A look back at the top-10 Suns picks in the Ryan McDonough era

Jul 4, 2019, 2:03 PM
From left to right, Phoenix Suns' second-round draft pick Tyler Ulis and first-round draft picks Dr...
From left to right, Phoenix Suns' second-round draft pick Tyler Ulis and first-round draft picks Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss are introduced to the media, Friday, June 24, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
(AP Photo/Matt York)

As the Phoenix Suns front office continues its overhaul of the Ryan McDonough-era roster, one of the final draft picks from the former general manager has reportedly been moved.

The trade of Josh Jackson to the Memphis Grizzlies leaves just one of McDonough’s top-10 draft selections.

This deal, which was reported Wednesday by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, swaps Jackson, De’Anthony Melton and two second-round picks for Kyle Korver and Jevon Carter. The Suns plan to buy out Korver’s contract if he cannot be traded, according to 98.7 FM Arizona Sport’s Station’s John Gambadoro.

The remaining top-10 draft pick is Deandre Ayton, selected No. 1 in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Gambadoro said the Suns are not expected to bring back Dragan Bender, whose fourth-year option was declined by the team in October.

In descending chronological order, here’s an overview of the other top selections.

Josh Jackson, No. 4 pick in 2017 draft

Jackson, reportedly traded to the Grizzlies, started 35 games as a rookie and averaged 13.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game on 41.7% shooting from the field while shooting 26.3% from behind the arc.

He showed improvement the second half of the 2017 season, though, increasing his scoring to 17.2 points and 44% shooting beginning in January.

However, that growth was not carried over into the second season. Often aggressive and erratic as he attacked the rim, Jackson’s turnover numbers increased and he started just 29 games.

That, with a string of off-court issues including a charge of resisting arrest at a music festival, missing a public appearance at a grocery story and being accused of exposing his 4-month-old child to marijuana, according to court documents, led to his departure.

Dragan Bender, No. 4 pick in 2016 draft

The Suns declined Bender’s fourth-year option in October and are unexpected to sign him now that the power forward rotation is expected to include Dario Saric and Frank Kaminsky.

Bender was inconsistent for the Suns over his three years.

At times he showed intelligent play, good passing and strong defense. Other times, he looked hesitant to shoot and was unable to bang with true bigs down low.

The forward fell out of the rotation for part of last season and finished the year averaging five points, four rebounds and 1.2 assists in 46 games and 27 starts.

Marquese Chriss, No. 8 pick in 2016 draft

The Suns acquired Chriss via a draft night trade with the Sacramento Kings in exchange for picks No. 13 (Georgios Papagiannis) and 28 (Skal Labissiere), the rights to Bogdan Bogdanovic (Suns’ 2014 No. 27 draft pick) and a 2020 second-round pick.

Chriss was a raw player with gobs of athleticism for Phoenix. He joined Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James as the only players to record 100 blocks, steals and 3-pointers before turning 21, but those number don’t tell the story of his play.

Chriss never lived up to his potential. He was inaccurate from long-range, arrived to sophomore training camp out of shape, got into a verbal altercation with a strength coach and had 22 technical fouls over his final two years with Phoenix.

He was dealt to the Houston Rockets, where he played just 16 of 54 games before being traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers. As of Thursday afternoon he is a free agent.

Alex Len, No. 5 pick in 2013 draft

McDonough was faced with a tough task for his first NBA Draft. The 2013 draft class was full of uncertainties and there was no clear No. 1 pick in the days leading up to it.

The Suns went with Ukranian center Alex Len, who played five seasons with Phoenix. He showed some flashes of strong low-post play on both sides of the ball — over a 10-game span in March and April 2017, he averaged 10.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks — but he could not put that together consistently.

When Phoenix drafted Ayton, Len’s time was officially over. He signed with the Atlanta Hawks and averaged 11.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and 0.9 blocks in 20.1 minutes per game.

Present day

Few picks from McDonough era remain on the Suns roster. Devin Booker, picked No. 13 pick in 2015, goes down as McDonough’s best selection.

Elie Okobo was selected No. 31 in the 2018 draft, but his role on the roster appears to be uncertain since Suns agreed to a contract with point guard Ricky Rubio, drafted Ty Jerome at No. 24 in the 2019 draft and traded for Jevon Carter.

Ayton is the other McDonough-era draft selection who remains.

Mikal Bridges, drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers, was traded to Phoenix on draft day in 2018. The circumstances are different than the Chriss selection: The Kings drafted Chriss for Phoenix, while the 76ers did not agree to a Bridges trade until after they had selected him No. 10.

While Bridges is not technically a Suns draft pick, it’s worth noting.

As James Jones dives further into his first offseason as Suns general manager, he is clearing out relics of the previous tenure he does not believe fit into his vision.

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A look back at the top-10 Suns picks in the Ryan McDonough era