Suns Front Office Talks Season, Future
Progress was made. More is to come.
That was the message from Lon Babby (Suns President of Basketball Operations), Ryan McDonough (General Manager) and Jeff Hornacek (Head Coach), who addressed the media to close out the 2013-14 season.
Fresh off a 48-win season the that tied the NBA’s highest win total of a team to not make the playoffs, the trio of team leaders lauded the success of the season while remaining adamant more was expected moving forward.
“Our goal hasn’t changed,” Babby said. “Our goal is to be elite and I’ve always defined that as legitimately competing for championships. You can’t compete for the championship if you don’t make the playoffs.”
He followed, however, by citing the team’s 12-14 record against the top eight teams in the league (11 of those losses were by eight points are or fewer) and the conclusion he drew from it.
“It’s pretty hard to argue that we’re not right on the brink of being an elite team,” Babby said. “Obviously we have to win more games and prove that.”
Almost exactly a year ago when Babby addressed the media at the end of the 2012-13 season, his first of four goals called for “measurable progress.”
The Suns made that objective easy to monitor by logging 23 more wins this year than the previous season. They rode a renewed running game to the brink of a playoff race. Several players are in the running for various regular season honors, with Babby joking that players such as Goran Dragic, Gerald Green and Miles Plumlee could “split the vote” when it comes to Most Improved Player.
Both Babby and McDonough credited Hornacek for instilling the winning culture the team sought to reestablish last offseason, though the head coach’s explanation for the turnaround was simple.
“We got it back to Phoenix Suns basketball and what it’s really like: the exciting brand of basketball,”
Hornacek said. “The guys are going to go out there and play hard.”
Babby’s second goal from a year ago was to “continue the rebuilding process,” and he cited the team’s young players, draft picks and potential cap room as assets to further that cause.
“If you look around the league, there are probably only a handful of teams that are as well-positioned as we are for the future,” Babby said.
Young and Developing
Between up-and-coming players (Markieff Morris, Miles Plumlee) as well as talent waiting in the wings (Alex Len, Archie Goodwin), McDonough seemed confident there would be few concerns of any “holes” on the Suns’ offseason to-do list regardless of what transpires.
“I don’t think there are any glaring holes or holes that aren’t filled if you factor in some internal improvement,” he said. “I don’t see any reason those guys can’t take another big step next year.”
Phoenix will have at least three first-round draft picks at its disposal for June’s draft, a result of trades made within the last couple seasons.
McDonough admitted the team has a plethora of options to best capitalize on those picks, and that another group of rookies is not necessarily the direction the team will take.
“If we do go in with [all three picks], then it’s unlikely we’d draft three guys and bring them to the Suns,” he continued. “The options are packaging them in a trade for a veteran player, packaging them to move up. We could draft a European player or two and leave them overseas. We could also trade our pick for future picks and kind of spread the picks out.”
The minimal need for more rookies, McDonough said, also stems from the team’s accelerated improvement this season.
“We’ve reached the point where we’d rather put ourselves in that elite group of contenders sooner rather than later,” he said.
With upwards of $20 million in cap space potentially available, the Suns will have no shortage of options when it comes to this summer’s crop of free agents.
Their first priority, however, will be their own players. Starters Eric Bledsoe and P.J. Tucker are restricted free agents, meaning the team can match any contract offer extended by a different team.
Phoenix, however, has no intention of waiting for that step in the process.
“We’d like to re-sign both of those guys,” McDonough said. “We’ll reach out to them. We have every intention of getting a deal done. We’ll try to do that as soon as possible and not let it get to the point where we’d have to get an offer and we’d match it.”