McDonough was clear in his vision to follow the blueprint of the Celtics front office, which is smaller than most. He wanted only a few lieutenants who were master evaluators - who would scout at all levels, who would be able to compare and contrast a current NBA player to a draft prospect to an NBDL player to a guy toiling in Europe.

Now he adds Lester and Connelly to the existing staff led by current Director of Player Personnel John Treloar.

Looks like the Suns have hit another couple of ground rule doubles to supplement the two home runs they've already smacked out of the park (McDonough and Hornacek). Lester and Connelly have solid NBA front office experience and can only help.

Stay tuned for official announcements on all the latest hirings, including Hornacek's staff.

169072527

There was all the glitz, all the glamor, and all the appeal of a home opener that a team could ever possibly ask for. Every ideal circumstance on the checklist was being marked off of the list.

Local celebrities were in the house in Larry Fitzgerald as well as former Phoenix Suns players Grant Hill and Jason Richardson where there to support the home team. This was a Nationally televised game on a holiday where everyone had the opportunity to be home and watch with an electric crowd loudly supporting their team. A returning star in Diana Taurasi and the next star in Brittney Griner in uniform ready to perform against her rival peer Elena Delle Donne also illuminated the atmosphere. Everything was lined for not only a spectacle, but for a successful season debut to boot.

The only thing not checked off was a victory. That escaped them, tonight.

Early on the Mercury struggled to score with only nine first quarter points, but it was the lack of a defensive presence in the second that sealed the teams' eventual fate. In that quarter the Sky scored 39 points to balloon their lead to 24 points at the half. Most of those points came with Griner on the bench with three fouls after head coach Corey Gaines rolled the dice on his new star not getting into further foul trouble. She did, which resulted in the second quarter outburst.

The battle between the rookies became more of a strategy session between the coaches as Griner was not able to get into a rhythm while Delle Donne methodically picked apart the defense with her 22 points.

Griner did a good job in the second half when the game was out of hand. She was able to get the ball on the block to post, turn-and-face, and score 15 points to go with her 6 rebounds and 3 blocks in the second half. Her performance in the second half was more of an indication of the player Griner can be on the defensive end changing shots even when not in a position to block them.

This was the type of game that the league as a whole needed even though the "Next Big Thing" did not come out on top.

Eyes were on the league and Griner delivered with two emphatic dunks late in the game giving her the leagues fourth and fifth dunks ever. Those plays will be on Sports Center tonight and all week as they were historic dunks. Already, just 27:25 into her career Griner has the most dunks individually in the leagues history and those were just the generic sprinkles on top of the icing, on top of the cake.

Delle Donne was impressive in her own right with the way she was able to score in a multitude of ways, which was highlighted by a three-point bomb to end the first half, sealing the Mercury's fate.

The problems for the Mercury are not in defending Delle Donne, but rather regaining that offensive chemistry that Coach Gaines had a few short years ago. Balancing the offense will help the defensive woes the team displayed in this singular game. Most of the Sky's offense came from the Mercury missing shots and turning the ball over. When the shots are falling the defense is easier execute with Griner in the middle and the length presented by DeWanna Bonner and Candice Dupree.

Overall the play in the second half had more positives than negatives. In those two quarters the Mercury outscored the Sky 48-46 with Taurasi and Griner combining for 28 points shooting 62.5% from the field.

Now the pressure is off. All of the "will the Mercury go undefeated" questions are off the table and they can go out as a team to try and be the best team they can be. That is the most important lesson from tonight's game. The Mercury no longer have sole pressure on themselves, Griner can be dominant, and this team has more positives than negatives coming out of a 22 point loss.

20130223_jrc_ah2_402

While the prospects and likely draft picks at the beginning of the NBA draft are fairly easy to predict with relative accuracy, the forecasting of the later picks can be much more murky, with so many more variables to account for, as well as the increase in overall parity among the bulk of the remaining players.

