PHOENIX — The impending trade of Shaquille O'Neal to the Cleveland Cavaliers could have the Phoenix Suns looking to go big in Thursday night's draft.
Multiple sources told The Associated Press early Thursday that the Suns had agreed to trade O'Neal to Cleveland for center Ben Wallace, guard Sasha Pavlovic, a second-round draft pick and $500,000 in cash.
With Wallace injury-plagued and nearing the end of his career, the Suns could go for a center in the first-round for the second year in a row.
The only real candidate is 7-1 BJ Mullens of Ohio State.
Before word of the trade came through, the Suns' potential pick was a mystery, and it still might be.
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.
"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."
David 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 center 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 of 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 if 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.
Besides, Mullens, the possibilities are:
—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.
"We're looking at a much deeper pool than we've ever really looked at, quite frankly, at any pick we've had," Griffin said.
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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