I knew the Phoenix Suns were in trouble by the fourth pick. Almost every single ‘expert’ mock draft had the Cleveland Cavaliers taking Small Forward Harrison Barnes. So of course, the Cavaliers took Shooting Guard Dion Waiters. By pick #8, I knew the Suns were screwed. With the 8th pick, the Toronto Raptors surprised everyone by taking SG Terrence Ross – a player most ‘experts’ had landing somewhere in the 15-20 range. There seemed to be a common theme emerging… shooting guards were coveted.
Such development should come at no surprise to anyone who watched the recent NBA Finals. The series matched up two of the most-freakishly athletic teams in the league, and the role of the ‘big man’ was almost negligible. Much of the games consisted of each team having 4-wing players and a token ‘big man’ down low. There was no post-presence demanding the ball 20 times a game – a la Hakeem Olajuwon or Shaquille O’Neil. It was a series where the court was spread and the athleticism flourished.
You see, the NBA game has transformed. Recent the rule changes have benefited the quicker, more athletic players, so it’s no wonder why a team featuring Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and James Harden was in the Finals while a team with featuring Steve Nash, Jared Dudley, and Grant Hill was the 10th best team in their conference. In the modern NBA game, if you don’t have elite athletes on the wing, it’s simply tough to compete.
Back to the draft… When SG Austin Rivers predictably went to the New Orleans Hornets with the 10th pick, it left only one elite shooting guard remaining, and still two picks until the Suns drafted. After Portland took a token white guy, there was only one pick separating the Suns from a chance to draft the last elite shooting guard they desperately need – Jeremy Lamb. Then it happened. I don’t know why ever I expected it wouldn’t. I should have just looked at the track record of the Suns drafting under owner Robert Sarver – TERRIBLE. Like a scene out of a sad drama, the NBA Commissioner, David ‘Have you stopped beating your wife’ Stern, said, “With the 12th pick of the 2012 NBA Draft, the Houston Rockets select Jeremy Lamb from the University of Connecticut”. Dammit!
Before the draft, there were five shooting guards I would have been happy for the Suns to end up with. I wasn’t being greedy. I didn’t beg for a particular one. I just wanted any one of five! By our pick, the roof had fallen in. What were the chances that five of the first twelve picks taken would be shooting guards? And what were the chances, the one year the Suns were desperately looking to add one, they happened to have the thirteenth pick. Oh, the humanity!
As I sat there shaking my head, pondering how Suns fans would again be disappointed by yet another draft day letdown, I prayed hard the Suns wouldn’t panic and draft Point Guard Kendall Marshall. I hoped in the months of preparing for the draft, the Suns had anticipated this worst-case scenario and had some sort of contingency plan. Boy, what was I thinking?
Like clockwork, with the 13th pick of the draft, the Phoenix Suns selected PG Kendall Marshall. I mean, why wouldn’t they? After all, this was the same Kendall Marshall many draft ‘experts’ said would become a solid-back up point guard in pre-draft coverage (just what we needed from this talented draft lottery, another non-difference making reserve). The same point guard everyone said wasn’t very athletic, but compensated for it with his great passing. Do you know what helps makes a player look like a great passer in college? Great talent around him… The University of North Carolina had four draft picks in the top-20 this year. They were the second most talented team in the nation. Of course Marshall’s assist numbers look good! All Marshall had to do was get outlet passes and push the ball up to his uber-talented wing players. Sorry, Kendall, you’re not going to have that luxury in Phoenix. You’re going to counted on to create, penetrate, and make shots – you know, things a lottery picked point guard must be able to do. Great athleticism would help with that. Marshall’s athleticism will not. Don’t believe me? Just ask Suns General Manager Lance Blanks…
Blanks said, “We didn’t get Kendall for his athleticism and Kendall knows that. We got him for his brain and his ability to make people better, who he is off the court for our locker room. He’s in perfect alignment with what we want to be about as people and as an organization. He’s just a wonderful human being.”
Holy shit. Really? That’s what you have to say about the Suns most-recent lottery pick? ‘We didn’t get him for his athleticism. He’s just a wonderful human being’. Hey Mr. Blanks, you have a whole roster of nice guys with limited athleticism and look where that got the Suns lately. The Suns are grasping at the edge of mediocrity, about to fall into the dark-ages of irrelevance.
Did the Suns front office simply stop watching basketball when the regular season ended? Did they not see the levels of athleticism needed to compete for a championship in the NBA?
Obviously not. From what I can tell, the Suns just drafted a poor-man’s version of the aging Steve Nash, but one who can’t shoot the ball. Great. When can I renew my season tickets?
On top of all this, there are now whispers the Suns may be pursuing soon-to-be 37-year old shooting guard Ray Allen, who is fresh off of ankle surgery. Yes, the same Ray Allen who used to be represented by former-agent and current Suns President of Basketball Operations, Lon Babby. Just what we need, another one of Lon Babby’s former clients… because that whole 5-year/$33.50 million contract Babby handed to another one of his former clients, Josh Childress, has worked out so great! Is this really happening to Suns fan?!?
To be a Suns fans these days is to live through a dramatic performance of Murphy’s Law. “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” The only thing the Suns added from this draft was an ‘unathletic’ point guard who didn’t score in double-digits during college. I’m pretty sure we could have found one of those on the free-agent market… just another great use of a lottery pick by ‘Your Phoenix Suns’. Robin Lopez, Earl Clark, Markieff Morris, Kendall Marshall. Four top-15 picks, ZERO difference makers. But at least with our first pick in 2010, we took a guy out of the basketball powerhouse Georgia Institute of Technology! (Yes, look it up)… Ladies and gentlemen, we are watching the Titanic of NBA franchises. Robert Sarver is our captain asleep at the wheel. It’s going to be a very ugly 3-5 years ahead. Godspeed to all. That’s that.
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