Phoenix Suns GM Ryan McDonough: We’ve upgraded our roster

Aug 1, 2016, 2:02 PM | Updated: 8:13 pm
From left to right, Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough, second-round draft pick Tyler Ulis...
From left to right, Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough, second-round draft pick Tyler Ulis, first round draft picks Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss and head coach Earl Watson speak to the media, Friday, June 24, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
(AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX — Offseason is a misnomer in professional sports. These days it’s a year-round business.

That includes the NBA.

From the regular season to the postseason to the draft, free agency and Summer League, there is not much down time.

August, though, offers a bit of a reprieve.

Historically, the month prior to training camp is a relatively quiet one; much of the heavy lifting in terms of roster construction has already been completed.

Count the Phoenix Suns among those teams done building, at least for the immediate future.

“We think we’ve upgraded our talent,” GM Ryan McDonough said. “We think we have a good blend of veteran guys who have winning experience like Leandro Barbosa and Jared Dudley…and then we have some talented younger guys who are probably more in the developmental stages, but I think they showed some flashes in (Summer League) of what they can do.”

All three draft picks performed well in Las Vegas.

Both first-round selections, forwards Dragan Bender (No. 4) and Marquese Chriss (No. 8), flashed their respective big-man skills, while showing great instincts defensively. Second-round pick, guard Tyler Ulis (No. 34), turned heads and gave pause to the thoughts of him spending much of his rookie season with the Suns’ NBA Development League team in Prescott after performing well enough to be named Second Team All-NBA Summer League.

The Suns placed a pair of players on the two all-tournament teams, making them the only club with multiple players.

Center Alan Williams earned first team honors, leading the league in rebounding (11.2) and averaging 11.8 points per game. He recorded double-doubles in four of the six games, adding non-stop effort and energy during the Suns’ run to the semifinals.

“Alan is the ultimate team guy. There’s a very good chance he’s on our roster next year,” McDonough said. “Of all the guys on our roster he’s probably the most popular teammate. What I mean by that is everybody loves Alan. They like him because he’s the first one to cheer on the bench when things on the court go well; he’s the first one to pick somebody up when maybe a guy is struggling.”

Williams, who appeared in 10 games after signing March 8 last season, is owed $874,636 if on the 2016 roster Sept. 1.

Counting Williams, the three draft picks and the free-agent additions of Barbosa and Dudley, the Suns have 15 players under contract for next season; though guard John Jenkins’ deal ($1.05 million) is not fully guaranteed.

NBA teams can carry a maximum of 15 players during the regular season.

“We’re comfortable with our roster, but at the same time there are some guys who either played well in summer league or that we’re probably a little surprised are still available in free agency that we’re looking at,” McDonough said.

“We still have over $13 million in salary cap space to play with. But, just because we have it doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll spend it. We feel like we’ve upgraded our roster. We like the roster balance positionally.”

As it reads right now, the Suns have seven guards, five forwards and three centers on the roster.

Whether those players are good enough to end a franchise-long six-year playoff absence, the third-longest active streak of non-playoff seasons, remains to be seen. A recent Forecast of the 2016-17 Western Conference standings placed the Suns 14th among the 15 teams, winning 26 games, representing only a three-game improvement from the season prior.

“We don’t see any gaping holes in the roster,” McDonough said, “but at the same time we’ll go through the process and see if there’s one or two more guys — I don’t think it’d would be more than that — but one or two guys that we potentially want to bring to training camp.”

The Suns will once again hold training camp in Flagstaff with players due to report Sept. 26.

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