An early entry candidate for the 2009 NBA Draft, Gani Lawal opted to return to school after going through the draft process and not receiving the first round guarantee he was looking for. Though some were impressed by his potential, others questioned his lack of polish –something that was only magnified at the NBA combine and in the heavily attended group workouts. Though he was well-positioned last summer with a number of major prospects opting to stay in school, he decided to hone his skills back at Georgia Tech alongside incoming freshman Derrick Favors.
While Lawal’s minutes and touches have decreased marginally next to the lottery-bound Favors, he’s shown development in some areas and will still have an opportunity to hear his name called in the first round this summer.
Sporting an excellent physical profile highlighted by a 7’0 wingspan, Lawal has always been lauded for his athleticism and tremendous work ethic. While those two attributes have afforded him quite a bit of success on the NCAA level, Lawal’s post footwork, jump shooting, and passing lagged behind his ability to impose his will on lesser athletes in the paint.
This season, Lawal has shown marked improvement to some of those weaknesses. His post footwork looks substantially better for example, being far more assertive these days. He’s still not adept at making counter moves on the block and loses control when he tries to do something overly complicated, but his ability to create space for his turnaround jumper has improved considerably. His turnaround jumper over his left shoulder has been particularly impressive, as he’s shown the touch to use the glass effectively and creates separation seamlessly with his strength and leaping ability.
While Lawal is definitely showing signs of improvement in the post –as evidence by the improvement in his field goal percentage from 46.7% to 54.9% in back to the basket situations according to the data we have at our disposal, he still has plenty of room for improvement. He finishes with his left hand occasionally, but he doesn’t appear entirely comfortable on that side of the rim when he can’t dunk the ball.
Away from the block, Lawal remains limited. He rarely attempts a jump-shot, taking less than one per game according to our data. He has improved from the foul line, upping his percentages more than 10% from last season. Continuing to improve his range will be a key for him as he moves forward in his career.
Defensively, Lawal appears to have improved, though he doesn’t always sustain his quality defensive play. He still has some issues closing out shooters too aggressively, but displays a better stance and moves better when not defending the ball. While he sometimes over-commits to helping his teammates, leaving his man open on the perimeter, and will have an occasional lapse of judgment, he appears to have added a degree of discipline to the high energy play that makes him an extremely productive rebounder, even playing next to a jumping jack in Derrick Favors. If he can learn to stay home when closing out shooters and be a bit more decisive off the ball, he could really help his draft stock.
Watching Lawal on film, it is clear that he’s made some strides, though they are not overwhelmingly obvious in his numbers. In the short-term, it will be important for Lawal to show well against the high-level competition he’ll face in ACC play and hone his defensive ability. His role in the NBA may be limited to doing some dirty work off the bench initially, but if he can continue to add strength and improve his jumper, he could fit into niche similar to the one that Leon Powe and Brandon Bass have played for their respective teams.
Strengths: A tremendous physically specimen ... He has a wide frame, a strong and developed body and a fabulous wingspan … Combining his length and bulk, it makes for an intriguing force inside … Catching the ball around the basket, he looks to power his way to the hoop for strong finishes ... He moves well on offense, making good cuts and presenting a wide passing target inside ... Uses his strength to establish good low post position and can hold his seals, making him a very good option in high low situations … He likes to face up when catching the ball in the post, where he can utilize his long and fairly quick first step or a nice midrange jumper ... His stroke is decent, and he is comfortable stepping out to midrange ... He has a nice turnaround jumper, which is hard to defended because shoots it with a slight fade and with a high release point … Rebounds the ball extremely well, and is a terrific offensive rebounder, getting a lot of tips and putbacks ... His strength and width create space inside and he is also very good at using them on the defensive end to push his man off the block …
Weaknesses: A bit undersized as an inside player and does not have great athleticism (his length somewhat makes up for both deficiencies) … Not a reliable or consistent scorer and is not effective having plays run for him ... Not a natural player and it shows in some of his decision making as well as silly turnovers … He depends heavily on movement and energy plays to create his scoring opportunities and on the nights when the ball doesn't bounce his way he can disappear entirely for long stretches ... He becomes predictable by using a spin move almost every time he attacks the hoop facing up … Does not have a good repertoire of post moves inside, and his footwork is fairly limited ... He struggles making counter moves and is often called for travelling because he shuffles his feet inside … Unless he dunks the ball, he has a hard time finishing around the basket because he does not have a very good touch ... At times he makes good moves, but ends up loosing his balance and body control at the last moment, and therefore misses his shot badly … His motor is a bit of a question mark at this point because he has never played major minutes at any point in his career ... Must improve his foul shooting ... http://www.nbadraft.net/players/dwayne-collins
Gani Lawal probably wanted to hear NBA Commissioner David Stern call his name Thursday night.
