Howdy all…

For the subject of today’s post I chose one at will be important for us Suns fanatics over the coming season…What do we need from Robin Lopez? While the departure of Amare Stoudemire and his 23 & 9 was partly compensated by Turkoglu, Warrick, and copious quantities of hope, we will need Fropez/RoLo to step it up a tad this year....So what qualifies stepping up? Well, besides staying healthy and buying the right conditioner/detangler for his ‘fro, I think quantifying the required contributions as raw statistics gets a little dicey. Of course that won’t stop me from giving it the old college try. In my infinite Sun God-like wisdom, I have captured this with just slightly more accuracy than guessing.

 

REBOUNDING– Robin averaged 4.9 rebounds per game last year. At face value, this is pretty sucky, but when you consider that Robin averaged almost 7 boards a game (amidst back problems and limited time on the court) once he was inserted into the starting line-up, it is a little more comforting. The problem arises that our defacto PF for this year, Hedo Turkoglu averages about 4 rebounds a game less than our departing Power Forward. When coupled with the thought that Hakim Warrick, the back-up PF, rebounds just slightly better, it raises the acid level in my stomach, and causes me to take a 3 hour Hooter’s lunch on company time…

However, it’s never as bad as it looks like (Or so I tell my boss whenever he asks why I never get anything done...). The Suns wings rebound better than virtually every other team’s wings,  plus Hedo can't possibly rebound any worse than last year...he has no choice but to improve.  This translates into I am actually anticipating is that we need Robin to give us a solid 8.5 to 9.0 rebounds a game. We all know Robin spent a lot of time off the court due to match-ups, fouls, and injury last year. This year, if he can stay healthy and away from foul trouble, there is no reason he can’t play 25-30 minutes a game and bring in that number of boards.

SCORING – Robin averaged 8.2 point per game last year. At face value, this is also nothing to write home about, but when you consider that Robin averaged almost 12 ppg as a starter, it becomes a lot more palatable. Personally, I feel that this is the area we don’t need a whole lot of improvement from Robin this year. The Suns are going to score some points regardless. Looking at their personnel and their system, I would be very surprised if we don’t score at least 109 ppg as a team and lead the league in scoring…again.

I also expect Nash’s scoring average to go up as he will be freed up to take more shots with Hedo on the court. JRich becomes more of an offensive option (I fully expect a 20+ ppg season from JRich) and we have a few guys on the bench that can fill it up in Frye, Hakim, Childress, & Goran. I say we just need Robin to give us 14-15 ppg…totally within the realm of possibility as he gains greater significance in the offense without STAT. If I am wrong about this, sue me, laugh, or talk about me, your choice….

DEFENSE – This is an area that I think Robin is already fairly decent at. He plays good post defense, maintains his position, and doesn’t go for a lot a fakes. He also is a pretty good shot-blocker. One area I think he can improve is on learning not to foul his defender as his defender is making the move to the basket. Personally, I feel this is just a matter of learning how to playing the NBA and making adjustments to the game. This will come in time and I fully expect Robin to be much better in this regards this year. I also expect Robin to increase his shot-blocking to about 2.0 blocks per game with a full season of starting and getting the minutes he needs.  Of course I expect to win the lottery every year, so I just may be full of crap…you never know…

INTANGIBLES – Well, what can I say? Our boy Lopez here can be an animated individual...All this can be readily exemplified from the breaking of a glass door, assorted scowls and snarls, terse interviews, all the way to some well placed elbows on opponents. Personally, I love it!!! Every team needs one or two guys that can set the intensity level and tone. Robin embraces this role as “our enforcer”…a guy that can lay the wood on someone that drives the lane with abandon, or drop a timely elbow on an opposing player that needs some “love…” Personally, I think he just needs to keep doing what he does. His intensity level is exactly what we need. He will get smarter and understand how and when to pick his spots as this next season progress...

All in all, I think if he gets the minutes by staying on the court and being healthy, there is no way he does not give the Suns what they need next year…But hey, don’t believe me…tell us what you think he needs to give the Suns next year…!

