Draft Picks at Center of Suns’ Offseason Strategy

General Manager Ryan McDonough has helped the Suns acquire numerous draft picks since his arrival to the Valley.
(NBAE Photos)

Among the many impressions Ryan McDonough has made in his first offseason as the Suns’ general manager, there’s one that hovers over all the rest.

He’s honest.

How else do you explain the way he followed up the statement below, made during his introductory press conference?

“[The draft is] the life-blood of your franchise,” McDonough said on May 9. “That’s how you have sustainable success over the years.”

In the less-than-three months that followed, here’s what McDonough and his team did to hammer that point home:

1) The Suns used all three of their 2013 draft picks on players they had tabbed from the get-go, even trading up a spot at the last second to snag Archie Goodwin – who just returned from wowing everyone at the Las Vegas Summer League.

2) McDonough and his staff pounced on an opportunity to acquire Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler. Jared Dudley was the recognized debit in the deal. The Bucks, however, needed to be willing partners to make the deal (which also shipped J.J. Redick to L.A.) happen. Phoenix’s second-round pick ultimately helped satisfy Milwaukee’s needs and consummate the deal.

3) Phoenix rewarded the highly regarded and competitive Luis Scola, trading him to a contending Pacers team. The Suns in turn were rewarded with two younger prospects that fit their identity (Gerald Green and Miles Plumlee). Oh yeah, and they acquired another first-round draft pick.

Take another look at those three transactions. Draft picks were involved in every single one.

More importantly, those moves leave the Suns with more future assets than before, more ammo with which to reload the team’s talent pool.

It’s impossible to overstate how important that is, though McDonough was again openly honest – a trait that is quickly becoming commonplace for him in interview settings – when addressing the Suns’ needs back in May.

“The Suns did win 25 games last year, so the talent needs to be upgraded across the board,” McDonough said.

With that in mind, here’s what he has at his disposal via the draft over the next three offseasons:

  • 2014 1st round pick (Suns)
  • 2014 1st round pick (Timberwolves, top-13 protected in 2014, top-12 protected 2015-16)
  • 2014 1st round pick (Pacers, top-14 protected 2014 through 2019)
  • 2014 2nd round pick (Lakers)
  • 2015 1st round pick (Suns)
  • 2015 1st round pick (Lakers, top-5 protected)
  • 2015 2nd round pick (Suns, could go to Milwaukee)
  • 2016 1st round pick (Suns)
  • 2016 2nd round pick (Suns)

For a draft guru like McDonough – a Pez dispenser of scouting reports – the Suns’ stockpile is his candy store.

“Those first round picks are valuable,” McDonough said. “Obviously if you use them and pick them, like we did this year, and you’re smart about who you pick, they could be huge for your franchise. You can also use them as assets to put in trades, combine picks to move up in the draft, package picks to get a solid veteran back in return. There are a number of different things you could do.”

That’s where basketball smarts and overall awareness come in. McDonough’s team recognized the chance to acquire Bledsoe as soon as Chris Paul verbally committed to re-sign with the Clippers. They did the same when J.J. Redick and the Clippers wanted to join forces, but needed help to do so.

McDonough’s scouting team will come into play next, as the Suns don't want to squander the next opportunity, which is anticipated to feature one of the most talented draft classes in recent years.

“We’re projecting a very solid draft next year,” McDonough said. “We potentially have three picks in the first round of the draft next year and potentially two more the year after.”

The Suns know how many assets they have. More importantly, so does the rest of the league, a fact McDonough’s team has already proven capable of recognizing.

“We feel like we’ve positioned ourselves pretty well."