Suns look for "best player" in draft - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Suns look for "best player" in draft

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Posted: Wednesday, June 24, 2009 7:33 pm | Updated: 2:37 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

There's no doubt who is the top pick on Thursday. But after Blake Griffin of Oklahoma goes to the Los Angeles Clippers, the 2009 draft is a big guessing game.

And that leaves the Phoenix Suns with an uncomfortable air of uncertainty as to who will be around when they make the 14th selection overall.

"I have no idea where anybody's going after Griffin," said David Griffin, the Suns' senior vice president of basketball operations. "This is a very bizarre year for us. The draft is not as top-heavy as it is deep, so I think there's a group of players maybe 15-deep that can all be the same."

The Suns' Griffin says that, uncharacteristically, there are marked differences of opinion among team officials in evaluating the available talent.

If there's a split vote, the deciding tally will come from general manager Steve Kerr.

"This is really a wide-open draft," Kerr said.

Last year, he said, the Suns zeroed in on Robin Lopez and two other players. Phoenix took Lopez with the No. 15 selection overall.

"We knew exactly where we were a year ago," Kerr said. "This year we're all over the map because there's not a clear delineation between the group. There's a lot off very intriguing players but where we're picking right now nobody has jumped out at us as our guy."

With the Phoenix roster a mix of old and relatively young, the Suns won't be looking to fill a position of need.

"I think our general philosophy is the best player available at this pick," Griffin said. "I don't think we're trying to address need as much as we are trying to build something with these guys as part of our core moving forward. We're a team of some veterans with some age on them, so you can play almost any position and become part of the core of you're good enough."

There are point guards aplenty in this draft, so perhaps the Suns will go there, even though Kerr says he likes the progress Goran Dragic made late last season as backup to Steve Nash.

A pair of versatile forwards might be in the mix, too.

Among the possibilities:

Earl Clark, a 6-9 forward from Louisville, showed his strong defensive skills in a workout last Saturday. The high-velocity Suns could use all the defensive help they can get.

James Johnson, a 6-8 forward from Wake Forest, displayed remarkable ball-handling ability for his size. Kerr compared him to Rodney Rogers. Johnson disappointed the Suns in his first workout but impressed them with a high-energy effort on Saturday.

Brandon Jennings is a 6-2, 19-year-old point guard with exceptional speed and loads of potential, but not much experience. Jennings skipped college and played sparingly for one season in Italy.

Jonny Flynn, the 6-foot point guard from Syracuse, probably will be gone by the No. 14 selection but could be too good to pass up if he unexpectedly falls to Phoenix.

Jrue Holiday, a 6-4 point guard out of UCLA. Speaking of Nash successors, Holiday is raw but has athletic skills and the Suns can afford to wait for him to develop.

Austin Daye, a 6-10, 192-pound stringbean forward from Gonzaga, who worked out at least twice for the Suns. Daye has good offensive skills but is woefully light for the interior battles of the NBA.

BJ Mullens, a 7-1 center who played one season at Ohio State. The Suns went for a big man a year ago. If they decide to go there again, Mullens is about the only choice.

"We're looking a much deeper pool than we've ever really looked at, quite frankly, at any pick we've had," Griffin said.

The pick will join an uncertain roster, with the Suns listening to offers for Shaquille O'Neal and the $20 million left for the final year of his contract.

There's also the possibility of dealing All-Star Amare Stoudemire, who can opt out of his contract after the coming season. Stoudemire, though, is recovering from eye surgery and only recently was cleared to begin running.

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