 

Poll
What does Robin Lopez need to give the Suns for 2010/2011...?

  993 votes | Results


After a long search and seemingly countless candidates, the Phoenix Suns named Lance Blanks their new general manager Thursday. The Suns announced the hiring in a Thursday afternoon release shortly...

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The Phoenix Suns’ search for an ace talent evaluator has concluded as the team announced Thursday it has hired Lance Blanks to fill the vacant general manager position below new president of...

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Cleveland Cavaliers assistant general manager Lance Blanks, left, presents a jersey to Anthony Parker at the team's headquarters in Independence, Ohio Monday, July 13, 2009. The Cavaliers signed Parker, the brother of WNBA star Candace Parker, as a free agent. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

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about 1 year ago: Cleveland Cavaliers assistant general manager Lance Blanks, left, presents a jersey to Anthony Parker at the team's headquarters in Independence, Ohio Monday, July 13, 2009. The Cavaliers signed Parker, the brother of WNBA star Candace Parker, as a free agent. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

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I'll be adding more, but I wanted to supersede my post from this morning. 

Maybe my post was all they needed to make a decision, huh?

Blanks comes from the Cleveland Cavaliers. He joined that organization in 2005, after spending the previous 5 years with the Spurs (last position: Director of Scouting). Before that, Blanks played in the NBA for, among other teams, the Detroit Pistons. 

I'm checking right now to see if he played there at the same time as Grant Hill and coach Alvin Gentry were around. I think that's the case. Later note: Nope, they missed each other. Blanks was there and gone before those guys arrived.

**Added #1: link to Seth's writeup of Cleveland's drafting while he was there (very good writing)

**Added #2: the official release, including quotes from the Suns folks...

**Added #3: check out this interview with Babby tonight on Blanks. Babby repped Bowen?!?!?

Here is my evaluation from this morning on Blanks:

Lance Blanks - Assistant GM, Cleveland Cavaliers

The only one 100% confirmed as a candidate, because he had an interview last week with the Suns, is Lance Blanks. Before Danny Ferry was fired this summer, Blanks was the #3 talent evaluator in the front office.

I question that front office's track record though. Sans LeBron James, who they got as a gift 7 years ago for being the worst team in basketball, that current roster is a mishmash of role players who probably won't make the playoffs. Add in Ferry's poor choices of high-priced talent to pair with LeBron (Shaquille O'Neal, Antawn JamisonMo Williams and previously Larry Hughes, Damon Jones and Ben Wallace), I have to question the work of that front office as a whole.

Now, it's possible the Lance Blanks was the voice of reason, but how can we know that? In the draft, they haven't found any diamonds in the rough, though JJ Hickson looks like a keeper and many years ago Anderson Varejao was a good pickup. But Boobie Gibson? Christian Eyenga? Who else made it to the rotation?

[Note by Seth Pollack, 08/05/10 6:20 PM MST ]

A review of the Cavs draft history since Lance took his talents to Cleveland in 2005.

Thanks Seth!

Here's the official release from the Suns:

PHOENIX - The Phoenix Suns have named former player and veteran NBA executive Lance Blanks the club's general manager, the team announced today.

"After a thorough search, we believe we have found the perfect choice to serve as our general manager," said Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby. "Lance Blanks is a first-rate talent evaluator, basketball executive and person. We are thrilled that he will be joining the Phoenix Suns."

An experienced and successful talent evaluator, Blanks combines the high basketball IQ of a former player with a 10-year track record in the front offices of two of the league's most successful franchises over the last decade. The 43-year-old Blanks joins the Suns after spending the last five seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers as vice president of basketball operations and assistant general manager, a tenure during which the Cavs owned an overall record of 272-138 (.663).

Prior to joining the Cavaliers in 2005, Blanks spent the previous five seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, originally joining the club in 2000 as a scout. Blanks was then promoted to the role of director of scouting in September 2002. During his time in the Alamo City, the Spurs won two NBA Championships and drafted Tony Parker and Luis Scola.