That would mean a guaranteed contract with more money and fame.
But Lawal also wanted to find an NBA home that fit his game to develop his skills and make his career stick. So when second-round emcee and NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver called his name as the Suns' pick at No. 46, Lawal's first-round hopes had to be soothed by the idea of playing for a team with a calling for his big-man skills and a vacancy on its roster.
The Suns, without a first-round pick to finish the 2007 Kurt Thomas trade, made Lawal their first pick Thursday and later took Miami power forward Dwayne Collins at No. 60. The Suns' draft board ranked Lawal in the top 35 and Collins in the top 40 for the final Suns work by General Manager Steve Kerr and Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin.
Both players have a strong chance to make a team with eight players having contract guarantees for next season.
"You can never have too much size," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. "You saw that in the Lakers (playoff) series."
Lawal, 21, is a 6-foot-9, 234-pound power forward who played three seasons at Georgia Tech. As a junior, Lawal averaged 13.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks while shooting 53 percent. He has a 7-2 wingspan with a solid body and high-effort game, which like Collins' pick, could replace free agent Louis Amundson.
Lawal is limited offensively but was picked for his physical defense. He did not work out in Phoenix but the Suns saw him last month at a multi-team workout in Minneapolis.
"Defensively, his weak side, coming across blocking shots and doing some things is pretty special," Gentry said. "One of the things we have to continue to do is try to get better defensively here."
Collins also has a strong body, great motor and offensive limitations. He is a 6-foot-8, 243-pound senior power forward who averaged 12.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks while shooting 60.4 percent. He visited Phoenix on Wednesday but did not work out after last Friday's surgery for a meniscus tear.
Collins is short for a power forward but has a 7-4 wingspan with hands that he said are 11 inches long. Standing, his reach touches 9-1.
"He plays extremely hard, very competitive," Gentry said. "He's one of those guys I think you'll really like being around. He's kind of an energy guy and has a good personality. He's one of those guys who if you develop and hit, he could be special."
Director of Player Personnel Todd Quinter described him as a "great post defender" who is "physical and will beat you up inside."
"I just go hard," Collins, 22, said Wednesday. "I go at people . . . I want to attack every time. I want to dunk everything."
The Suns drafted big men six days before Amar'e Stoudemire and Channing Frye are expected to decline options to become free agents, along with Amundson.
"Our goal is to try to bring our team back intact," Gentry said.
The Suns made it official Thursday that they exercised an option to guarantee a portion of Gentry's 2011-12 salary and that assistant coaches Bill Cartwright, Igor Kokoskov and Dan Majerle received new contracts through the 2011-12 season. John Shumate, the Suns' back-row assistant, will return to college scouting
Suns second-round draft choice Dwayne Collins will join a top-division Italian team rather than coming to Phoenix's training camp in eight weeks.
Collins, the final pick of June's NBA draft at No. 60, is going to sign with Cimberio Varese, Suns officials said after Italian website www.tuttobasket.net reported Collins' plans.
The Suns wanted the University of Miami power forward to develop overseas while they retain his NBA rights, especially after a minor arthroscopy on his left knee in June prevented him from playing for Phoenix's NBA Summer League team.
Any chance for Collins to compete for a roster spot with Gani Lawal, the Suns' other second-round draft choice, ended when the Suns signed Lawal to a three-year contract with his first season fully guaranteed.
That gave the Suns 12 guaranteed contracts. They are required to carry 13 to 15 players and are expected to add a veteran big man and a fifth guard.