In Draft, Talent Will Trump Need For Suns

Ryan Wolf/Suns.com

Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough gets a lot of kudos for his knowledge of the game, especially when it comes to scouting. He has countless files of reports on hand and innumerable evaluations ready to give the moment he is asked about a specific prospect. He is, in short, a guy with a lot to think about leading up to the draft.

Just don’t expect him to overthink it – especially when it comes to talent vs. need.

In his mind, the former wins out every time.

“We don’t draft based on immediate need,” McDonough said. “We draft on whoever we think is going to have the best career.”

Recent history is proof enough of that. Alex Len was taken fifth overall last year despite the presence of Marcin Gortat in the middle. Phoenix then traded up to snag Archie Goodwin with Goran Dragic, Kendall Marshall and Shannon Brown all  under contract and manning the guard positions.

The same philosophy applies to trades. Eric Bledsoe’s availability was met with action inspired by talent instead of hesitation caused by his position (point guard).

“We try to play position-less in Phoenix,” McDonough said. “We play two guys who I guess you’d define primarily as point guards [in Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic]…I think because of our system and the pace that we play with, there’s more of an opportunity for multiple point guards to play.”

“What we don't want to do, what we'll never do, is draft a guy just because he's older and maybe more ready over somebody we think is going to be better and is going to have a better career.”

— Ryan McDonough

When June 26 arrives, the Suns will look to the bottom line (talent) before the fine print of position. It helps that no one position is particularly weak. Dragic is under contract. Eric Bledsoe and P.J. Tucker are restricted free agents. Gerald Green can man both wing spots. The Morris twins, Miles Plumlee and Alex Len are still living out their rookie contracts.

If the Suns see a chance to upgrade on draft night, however, they will do so. The end game of winning, well, wins out.

“We had a decent year but we weren’t a playoff team,” McDonough said. “We don’t have anybody who’s so entrenched that we’re saying ‘alright, let’s not worry about this position. Let’s just draft other positions.’”

That approach makes for a win-win situation. Players are motivated to perform knowing competition can overtake their role/minutes at any time. This increases the quality of practices and, subsequently, game play.

It’s also a way to see which players thrive under pressure and rise to challenges. If two players at the same position perform well, Phoenix can either make room for both (as it did with Dragic and Bledsoe) or find itself with a valuable trading chip (as happened with Marcin Gortat last offseason).

“Generally we just try to take whoever the best players are and let them battle it out with the guys on our current roster,” McDonough said.

"What we don't want to do, what we'll never do, is draft a guy just because he's older and maybe more ready over somebody we think is going to be better and is going to have a better career," he added. "I just think the draft is the best way to get guys who could be starters and hopefully, potentially stars.

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