Selected in the first round of the 1990 NBA Draft (26th overall) by the Detroit Pistons, Blanks spent two seasons with the Pistons and one with the Minnesota Timberwolves, appearing in 142 career NBA games. He played one season in the CBA and three in Europe where he led teams in Hungary and Cyprus to league championships. A former Texas "Mr. Basketball" as a high school standout in 1985, Blanks attended the University of Texas and led the Longhorns to the Elite Eight in the 1990 NCAA Tournament. Blanks' 20.0-point collegiate scoring average ranks third-highest in Longhorn history.

Currently in Senegal with the NBA's Basketball Without Borders, Blanks has been active in the program, which encourages positive social change in education, health and wellness through basketball, since its inception in 2003. He also serves on the steering committee for the Ron Brown Scholar Program, established in 1996 to provide academic scholarships, service opportunities and leadership experiences to young scholars of outstanding promise.

Blanks has two daughters, Riley and Bryn. His father, Sid, played eight NFL seasons with Houston, Washington and New England; his cousin, Larvel, played eight seasons of MLB baseball.


The Phoenix Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby, right (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

More photos » Ross D. Franklin - AP

The Phoenix Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby, right (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

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The Suns hired Lon Babby a couple weeks ago to be their President of Basketball Operations, acting as the #1 voice for the foreseeable future in the Suns front office. Every deal that happens from now on will be with his blessing (and Sarver's, of course).

Babby's talent is in the world of contracts. He is a long-time, highly respected player agent. So he should have solid footing in the area of negotiations and legalese. He should know what players and agents want to hear, when pitting contract offers against each other. A little incentive here, a little bonus there. He should be able to close the deal.

But WHO should Babby be signing, other than first-year players that shined in summer league?

That's not Babby's strong suit, and he knows it. He's looking for a talent-evaluator extraordinaire. He's looking for that guy to convince him Player A is the best player to sign, the number one option. And then Babby will swoop in and start negotiating.

So, who is that talent evaluator going to be? And what is their track record?

Paul Coro, Suns beat writer for azcentral.com and Arizona Republic says:

We often hear that this person will be a basketball skill evaluator and many feel it will be an ex-player who communicates well. One of Steve Kerr's best qualities as GM was his ability to connect with everyone with sincerity. He addressed issues with all employees in the organization and kept players content and away from any front office nonsense.

Babby himself has said:

"I want to have somebody who I know is a crackerjack talent evaluator," said Babby, the Suns' new president of basketball operations. "I need to make sure we're strong in the areas that I'm not. Again, I'm not claiming to be something I'm not."

Rumors of names are circulating.

 

Lance Blanks - Assistant GM, Cleveland Cavaliers

The only one 100% confirmed as a candidate, because he had an interview last week with the Suns, is Lance Blanks. Before Danny Ferry was fired this summer, Blanks was the #3 talent evaluator in the front office.

I question that front office's track record though. Sans LeBron James, who they got as a gift 7 years ago for being the worst team in basketball, that current roster is a mishmash of role players who probably won't make the playoffs. Add in Ferry's poor choices of high-priced talent to pair with LeBron (Shaquille O'Neal, Antawn JamisonMo Williams and previously Larry Hughes, Damon Jones and Ben Wallace), I have to question the work of that front office as a whole.

Now, it's possible the Lance Blanks was the voice of reason, but how can we know that? In the draft, they haven't found any diamonds in the rough, though JJ Hickson looks like a keeper and many years ago Anderson Varejao was a good pickup. But Boobie Gibson? Christian Eyenga? Who else made it to the rotation?

 

Jeff Bower - former GM, New Orleans Hornets

This was reported by yahoo last week, who previously has reported no less than 3 front-runners for the Suns GM position. Bower worked in the Hornets organization for 15 years until last month, kind of like their version of former Suns' assistant GM Dave Griffin.

