Suns keep focus on draft before picking 13th

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By Natalie Rivers By Natalie Rivers

PHOENIX (AP) The Phoenix Suns have some big decisions to make over the next week or so, ones that will likely dictate the course of the franchise for years to come.

Point guard Steve Nash, forward Grant Hill and guard Michael Redd will become free agents Saturday. So will Sebastian Telfair, Shannon Brown and Ronnie Price. Center Robin Lopez is a restricted free agent.

Phoenix also needs to add perimeter scoring, a point guard for the future whether Nash returns or not and could use an infusion of youth.

But for whatever might happen, the Suns won't let it affect what they do in the NBA draft Thursday night.

While the current and future roster will certainly be in the back of their minds, Phoenix's front office has kept the focus on finding the best possible player with the 13th pick.

"Right now, we're overly focused on this draft because we want to hit it right," Suns general manager Lance Blanks said. "If that means duplication at a spot, so be it because at the end of the day, you want to have talented players and guys who can make it in this league and contribute to your roster."

"That's better than going away from a position where you already have depth or an opportunity through free agency and you end up with a player that can't play in the league."

The Suns have missed the playoffs two straight seasons, so there are clearly needs to be filled.

Top of the list is perimeter scoring, someone who can knock down shots and also create his own offense.

There also could be a huge hole to fill at point guard if Nash, a two-time league MVP, opts to leave the desert. And while they appear to be set inside with most of their big men under contract, the Suns could take a talented big man if one's still available.

In New York City on Wednesday for his annual charity soccer game, Nash reiterated that he would consider returning to the Suns.

"Phoenix has been home for eight years," he said. "It's a very important place for me."

With so many needs and so many uncertainties about their future roster, the Suns may just take the best-player-available route and figure out the rest later.

"We had players in here at every position," Blanks said of pre-draft workouts. "It's not a situation where because we think guys are going to be gone, we can definitely draft a five or a one. It's somewhat of a sliding scale. Maybe you take the best player available or maybe you go away from the point guard position and go to the three."

Good news for the Suns is that it's a fairly deep draft, so they should get a decent player at No. 13 no matter what happens in front of them.

Should they go for a perimeter scorer, Connecticut's Jeremy Lamb could be a good fit. Phoenix also could take Washington's Terrence Ross, Syracuse's Dion Walters or Florida's Bradley Beal if they're available.

Go with a point guard, there's North Carolina's Kendall Marshall, whom they brought back for a second in-town workout, or Duke's Austin Rivers, a combo guard who can run the point and create his own shot.

There figures to be some solid big men available at No. 13, too. The Suns brought back Mississippi State's Arnett Moultrie for a second visit, so don't be too surprised if they go big.

"All things being equal, you go with a need for the team," Blanks said. "You owe that to the fans, the organization, the ownership and the coach to fill that need. Whenever there is an opportunity to fill a need, you want to take advantage of it."

Point guard is certainly one of those.

Nash has a long list of suitors, so he could be on his way out. Even if he does return to the desert, the Suns will need to find someone to be his replacement soon.

Nash is 38 and point guards typically need a season or two of seasoning before they're comfortable running an NBA team.

The best fit for the Suns at No. 13 could be Marshall.

At 6-foot-4, he has good size and is a pass-first point guard - he holds the ACC record for most assists in a season - who can score when he needs to. Marshall broke his wrist in the NCAA tournament, but says he is healthy and ready to play at the next level.

Blanks thinks so too.

"(Marshall) is obviously a well-accomplished, winning point guard," Blanks said. "Quite frankly, that's the thing I like the most about him. He's a winner. That's something we aspire to do in this business and, more specifically, that's a position of need."

The Suns have a lot of needs, they could take any number of players at any position.

What is certain is that with so many question marks about the future, they need to get it right - and they know it.

AP Sports Writer Rachel Cohen in New York contributed to this report.