EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Suns, GM Jones going through ‘unique’ prep process for 2020 NBA Draft

Apr 17, 2020, 7:19 AM
Phoenix Suns general manager James Jones speaks to the media regarding the firing of Suns head coach Igor Kokoskov, Wednesday, April 24, 2019, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

(AP Photo/Matt York)

Just about everything in sports is “up in the air” right now due to the coronavirus, and the timeline of the NBA season is one of these things — particularly its offseason.

The NBA Draft Lottery is scheduled for May 19 and the draft itself is on June 25. If the season were to resume, it would be cutting it close to the draft. And then, of course, free agency starts in July.

That’s not even the main problem. Because of teams’ inability to send scouts on the road anymore and, as it stands, not host any pre-draft workouts, front offices are behind schedule.

“We haven’t been able to adhere to a typical scouting process and timeline but the evaluation, the thought that goes into our roster construction, happens year-round,” Phoenix Suns general manager James Jones said on a conference call Thursday.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that front offices agree that the draft should be pushed back at least to August.

Commissioner Adam Silver won’t make decisions on the league’s timeline until at least May 1, so for now, Jones and the Suns have to keep preparing for the draft in June until they are told otherwise.

“It’s been just unique,” Jones said. “It’s been interesting.”

“We continue over the past few months to just dig in. Been doing our homework, doing our intel, doing our deep dives via video of course on a lot of these prospects to get a better understanding of what they can provide and what they can bring and add.”

As is usually the case around this time of year when the regular season wraps up, the coaching staff has begun to sink its teeth into the draft as well.

That’s where head coach Monty Williams applauds the front office for getting everyone up to speed.

“His staff — they’ve made it so easy for us to just dive into the draft at a certain level,” he said. “We certainly don’t know these guys the way that they do but they’ve given us so much ammunition to just lock into a bunch of the guys that could be on our radar.”

Who could be on the radar? Jones answered with what he sees as the team’s needs.

“We need more playmaking, we love defenders and shooting is a priority,” he said.

“There are different ways you can look at playmaking. Playmaking can be a guard, it can also be a big that makes plays and creates extra possessions for your team. We want to be a very good shooting team. We will be a very good shooting team.”

Those are specific skills, but as always, it’s the same checkmarks Jones and his staff look for.

“We’ll be a very good execution team and that requires us to add guys with a level of maturity and grit to be able to perform in this competitive environment, he said. “That’s the one thing that we’ve been consistent with since day one is that in order for a guy to be on this roster he has to have an elite NBA skill and he has to be able to compete consistently and demonstrate that skill.

“We have our power forward position, and our point guard position has always been a position that we’ve looked to augment but there are a bunch of really good players in this draft from point guard to power forwards, centers as well. We’ll find a player that can fit with this group and embody what we’re about.”

The 2020 class has been widely criticized from a pre-draft evaluation perspective, and it’s worthy.

There is no top name that looks like a future All-NBA player, nor is there strong depth across the top-10. It’s far more of a free-for-all as to how teams will choose to rank the top 9-12 names.

Even with Jones addressing that, he said he likes the group.

“Just having a chance to really dig into it,” he said. “I’m excited about the draft. I know some people aren’t as high on the draft when it doesn’t have star power or marketing power or sexy names but I see a lot of good basketball players and that’s all we’re looking for.”

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