|Suns: Draft picks Tucker, Strawberry can help|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 29 June 2007 22:12|
The Suns hope he'll bring some Badger toughness. That's why they drafted the 6-foot-6 wing player in Thursday's first round at No. 29.
``For me, basketball is played on both ends,'' Tucker said. ``I think you have to be equally as good on defense as you do on offense.''
The Suns drafted another defense-oriented senior - Maryland guard D.J. Strawberry - in the second round, 59th overall. The 6-foot-5 Strawberry is the son of former major leaguer Darryl Strawberry.
The team introduced both players at a news conference Friday afternoon at U.S. Airways Center.
The picks may have seemed like a letdown to Suns fans who believed reports that the team was close to making a deal for Minnesota star Kevin Garnett, or perhaps trading for a lottery pick.
Neither happened, and the Suns opted instead to try to maximize the value of the 24th and 29th picks. They dealt the No. 24 pick to Portland for $3 million, and forward James Jones is expected to be included in the deal, which may not be announced until he passes a physical.
``I realize it may not be the most popular route all the time, but you have to consider your roster,'' said Suns general manager Steve Kerr, who ran his first draft. ``We were just fired up to get Tucker.''
The 23-year-old Tucker spent five seasons in Madison, receiving a medical redshirt when he injured his foot four games into the 2003-04 season.
Tucker was named Big Ten Player of the Year as a senior, averaging 19.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 36 games. He led the Badgers to a school-record 17 straight victories. Wisconsin earned its first No. 1 ranking in The Associated Press poll but fizzled as a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, losing in the second round to UNLV.
Tucker's 2,217 points are the most in Wisconsin history, surpassing Michael Finley who was drafted 21st overall by the Suns in 1995. Tucker holds seven other school records.
``The only negative is he needs to improve his shooting,'' Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni said.
Like Tucker, Strawberry played four years. He averaged 10.1 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists, and his 202 steals rank fifth in Terrapins history.
Strawberry said he began to worry that he'd go undrafted as the night wore on.
``It was a long night for me,'' Strawberry said. ``I'm just happy that I was able to get picked by the Phoenix Suns. This is where I wanted to play. This is where everybody wants to play.''
Kerr said the Suns were looking for maturity over potential. It provided a glimpse into what the new general manager values highly in a basketball player.
``A lot of people out there, for whatever reason, seem to think that the younger the player, the better, maybe because the career span is longer,'' Kerr said. ``I tend to take the opposite point of view. I believe strongly in life experience, in playing experience.
``I think players these days who come out early miss a big part of the natural progression of becoming a good basketball player and growing up, becoming a man,'' said Kerr, a former college star at Arizona. ``I think it's one of the things that attracted us to both of these guys is that they've been through a lot.''
The Suns aren't finished shaping their roster. They're expected to try to add depth in the free-agent market, using some of the money they received from Portland.
They seemed unconcerned that they had not pulled off any of the blockbuster deals that had been rumored in the days leading up to the draft - deals that might have cost them Shawn Marion or Amare Stoudemire.
``It's hard to move up unless you give up something, and we didn't want to do that. We're not desperate,'' D'Antoni said. ``The people that are really excited (on draft night) are people that didn't have real good years. The rest of us, we are just kind of trying to hold pat.''