Bower was widely respected as a GM over the past several years, and put together the Hornets squad that made surprising noise in the playoffs a few years ago. He oversaw the drafting of several high-quality players (including All-Stars David West and Chris Paul, and last year's surprise rookies Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton). But he also missed on C Hilton Armstrong (whose extra-long neck was the difference between 7'0" first-rounder and undrafted status) and SF Julian Wright (highly talented but uncredibly undisciplined), among others. Still, that's a very strong drafting track record.

In recent seasons, he's made one bad trade after another thanks to his ownership's insistence on staying at or below the luxury tax line (Sarver * 10 here), while Peja Stojakovic aged precipitously and Chris Paul got injured. But even with those guys healthy, that team set a record by losing a deciding playoff game by 50+ points. Ouch.

 

Tommy Sheppard - Assistant GM, Wizards

Also reported by Yahoo last week.  Sheppard has spent the past 7 years in the Wizards front office, 15 total years in the NBA.

In recent years, that front office has signed a very talented player in Gilbert Arenas, acquired talented Jamison and Butler, and drafted Nick Young, Brendan HaywoodJaVale McGeeAndray Blatche and others. A good haul, in terms of talent.

But there's been a common theme amongst all these players: character issues. Not one of them is a "great team player" and not one of them carried the team to more wins than they deserved. Do we really want a talent evaluator who worked in a front office that doesn't value character and inner drive? The Wizards have been one of the worst teams in the league in the past several years, and this was a great cause of it.

 

Dave Pendergraft - Assistant GM, Atlanta

Mentioned by the Hawks GM Sund himself, plus reported by multiple outlets. Pendergraft has been the Asst GM of the Hawks since 2008.  Before that, he spent 11 years with Seattle (8 as a scout, 3 in the front office).

Since 2008, the Hawks have been hit and miss in the draft. They picked Al Horforf (no-brainer), but I guess that's a step up from the prior regime, who took Marvin Williams and Shelden Williams in consecutive drafts after taking Josh Smith and Josh Childress before that. They never found a good PG though, acquiring Mike Bibby from Sacramento (who were glad to get rid of him) and drafting Acie Law (bleh) and Jeff Teague (meh).

Seattle, before Presti arrived, went through a horrendous stretch of drafting - taking every 7-foot talent-less player they could find for several straight years. Saer Sene, Johan Petro, Robert Swift, and Nick Collison. Only Collison has been servicable. Rashard Lewis was a second-round find.

In terms of trading and free agency, Seattle (turned OKC) didn't get good at that until Presti came around and Pendergraft went to Atlanta. Not to say those were directly linked, of course, since he was only one voice of many.

 

Others

Milwaukee Bucks Asst. GM Jeff Weltman and LA Lakers Asst GM Ronnie Lester were previously interviewed, as were Dennis Lindsey and Dell Demps (Spurs), but only Demps was interviewed by Babby directly. It's been reported that those guys are now out of the running, but nothing has been made official except for Demps (took the vacant NO job). If you compare the track records of these front offices (Lakers, Spurs and Bucks), they are MUCH better than the candidates above, except for Bower (Hornets).

Others available are all "big names" who have been fired by their last teams. So how great can they really be? Kevin Pritchard and Tom Penn (Portland) and Mark Warkentein and Rex Chapman (Denver). None have been specifically linked to the Suns' GM search by a Suns source, since the hiring of Babby. 

 

Summation

Methinks those "big" names/egos are too big to play second-fiddle to Babby. But who knows? Babby said this last week, without naming names:

 "The job hasn't been offered to anybody," Babby said. "The process has just begun this week. To this point, nobody has expressed any concern about the structure of the front office."

I'd go back to what Coro said, and expect a young guy who hasn't been a GM before. Someone who can evaluate talent, or at least convince Babby of his ability to do so.  

To close this post, it looks like it might be a while before we hear anything. No one is a front-runner right now.

"It's not a horse race," Babby said. "There are no frontrunners. We're going to have a thorough and systematic process, and it'll be at the end of that process that we'll move to evaluations.

"I've committed to myself and the candidates that I wouldn't move forward to a decision until I've completed the interviews. Therefore, there can't be a frontrunner."

 

Wanna talk about this? 


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