This year is no exception. The list of potential game-changing players in the coming draft is very short, but the overall pool of talent is very deep; with plenty of quality players who could fill various roles and make meaningful contributions to the teams who draft them.

Most of the attention has been directed toward The Phoenix Suns' 5th overall pick in the draft, and for good reason. This will be the Suns' earliest pick in over two decades, and they will have an opportunity to draft an exciting young player who could help bring this team back to relevance.

However, the Suns will not only be picking 5th, but also 30th in the first round as well. And as our own Dave King so eloquently stated, it's that second first-round pick that could be the key to the draft.

Here is a look at some of the prospects that attended the NBA Draft Combine earlier this month, whom the Suns could be choosing from with their second first round pick.

Measurements:
Name Height W/O Shoes Height With Shoes Weight Wingspan Standing Reach Body Fat Hand Length Hand Width

Reggie Bullock (SF)

6' 5.75''

6' 7''

199.8

6' 8.75''

8' 6''

6.95

8.5

9

Allen Crabbe (SG)

6' 5.25''

6' 6.25''

197.4

6' 11.25''

8' 7.5''

4.65

8.25

8.5

Jamaal Franklin (SG)

6' 4''

6' 5.25''

190.8

6' 11.25''

8' 7.5''

8.25

8.5

8.25

Tim Hardaway Jr. (SG)

6' 4.5''

6' 6.25''

199.4

6' 7''

8' 5''

6.05

8

9.25

Ricky Ledo (SG)

6' 4.75''

6' 6''

197.2

6' 7.25''

8' 6.5''

10.25

8.5

9.25

Deshaun Thomas (SF)

6' 5''

6' 7''

219.8

6' 10''

8' 8''

9.1

8

8.75

Jeff Withey (C)

6' 10.75''

7' 0.5''

221.8

7' 2''

9' 2.5''

8.65

9

9.75

The players that stood out to me most here was Jamaal Frankiln and Allen Crabbe, who both had very impressive wingspans. Franklin is known as an explosive and athletic scorer is college, and did it all for San Diego State averaging 17 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 3.3 assists last season. His measurables only help his case to make a successful transition to the NBA. Crabbe, while not quite as athletic or explosive as Frankilin, is also a big-time scorer (averaged 18.4 ppg) and a better shooter, and helped ease the fears of him being undersized.

Jeff Withey is the lone big man on this list and will most likely be gone by the time the Suns make their second selection, but he would be a steal with a late first pick if he's somehow still available.

Results:
Name 3/4 Court Sprint Time
Lane Agility Time
Modified Time
Standing Vertical
Max Vertical

Reggie Bullock (SF)

3.31

11.33

3.3

31

36.5

Allen Crabbe (SG)

3.32

10.67

3.1

30.5

36

Jamaal Franklin (SG)

NULL

NULL

NULL

NULL

NULL

Tim Hardaway Jr. (SG)

3.25

10.68

2.93

31.5

37.5

Ricky Ledo (PG/SG)

3.32

10.72

3.16

27

33.5

Deshaun Thomas (SF)

3.53

12.94

3.38

28.5

32

Jeff Withey (C)

3.47

12.49

3.29

26.5

29

Tim Hardaway Jr. was the most impressive in the agility scores out of this list of prospects. Hardaway had the fastest times in every drill except for one, and also the highest vertical jump. the only unknown is whether or not Franklin could have given him a run for his money if he was able to participate. He was sitting out with a sprained ankle, but his speed and athleticism is one of his greatest attributes, so you have to wonder.

On the flip side, Deshaun Thomas struggled in the agility drills and confirmed the lack of speed and quickness that scouts have seen from him all year at Ohio St. This is no suprise...but Thomas can also shoot the ball very well and did so at the combine, so I doubt it hurts his stock too much. Unrelated to this but worth mentioning, Thomas also made news by refusing to give the Spurs his phone number and email address...I like the kid already.

