In Search of a New Breed of Sun

Coach Jeff Hornacek talks with Michigan point guard Trey Burke after his pre-draft workout in Phoenix.
Ryan Wolf/

General Manager Ryan McDonough and Head Coach Jeff Hornacek are looking for a few good men. The question is, which players can “handle the truth” and prove they belong?

That truth will come in the form of the type of player the Suns’ new leadership is looking to build their team around. One that will likely reflect what helped get both men to their new positions, dedication and hard work.

“Dedication and perseverance are my, or any other winning teams, philosophy,” Hornacek said. “The good teams I’ve been a part of, the guys play hard, work hard and were coachable. That translated to wins and success. The teams I was on that weren’t very good, like in Philadelphia, they didn’t play hard and we couldn’t win.”

The first place they’ll look for this “new breed of Sun” is Brooklyn at the NBA Draft on June 27. In preparation for the first big player decision of their tenure in Phoenix, the general manager, head coach and their staff have had 20 prospects roll through the Annexus Club Practice Court at US Airways Center over the last four days.

Thursday’s workouts proved the duo is willing to be dynamic in their thinking, as Day 3 of the in-person interview process featured five different point guards, including Michigan’s Trey Burke, Lehigh’s CJ McCollum and Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams. On the surface the list may look confusing since the Suns already have two point guards on the roster, but much like a Picasso, the more you look at it, the more it makes sense.

In today’s NBA, versatility is key to any roster and that is part of what the future will include for the new-look Suns.

“We are comfortable with [Goran Dragic and Kendall Marshall], but like I said when I took the job, and it still continues now, we’re going to draft the best players,” McDonough explained. “With the fifth pick, we’re going to work them all out… Obviously, you factor your roster into it somewhat, but if one of them emerges as the clear best player at five, we’ll take him.”

Just because the Suns’ new brass would consider a point guard at No. 5 doesn’t mean that last year’s bright spot for the Suns, Dragic, would be on the outs. As a matter of fact, he could actually see time in new ways.

“That’s the great thing about Goran,” Hornacek said. “He can play the one, he’s best with the ball, but he can also play off the ball. It gives you those options.”

And options are what McDonough thinks the Suns’ offense was in dire need of last season. He could see that coming in the form of another guard being added into the mix.

“I think Goran needs some help, either from Kendall as a backup, or whether it’s a secondary ball handler,” McDonough said. “That was one of the issues I saw last year breaking down the Suns. When the ball comes out of Goran’s hands, we need more of the guys to make a play with it. Some of the guys in here today, and honestly yesterday, fit that description.”

Fans should not read too much into what all of this could mean for Marshall, who was selected with the 13th pick in last year’s draft, or for any other player on the roster. In listening closely to McDonough, it sounds like things are more wide open than the I-10 on a Sunday morning.

“That doesn’t mean Kendall isn’t better than them,” Hornacek said of the group the Suns brought in. “Guys will get on the court and battle if we draft a point guard. It’s up in the air. We’re going into training camp and anybody could be a starter. It’s an open competition.”

It’s not just the spots on the Suns’ roster that are an open competition, though. With an abundance of talent visiting the Valley over the last few days, it sounds like who the club will pick with their lottery pick is up for grabs, too.

“The guys over the last few days have made my decision tougher,” McDonough said with a smile. “There are a lot of good players in consideration for me at No. 5.”

Whoever Mcdonough, Hornacek and the front office decide to go with in the draft, you can be sure that they’ll fit the mold of the “new Sun” that they’re setting the example of. Hardworking, dedicated, focused on winning and a good man.