The Phoenix Suns are right on the cusp of returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
While it would be an accomplishment way ahead of schedule, it would also greatly affect the Suns’ position in the first round of June’s NBA Draft. If the season ended today with the Suns out of the playoffs, Phoenix would have the 14th overall draft pick and a 1.8 percent chance of landing in the top three.
“If we do make the playoffs as the eighth seed in the Western Conference, we’d be picking around 21st because all the Eastern Conference playoff teams — I think probably the third through the eighth seeds in the East — will have worse records than the eighth seed in the West,” Suns general manager Ryan McDonough told Burns and Gambo Wednesday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
That gap in draft position isn’t enough to sway the Suns from their stated goal of qualifying for the postseason, however.
“It’s significant, but the good news for us is we have other picks as well. We’re not reliant only on our own pick,” McDonough said. “We have Washington’s pick, which is currently slotted in the 17 or 18 range. Indiana, with their struggles lately, their pick has improved a little bit — around 26th or 27th.
“We have other picks, we could package a couple of those and move up some, but I’m not going to sit here and say that there isn’t a significant difference between picking 14th and picking 21st.”
As wide as the seven-spot gap may prove to be in finding talent on draft day, McDonough is confident that he and his staff will still get help late in the first round.
“I was fortunate enough to work for a great GM in Danny Ainge in Boston and we had great success outside the lottery picking Rajon Rondo with the 21st pick in 2006, we picked Al Jefferson with the 15th pick one year and those guys are All-Stars, or in Al’s case, right there on the cusp of it,” McDonough said.
“I feel confident in our ability to do something like that here — I’m not saying we’ll draft an All-Star — but I don’t think we necessarily need the crutch of being in the top three to five to come up with a good player. I think we can do that wherever we land in the draft.”