Another noteworthy player, Ricky Ledo, the high school phenom who we've been waiting to see after being ruled ineligible to play during his freshman year at Providence, came in with one of the highest body fat percentages among the players in attendance. However, he didn't look any different from what I've seen of him before, so maybe this is just his natural weight. From what I saw of him in the drills he still looked pretty good, so it's hard to say if he was affected or not.

Conclusion:

One thing you've probably noticed is the number of shooting guards and small forwards...and yes, that's just how this draft is very deep on wings. This isn't really an issue for a team like Phoenix though. With so many holes to fill, the Suns could easily justify taking a wing with both of their first round picks if they happened to be the best player available. And if guys like Franklin, Crabbe, and/or Hardaway are still there by the time they make their second pick, the Suns would be hard pressed to pass them up unless another more coveted prospect unexpectedly falls to them.

It's also worth mentioning that I left out quite a few international prospects who have been mocked in the late first round, but who did not attend the combine. Players such as Sergey Karasev (SF), Giannis Adetokundo (SF), Lucas Noguiera (C), and Livio-Jean Charles (PF) have been mocked to the Suns but have no combine numbers to compare with the rest of the prospects, so they didn't make the list. However, any one of these players could certainly be in the mix for Phoenix once the draft rolls around.

In the end, the Suns will have a shot at getting another very talented prospect with their 30th pick in the first round. Any one, or even several of these players could end up being a diamond in the rough. This is where the Suns will rely on their scouting and new GM Ryan McDonough to make the most accurate prediction. There will of course be unforeseen risers and fallers just like every other year that the Suns will likely have to make last second decisions on, but this list at least provides an idea of who the Suns could be looking at with their second pick next month.

Images-2

A gift is a gift. When you have a gift, no matter how frustrating it is you need to find a way to turn that gift into a positive. I have the gift of guessing completely wrong on the Phoenix Suns next moves. They have been much more aggressive than I have given them credit for.

Three times this spring, the Phoenix Suns have made a huge decision mere hours after I posted an article predicting a long waiting period before the Suns would make their move - extending Lon Babby, firing Lance Blanks and hiring Jeff Hornacek.

April 2, 2013 - Lon Babby's two-year extension announced

  • 7:00am - I post an article predicting nothing imminent on front office moves, warning Robert Sarver's decision on Lon, Lance, Lindsey might not be until July when Babby's contract ended
  • Later that morning - Babby accepts extension offer, announced via press release

Dave's faulty reasoning:

It's certainly possible that Sarver rides out this current front office through July since they are already under contract, but is that likely? Is it likely he has a new staff inherit the work of the prior regime without the opportunity to shape the roster before their first season in power?

Sounds crazy, but he's done it twice before. He did it in the disastrous summer of 2010, when Babby and Blanks were not hired until the heavy lifting had been done already, absolving them of any blame but also castrating them for 1/3 of their contracts. He also kind of did it in 2006 when Bryan Colangelo went to Toronto. Sarver simply promoted D'Antoni to GM without engaging in a GM search.

Suns 1, Dave 0

April 22, 2013 - Lance Blanks fired

  • April 21 at 7:00am - I post an article concluding that the biggest issue going forward is the front office, and that the delay on Hunter could be about Blanks
  • The next day - Lance Blanks is let go

Dave's spot-on reasoning:

I still think the bigger issue is the player evaluation staff. The guys who have to "nail it" this summer and next to re-set the trajectory of the franchise in an upward direction.

Maybe that's why the coaching decision is taking so long. By now they know if Hunter is their man or not. Maybe it's more about the rest of the front office than we are being led to believe.

Stay tuned.

Suns 2, Dave (a shaky) 0.5

May 25, 2013 - Jeff Hornacek hired as head coach

Dave's faulty reasoning:

The delay, which could extend to late June

Because some of the best coaching prospects are still roaming the sidelines in the Conference Finals, that's why. Brian Shaw (Indiana), Mike Budenholzer (San Antonio), David Fizdale (Miami) and Lionel Hollins and Dave Joerger (Memphis) are all on the short list of favorites.

