I knew Skal Labissiere was going to be a bust coming into college, but I didn't think he'd be this bad. "Up and down" is extremely generous. He is going to be nothing in the NBA. I don't understand why Rico Gathers isn't higher- he is not undersized for a 4 and has tremendous strength and athleticism.
14. Earl Clark, F, Louisville
The Suns need a three and Clark is a very intriguing prospect due to his versatility. I think he could be a very nice fit in Phoenix especially if they do indeed trade Amare Stoudamire. (Pick Grade: Love It)
48. Taylor Griffin, F, Oklahoma
I just don't see Blake's big brother being an NBA player. The Suns could have used a backup point guard behind Steve Nash and there were some capable prospects still on the board. (Pick Grade: REALLY?)
57. Elmir Preldzic, G, Slovenia
The Suns need a three and Clark is a very intriguing prospect due to his versatility. I think he could be a very nice fit in Phoenix especially if they do indeed trade Amare Stoudamire. (Pick Grade: Meh)
2009 NBA Offseason Transactions:
Pistons sign C/F Ben Wallace
Magic sign SF Matt Barnes
Suns cut C/F Ben Wallace
Suns sign PF Channing Frye
Suns re-sign SF Grant Hill
Suns exercise option on PF Louis Amudson
Cavaliers acquire C Shaquille O'Neal from Suns for PF Ben Wallace, SF Sasha Pavlovic and No. 46
2008-09 Season Summary:
With the possible exception of the Dallas Mavericks, perhaps no NBA franchise has had a recent wide open window for a championship utterly shut as fast as the Suns have. Phoenix finished 46-36 last season, good for 19 games behind the Pacific division champion Lakers. That record would have bought them a very nice seeding in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but in the Wild West it wasn't good enough to even grant them a post-season spot. Had Amare Stoudemire been healthy the whole season, Phoenix probably would have reached the playoffs.
It is too bad the Suns got hosed by some bad calls and arbitrary standards of discipline from the league during their post-season series with the Spurs in 2007. At the time, it appeared the winner of that instant-classic series would win the whole thing; as the Spurs later did. The next year, Phoenix then made a questionable "all-in" type wager in acquiring Shaq, a move that looks bad now when considering the Suns owe him another $20 million next year. He's still solid, but is nowhere close to possessing the dominance he once did. After coming quite close to winning the first title in franchise history a couple years ago, the sun has set on their opportunity for a championship, and Phoenix is now in the lottery and could soon be looking to rebuild.
SF: Grant Hill/Alando Tucker/Sasha Pavlovic/Jared Dudley/Taylor Griffin
SG: Jason Richardson/Leandro Barbosa
PG: Steve Nash/Goran Dragic
NBA Free Agents:
PF Stromile Swift (UFA)
2009-10 Team Salary: Approximately $62.5 million
2009-10 Expected League Salary Cap: $57.3 million
NBA Offseason Needs:
1. "D Up" - Phoenix's defense is like the academic standards at nearby Arizona State University: anyone who wants to can get in, usually does. The Suns yielded 107.5 points per game last season (only the Knicks and Kings were worse). That stat is to the NBA what ASU's 92% acceptance rate is to academia. On the plus side, Phoenix did also lead the league in scoring, but if they want to get back to the playoffs, they'll need to focus on acquiring defensive minded players this off-season.
2. A new organizational direction? - Perhaps the best testament to the ability of former owner and 4 time NBA executive of the year Jerry Colangelo is to look at what happened to the Suns under Robert Sarver's watch. One practice particularly mandating criticism is his selling of numerous draft picks for cash, and his general aversion to going over the NBA's luxury tax, despite recently being in a position to acquire an NBA championship during Steve Nash's prime years by making just a slight improvement. With Grant Hill leaving and one more year for Shaq, this franchise is likely at a crossroads.
3. Depth at forward - With the possible departure of Hill and Barnes, and Stoudemire playing just 53 games last season, the Suns could find themselves with issues at this position soon. Although they missed the post-season, Phoenix's nucleus is still very solid and anybody inserted into the position will likely acquiesce to the Suns exciting, high scoring style. When Alvin Gentry replaced Terry Porter as head coach, they went back to the up-tempo style basketball nicknamed the "7 Seconds or Less" or "Run and Gun style." This philosophy will play a part in deciding what players they might seek.