Suns GM Ryan McDonough: A No. 4 overall draft pick was expected
May 16, 2017, 7:52 PM | Updated: May 17, 2017, 10:09 am
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
PHOENIX – Shutting down three players, including two starters, beginning at the All-Star break put the Phoenix Suns at a disadvantage down the stretch of their season. But it was with the NBA Draft Lottery in mind where, with one exception, they would have the advantage over every team hoping to land a top-three pick.
So much for best-laid plans.
The Suns not only lost the lottery, but they dropped two spots from their pre-lottery position to No. 4.
“I know a lot of people are bummed out about the result. Obviously, we would’ve loved to be in the top two or three, but it was what I expected,” GM Ryan McDonough said.
Drafting fourth overall was actually the Suns’ highest probability of any single pick at 31.9 percent.
The top-three picks belong to the Celtics, Lakers and Sixers. The Kings round out the first five selections to be made on June 22.
“Our range was one-to-five. We got fourth and personally, I’m good with it,” McDonough said.
In the name of rest, the Suns sat Tyson Chandler and Brandon Knight in mid-February with Eric Bledsoe joining them on the bench soon after. As a result, the Suns closed the season 6-19 and winning only twice in their final 16 games.
Overall, the Suns finished 24-58, the second-worst record in the NBA, thus earning them the second-best odds, 19.9 percent, at the No. 1 overall pick and a 55.8 percent probability of landing in the top three.
The Suns were guaranteed no worse than a top-five pick.
“We don’t have any regrets,” McDonough said, “but, yeah, we obviously hope we’re not in that position and I think that will be a good motivating factor for all of us, players, coaches, staff to make sure we’re not in that position again; and hopefully we’re competing for the playoffs a year from now.”
Fourth overall is where the Suns drafted forward Dragan Bender a year ago.
With Washington point guard Markelle Fultz and UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball expected to go first and second, the Suns are likely looking at a draft prospect list that includes Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox, Kansas forward Josh Jackson and Duke forward Jayson Tatum, among others.
“This isn’t a two- or three-player draft,” McDonough said. “There’s not a huge drop-off in my opinion after one, two, three. I think it’s pretty even in the top five or six, maybe even top six to eight, so I think we’ll have a number of good players to choose from at four, and I think we’ll get somebody really talented to add to our young core.”
McDonough called it unlikely that they would trade the No. 4 pick.
“We’ll receive more calls than we make on it,” he said. “I think there will be a good amount of interest … but I feel very comfortable with where we are, and I think we’re going to get a really good player at No. 4.”
For the second straight year, guard Devin Booker represented the Suns at the lottery. He was joined by 11-year-old Suns fan and Special Olympian Noah Smith. And in a nod to the upcoming 50th anniversary of the franchise in 2017-18, Dick Van Arsdale, “The Original Sun”, was also in attendance at the New York Hilton Midtown.
The Suns have only drafted in the top four on six occasions previously, taking Bender fourth overall in 2016, Armen Gilliam second in 1987, Alvan Adams fourth in 1975, John Shumate fourth in 1974, Corky Calhoun fourth in 1972 and Neal Walk second in 1969.
Never in the franchise’s history have the Suns drafted No. 1.
“The draft to me is important for one day. On that day it will be important and then the next day it won’t matter. About a week after the day we’ll start to practice here in Phoenix and then head up to Las Vegas for Summer League. Your draft position at that point goes out the window and it depends just who the best players are. That’s how we view it,” McDonough said.
“I feel very confident we’ll get a good player at four. I’m excited to go through the process over the next month or and go through the workouts and kind of see who is available there.”
— Pre-draft workouts are expected to begin by the end of the month.
The NBA allows teams two visits with draft prospects, one for 24 hours and another lasting 48.
“We may try to maximize those in terms of going to visit a guy in his hometown or where he’s working out for say 24-48 hours and then bringing him here to Phoenix for the other visit,” McDonough said.
— Part of the pre-draft visits will include current Suns players spending time with prospects to see how they fit, not so much on the court but off.
“As you guys know, we really placed an emphasis on character and culture, so we want to see how the guys mesh with the rest of our group,” McDonough said.
It’s something Booker brought up late last week as he expressed the desire to be more involved in the process.
“We have a number of our players who are young enough (that) they know a lot of these players in the draft. We have that ability to gather information and intel kind of peer-to-peer, player-to-player that other teams may not have,” McDonough said.
— Point guard Tyler Ulis’ recent ankle surgery “was more of a precautionary, preventive long-term thing than any acute injury,” according to McDonough.
Though he was named Rookie of the Month for April, Ulis carried a heavy workload with Bledsoe, Knight and then Leandro Barbosa sidelined. Those minutes took a toll.
“He’s most likely out for Summer League,” McDonough said. “We’re looking at about a three-month rehab. We think by some point in August he’ll be back on the court able to play five-on-five and then will be fully cleared for training camp.”