Indiana, in particular, has declined all interview requests through the end of the playoffs. Not only is Brian Shaw on a lot of teams' lists, so is GM Kevin Pritchard to take over front office openings.

Suns 3, Dave (a shaky) 0.5

Conclusion - Do the opposite

Three times, the Suns have made a smart, timely decision without bringing me into the loop. Imagine that?!? All three decisions have been good ones, and I would have agreed with each one if they had just asked me.

Why Lon didn't call for my advice is beyond me. I'm flabbergasted, really. In fact, I emailed this timeline to Lon yesterday and asked 'what gives'?

"I read your posts and do the opposite!" he replied, employing a sense of humor used too infrequently in the past three years.

Yes, folks, I have a gift. You want something done, have me write an article concluding the Suns will sit on their heels and procrastinate. A new Suns era has begun.

New drafts already in the works

  • "Don't bet on Suns adding another lotto pick or three"
  • "Don't count on Burke or Bennett going top-4, allowing Oladipo to drop to Suns" (courtesy carey.s.adams)
  • "Don't hold your breath on Suns releasing Beasley any time soon"
  • "Don't bet on Suns trading Beasley or Scola for valuable draft picks"
  • "Don't count on Suns making playoffs during Dudley's contract"
20120424_jla_ai4_237

The Phoenix Suns are in the midst of a very busy, very important, and an unequivocally cataclysmic period in the franchise's history. So, right on cue here come the Bright Siders to evaluate the process.

There will likely be no consensus here, partially because of the imbalance of opinions here is the reason why this staff continues to put out quality, timely, and entertaining content daily.

What do we think of the hiring of the 17th coach in franchise history? Well, we are glad you asked:

1) Be: What do you think of Jeff Hornacek as the Head Coach?

Dave King: I like the hiring from a PR standpoint and certainly from a forward-thinking standpoint. The Suns are in for a rebuild, so why not have a guy in place that everyone likes to talk to, and would be loved in the valley on name alone. He will get a long, long leash from fans and media.

Jacob Padilla: At this stage, I'm somewhat indifferent. I wasn't around to see him as a player, so don't have that attachment. I like the idea of getting back to the team's successful roots, though, and the move is getting rave reviews.

Jim Coughenour: I really like the hire. If McMiracle is an up and coming GM, then Hornacek fits the same model as a coach. People around the league are overwhelmingly effusive in their praise of his abilities and potential. If he hadn't stepped back to spend time with his family (which is another plus to me) he would have already been a head coach before now.

Kris Habbas: The idea of Hornacek as a PR move and a head coach in general is intriguing even as the announcement is fresh off the presses. He fits the need as a young coach that can connect with the soon to be young core and gives the team a personality for the fans (and media) to believe in.

Sean Sullivan: Like it. Very intelligent guy by all accounts, and I like the idea of keeping it in the family during our rebuild. Why not?

2) Should the team have brought in a coach with experience?

JP: Not necessarily. I was in favor of hiring an up-and-coming assistant rather than going with a retread. He may not have been the most qualified of those assistants, but let's give him a chance to prove himself.

JC: Head coaching experience was a non-factor, or maybe even a deterrent. Just because Jeff is a novice doesn't preclude him from excelling in his new capacity. Every head coach in the league was a first time head coach at some point.

KH: Could they have, sure, but how have retread coaches worked for the rest of the league? Charlotte, anyone? This was the right move.

SS: Our choices were limited in this regard anyway, it's not like we were going to get Doc Rivers. Horny is as good a choice as any.

DK: Head coaching experience? Probably not. We already had Alvin, who played his best guys to the detriment of player development and youth movement. The Suns need a fresh face who is patient and will learn along with the team.

3) Obviously they need to make this hire soon versus later, but was this too soon? Defend your stance?

JC: I already stated that I wanted the team to interview Hornacek. Apparently Jeff killed the interview. If the powers that be felt he was the man for the job there's no reason to let him leave and risk him taking a head coaching job with another team with a vacated position. Same dynamic with free agent players... don't let them leave without signing the contract.

