PHOENIX — With Thursday’s collection of NBA prospects, the Phoenix Suns concluded a three-week run of pre-draft workouts.
Eighty players visited, passing through the door and walking down the steps leading to the practice court at US Airways Center, each with a singular goal: To impress the decision makers who on June 25 will change two of their lives forever.
The Suns own both a first-round (No. 13) and second-round (No. 44) pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.
“We wanted to (hold draft workouts) early for a couple of reasons,” general manager Ryan McDonough said. “One, the guys are fresh. It’s a grueling process and the more flights they get on, the more hotels they check in and out of, the more cities they’re in, the exhaustion rate goes up, the chance of injury goes up, so that was part of it.
“And also, it’s a big year for us in free agency (which starts July 1). We want to respect the draft process and have a thorough process, but we also want to spend the proper amount of time of preparing for free agents, free agency, working on any potential trades.
“We’re preparing for both simultaneously and I feel like we’ll be well-prepared when the draft and free agency come around.”
The final group — the 13th since May 26 — included expected second-round hopefuls in Iowa State senior guard Bryce Dejean-Jones, Boise State senior guard Derrick Marks, Arkansas junior guard Michael Qualls, Stanford senior guard Chasson Randle and Oklahoma senior forward TaShawn Thomas plus international talent in center Mohammadou Jaiteh (France) and guard Mateusz Ponitka (Poland).
Jaiteh worked out for the Suns prior to the 2013 NBA Draft before withdrawing his name from consideration. Ponitka, meanwhile, joined the workout late after Qualls was unable to continue after getting hurt, which he described as a “little bump…nothing serious” and unrelated to the hip injury he suffered at the combine.
With regards to their first-round pick, a lottery selection for the fifth straight year, the Suns brought in a number of candidates covering every position on the floor, point guard (Notre Dame senior Jerian Grant), shooting guard (Kentucky freshman Devin Booker and UNLV freshman Rashad Vaughn), small forward (Wisconsin junior Sam Dekker and Kansas freshman Kelly Oubre), power forward (Louisville junior Montrezl Harrell, Kentucky freshman Trey Lyles and Arkansas sophomore Bobby Portis) and center (Wisconsin senior Frank Kaminsky).
“I feel good about where we are,” McDonough said. “There were a lot of good players who came in here. Some of them may be gone when we’re picking at 13; I think a lot of them will still be there.”
A few names the Suns did not or were not able to bring in for a workout that may fall in the late-lottery range — depending on which mock draft is studied — were Kentucky freshman center Willie Cauley-Stein, Murray State sophomore Cameron Payne and Texas freshman center Myles Turner.
“There are a few guys that we’re interested in that we haven’t been able to get in for workouts,” McDonough said without naming names. “We’ll keep evaluating them on film and look at their stats and into their background and continue to go through the process. We’re going to have good options.”
Those options also include, according to McDonough, trading down or completely out of the first round entirely, though both sound unlikely.
“Where we stand today is that we’re very comfortable staying there and picking there. I think it would have to take a really good offer for us to move the pick,” he said. “As I mentioned before, I think it’s unlikely we’d add an additional first round pick this year or drop down in the draft. Obviously, we’d take those calls if they come to us, but we’re comfortable with where we are at 13. We like the pool of players we think will be there, so that’s the plan as of today.”
The Suns will spend the next two weeks reevaluating their prospect lists, meeting with scouts, going over film and player interviews, both from the workouts and combine, and listen should another team pick up the phone and call.
“Usually those conversations aren’t very productive two weeks before the draft, but on draft night or closer to the draft they get a little more serious, a little more intense,” McDonough said. “We’re really open to anything, but we’re happy with the guys who came in and competed.”