Marcin Gortat will apparently start with a clean slate. Both Suns general manager Ryan McDonough and Gortat’s agent, Guy Zucker, have said Phoenix will go into the 2013-14 season with the...

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]
20130628_jel_sz2_065

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:

Alex Len

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.

Ryan McDonough

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.

Jeff Hornacek

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.

Final Thoughts

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


20120314_jla_as8_140

The Phoenix Suns' starting center Marcin Gortat is nearly 30 and on the last year of a very reasonable contract. Two days ago, the Suns drafted his eventual replacement in 20-year old Alex Len.

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.

20130114_jla_as8_348

Phoenix Suns' Shannon Brown got the shaft last spring, getting benched in favor of a trial run with Wesley Johnson. Brown went weeks without playing, and only then would get a quick hook.

But if the remainder of the season told us anything, it told us that any combination of that orange-colored potpourri was going to get the same results. Play the vets with a veteran coach, go 13-28. Play the kids with a rookie coach, go 12-29. One game diff.

Now the offseason hits and the Suns have some early decisions to make. The Suns had a chance to absorb larger contracts to get a draft pick by sending back a non-guaranteed one in its place, but did not get any deals completed on that end. The Suns simply absorbed Malcolm Lee's 884K to move up one slot.

Now the Suns have to decide quickly whether to keep (and guarantee) or release three guys in the coming hours of the weekend.

Shannon Brown ($3,500,000, only 50% guaranteed if waived within 36 hours after the end of the draft)

With the drafting of Archie Goodwin, the Suns have at least replaced what Brown gave the Suns, but in a different (and better) way. Both are energy players who like the ball in their hands to score, but Goodwin takes it to the rim and absorbs contact while Brown dribbles into contested jumpers.

It appears there's just no need, or minutes, for Shannon Brown on the Suns anymore.

Hamed Haddadi ($1,397,500, only $200,000 guaranteed if waived on or before June 29th)

Like Brown, it appears that Haddadi's contributions to last year's Suns team has been at least replaced if not bettered by 20 year old rookie Alex Len.

Both are extra long and extra raw, able to make a difference defensively but unable to be trusted in 2013-14 for more than a few minutes at a time. With Haddadi, that was due to lack of conditioning. With Len, that's inexperience.

The Suns won't give Len 30+ minutes per game from the start, but they will give him as many minutes as he can handle. Between a starting (stopgap) center and Len, there's no room for Haddadi except through injury.

P.J. Tucker ($884,293, fully unguaranteed if waived on or before July 1st)

This one's the easiest, in my mind. Tucker's defense and tenacity is so valuable for his contract that he has to be brought back. He's already been invited to play a couple of Summer League games, so that tells me the Suns will not waive him.

20130114_jla_as8_348

Phoenix Suns' Shannon Brown got the shaft last spring, getting benched in favor of a trial run with Wesley Johnson. Brown went weeks without playing, and only then would get a quick hook.

But if the remainder of the season told us anything, it told us that any combination of that orange-colored potpourri was going to get the same results. Play the vets with a veteran coach, go 13-28. Play the kids with a rookie coach, go 12-29. One game diff.

Now the offseason hits and the Suns have some early decisions to make. The Suns had a chance to absorb larger contracts to get a draft pick by sending back a non-guaranteed one in its place, but did not get any deals completed on that end. The Suns simply absorbed Malcolm Lee's 884K to move up one slot.

Now the Suns have to decide quickly whether to keep (and guarantee) or release three guys in the coming hours of the weekend.

Shannon Brown ($3,500,000, only 50% guaranteed if waived within 36 hours after the end of the draft)

With the drafting of Archie Goodwin, the Suns have at least replaced what Brown gave the Suns, but in a different (and better) way. Both are energy players who like the ball in their hands to score, but Goodwin takes it to the rim and absorbs contact while Brown dribbles into contested jumpers.

It appears there's just no need, or minutes, for Shannon Brown on the Suns anymore.

Hamed Haddadi ($1,397,500, only $200,000 guaranteed if waived on or before June 29th)

Like Brown, it appears that Haddadi's contributions to last year's Suns team has been at least replaced if not bettered by 20 year old rookie Alex Len.

Both are extra long and extra raw, able to make a difference defensively but unable to be trusted in 2013-14 for more than a few minutes at a time. With Haddadi, that was due to lack of conditioning. With Len, that's inexperience.

The Suns won't give Len 30+ minutes per game from the start, but they will give him as many minutes as he can handle. Between a starting (stopgap) center and Len, there's no room for Haddadi except through injury.

***UPDATE***

The #Suns waived Hamed Haddadi. Doing so today allows them to pay him $200K instead of guaranteeing a $1.4M salary for next season.

— Paul Coro (@paulcoro) June 29, 2013

P.J. Tucker ($884,293, fully unguaranteed if waived on or before July 1st)

This one's the easiest, in my mind. Tucker's defense and tenacity is so valuable for his contract that he has to be brought back. He's already been invited to play a couple of Summer League games, so that tells me the Suns will not waive him.

Page 1058 of 2077

1058

Web Links

Sponsored Ads