KH: There are two scenarios that I am envisioning with this hire. One, Hornacek was on the short list as a Top Candidate and he absolutely killed the interview. In that case they couldn't let him go elsewhere. Two, the team was looking for a PR move that would appease the fans while impatiently hiring the first legit candidate they spoke to. Cross your fingers for Scenario One!

SS: Maybe. My only gripe is we didn't wait until after the other coaching candidates were freed up. But if Horny was their guy, I'm glad they got him.

DK: That's my only beef with this hire so soon. The Suns should have at least interviewed more people in order to make the best possible selection. They cut the process short, and so no one knows if Hornacek would have beaten everyone out.

JP: You always want to see a team do its due diligence, but if they were sold on Hornacek being the guy then I'm glad they made it official. Now they can move forward and get ready for the next step: the draft.

4) The first word that comes to mind when you think of this hire? Now, elaborate.

KH: Retro... The team tried Porter, Gentry, and Hunter before going back to the Suns Well of talent digging out Hornacek. If he can bring back the old school jersey's full-time then maybe it will be a double win for the franchise as they push forward into the future.

SS: Intelligent. Hornacek strikes me as a McDonough type of guy, whether or not he was actually his hire. I think he'll mesh well with our new GM.

DK: PR, baby! And there's nothing wrong with that. JC did it four different times - hiring a former player to help transition into a new era/team without losing the fanbase.

JP: Whoa. I was away from the Internet this weekend and just found out about it Sunday night, so it was a bit of a surprise.

JC: Circular. When Hornacek was traded to the 76ers for Charles Barkley it was bittersweet. I was both elated about the new addition and crestfallen about the subtraction (mainly Hornacek... not Tim Perry or Andrew Lang so much). Now Jeff has the chance to return and entrench himself even deeper in the Phoenix Suns' legacy. It illustrates the wisdom shown by not burning bridges (Cough! Blanks!). It will also be nice to see him back on the Suns' bench after finishing his career with the Jazz.

5) So, what are the expectations of Hornacek as a first year head coach for you?

SS: Tempered. Even Phil Jackson couldn't sniff .500 with this squad. If Horny can show some progress while giving this team an identity then I think that's all we should hope for this season.

DK: Make fans happy without having to win games. Be a pleasure to talk to, give fans signs of hope. Hornacek will get a long, long leash in the valley, something Babby has not enjoyed since he signed on.

JP: I expect to see some semblance of a gameplan on both ends (I didn't see one last year). I want to see him get his system in place and the players buying into it. Development from the young players would be nice too.

JC: I have no expectations for the upcoming season, so anything positive will be a pleasant surprise. I give McMiracle and Hornacek a hall pass for the 2013-14 season. The 2014-15 season is where I will expect to see their purview over the franchise paying dividends.

KH: There are no expectations other than progression. That should be the expectation of the entire fan-base for this upcoming season of Suns basketball. Some progression in the teams character, effort, and overall skill development will speak to the coaching abilities of Hornacek this season.

BONUS: Dan Majerle, bring him back as an assistant to get the band back together?

DK: No on Majerle. But I wouldn't be surprised to see Eddie Johnson on the sidelines.

JP: I'd love to have Thunder Dan back in the fold, but with him recently getting a new job and the circumstances of his departure, I don't think it's in the cards.

JC: I wouldn't be diametrically opposed to Majerle returning in an assistant role, but I think that bridge got Blanked and is still under repair. I don't foresee Dan bailing on his new commitment the first time the wind changes. I would surmise that Hornacek already has a good idea of who he wants to bring on (or is already in place) and that it was discussed as part of his interview.

KH: This cannot be Hornacek's team with Dan on the bench. It is that simple. Hornacek got his opportunity on his own and Dan will do the same, on his own.

SS: Nope, that ship has sailed. Go Antelopes!

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