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Updated May 7, 2014 - 12:15 pm

The Five: Ryan McDonough's best moves in first year as Phoenix Suns' GM

On May 7, 2013, the Phoenix Suns made a hire that appears to have reshaped their future.

On that day, they named former Boston Celtics executive Ryan McDonough as their new general manager, choosing him to replace the fired Lance Blanks and tasking him with rebuilding and reshaping the roster.

Coming off the second-worst season in the franchise history, it appeared McDonough had his work cut out for him, with any kind of on-court success likely a couple years away, at least.

Hell, even at the time McDonough himself asked for patience, saying, "I don't see a quick fix - or at least a quick fix that leads to what I want to do, which is bring a championship to the Valley."

McDonough made a flurry of decisions and moves, and the rest, as they say, is history. And while he got hosed in the Executive of the Year voting, that does not mean he didn't do a great job this season.

But which moves were his best during his first 365 days on the job? Here are the top five:

Hiring Jeff Hornacek as head coach

If McDonough is the captain of the SS Phoenix Suns, Hornacek is his first mate.

The move was made official on May 28, with the GM saying, "Jeff has all of the qualities we were looking for in a head coach -- he is a leader, a teacher and a student of the game. Jeff's name has been high on our list ever since my first interview with the Suns. His successes as a player and as an assistant coach, along with his deep ties to this franchise and this community, give us confidence that he will do great things as the next head coach of the Phoenix Suns."

How right he was.

Hornacek guided the Suns to 48 wins in his rookie season and finished second to San Antonio's Gregg Popovich in the Coach of the Year voting.

Bringing intelligence and great communication skills, Hornacek was able to get a lot out of a roster most pundits didn't think too highly of before the season began. Under his stewardship, seven Suns regulars averaged career highs in points, and the team's future appears bright in no small part because of its head coach.

Trading for Eric Bledsoe

The deal seemed to come out of nowhere, but on July 2, it was learned the team had dealt popular swingman Jared Dudley to the L.A. Clippers for Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler.

What. A. Deal.

Though injuries limited him to just 43 games this season, Bledsoe emerged in his first year as a starter with career-best averages of 17.7 points, 5.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game. He teamed with Goran Dragic to form one of the most dynamic backcourts in the NBA, and his penchant for taking (and making) big shots won the Suns some games early in the season.

Though he already finished his fourth NBA season, Bledsoe is just 24 years old and appears to have his best years ahead of him. A restricted free agent, the Suns have expressed every intention of making sure the guard is part of both their present and their future.

Fleecing the Indiana Pacers

To be fair, part of the credit for this move probably belongs to Lon Babby, Robert Sarver and maybe even Blanks. If not for their winning bid in the Luis Scola amnesty auction, this deal never happens.

But without McDonough, it probably doesn't happen the way it did.

On July 27, the Suns and Pacers agreed to a deal that saw Phoenix part with veteran Luis Scola in exchange for Miles Plumlee, Gerald Green and a first-round draft pick.

At the time, it was believed the draft pick was the real prize. Oops.

"We are excited to add Miles and Gerald to our young core group of players," McDonough said. "Miles was one of the best players in the Orlando Summer League, and Gerald's scoring ability and athleticism will help us as we continue to build a team that plays an exciting, up tempo brand of basketball."

Yeah, the GM knows more than most.

Plumlee went on to start 79 games for the Suns, averaging 8.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.13 blocks per game. While he wore down as the season progressed, he certainly showed enough to make you think he'll be a solid contributor for years to come.

As for Green, the journeyman may have finally found a home in the desert. The 28-year-old was meant to come off the bench but was pressed into a starting role with Bledsoe out, and responded with 15.8 points per game on 45 percent shooting, including a 40 percent mark from three-point range. Though a bit streaky, when Green was on he was really on, and was plenty good enough to put the team on his back and carry it to some wins.

And then there's that first-round pick, too.

Not giving in and making a deadline deal

The Phoenix Suns almost made the playoffs. And who knows, maybe if they had just added an extra piece at the trade deadline they would have. But McDonough was not willing to risk the future in hopes that the present would be just a bit better.

"We're going to be patient and not try to rush the process, so to speak, in terms of giving away picks and our young players or anything like that," the GM said shortly before the deadline. "Even if it would help us a little bit in the short term, we don't want to do anything that would hurt us long-term."

By not making a deal, the Suns maintained their bevvy of draft picks, ample cap space and solid young talent, all of which could be used to add a big piece this offseason.

Sometimes the best deals one can make are the ones they never make at all.

Trading for the 29th pick in the draft and using it on Archie Goodwin

For a while, the Phoenix Suns were known more for getting rid of late first-round picks than acquiring them. But McDonough was able to procure Oklahoma City's selection, thereby exacting a bit of revenge for one of the worst trades the Suns have ever made.

OK, maybe it doesn't totally make up for that deal -- at least not yet -- but the move to add the pick and then select Kentucky guard Archie Goodwin could prove to be huge for the team.

"Archie's a guy we had rated very highly on our draft board," McDonough said when he was drafted. "We, frankly, didn't think he'd be there for us when we were picking at the very end of the first round and we were trying like heck to get a pick up higher to take him."

The 6-foot-5 guard is a very raw prospect, but he showed a willingness to work along with great athleticism, the type that makes you think he could be something special down the line. Goodwin gave a glimpse of what he could become with a 29-point effort in the season finale, making 11-of-13 shots and 6-of-7 free throws.

About the Author

School: University of Arizona

When you started with Bonneville Phoenix: Fall 2008, right before Cardinals Super Bowl run

Favorite sports memory: Being at Game 7 of the 2001 World Series with my dad

Favorite all-time athlete: Larry Centers

Favorite sports movies: The Sandlot, Rookie of the Year, Jerry Maguire

Most crushing sports moment: Grew up in Arizona and went to UA from 2002-06. In short, there are too many to name just one.


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