Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Even with the core's chemistry, stagnation won't stall Suns


PHOENIX — From Day 1, Suns general manager Ryan McDonough has been open about his plan. Draft picks will help promote growth from within, yet he’ll pull the trigger on bringing in a veteran star if the pieces fit.

While the Suns’ chemistry this year made it hard to imagine the front office reshuffling the roster to a great degree, the Suns certainly don’t want anything to stagnate.

The warning signs of sitting pretty despite any amount of success came Saturday, a day after McDonough, president of basketball ops Lon Babby and coach Jeff Hornacek held their season-ending press conference. It came from the NBA playoffs, where best team in the Eastern Conference, the Indiana Pacers, fell to the Atlanta Hawks in the first game of their playoff series. The Pacers’ early success certainly has seen chemistry issues bubble to the surface in recent weeks.

So how does that relate in Phoenix?

McDonough said that while the Suns have the option bring back the same squad that won 48 games in 2013-14 by picking up player options and extending current players, there will surely be changes.

The expectation is that this summer might be busier than adding draft picks and attempting to bring Eric Bledsoe back. And about those three draft picks this summer:

“I think it’s unlikely we bring in three rookies to the Suns next year,” said the Suns general manager.

McDonough doesn’t like doubling up at the same positions in a draft, and considering the growing pieces already in place — the Morris twins, Miles Plumlee and the two rookies — there won’t be much room for rookie development. Salary-wise, rookie-scale contracts for the Suns’ three picks in 2014-15 would range from $930,000 to $1.6 million, so adding three players even on such deals would hinder the cap space available, which will be significantly tighter if the Suns re-sign Bledsoe as expected.

So the Suns will likely search for trade partners to hit a blockbuster deal this summer. Easier said than done. If that doesn’t happen, Phoenix could use the multiple picks to trade up in the draft, draft and stash players overseas, or even trade a pick for a future first-rounder, according to McDonough.

With so many options, the initial question to ask might first point to the risks in ruffling up a roster that had the self-described chemistry of a high school team. President of basketball operations Lon Babby took the high school metaphor a step further.

“The sum was greater than the parts this year, but circumstances change,” Babby said. “Contracts change. Players want to demonstrate that they’ve improved. It’s just, I always say, it’s like another school year. You come back, your friends are a little different.

“We’re not going to delude ourselves into thinking that when we come back in October we’re picking up where we left yesterday,” Babby added. “We went through our exit interviews yesterday, the three of us with all of our players. Despite my powers of cross-examination, we couldn’t ferret out any complaints. The likelihood that would be the same next year, not very high. It’s just human nature.”

  • EBJM

    “We’re not going to delude ourselves into thinking that when we come back in October we’re picking up where we left yesterday,” Babby added.

    Excellent insight!

  • Ellensburgbballfan

    The Suns plan for next year is

    We are only keeping one rookie from our 4 draft picks

    the 2nd rounder will be a draft and stash guy

    i see us trading our 3 picks and getting up in the draft

    maybe we dont even have a rookie if we instead go for a vet

    we bring back Bledsoe and Frye, Frye at a reduced deal

    We give Goodwin and Len quality minutes, about 25 minutes a game

    we get a SF for the future to replace PJ Tucker

    the Suns know that if Bledsoe would have been healthy the whole season, we would be in the playoffs right now

    The Suns will shuffle some cards in the deck, but i dont see them trading any of the core of Dragic, Len, Goodwin, and Bledsoe unless a cant miss trade offer came around

    I just want us to play the draft well, and get the best possible guy either at PF or SF

    we center, PG, and SG pretty much locked up for the foreseeable future

    even if Bledsoe leaves, Goodwin could replace him, ect

    I cant wait to see what McMiracle does

  • Dr. Zoidberg

    After Indiana lost tonight I was wondering if they happened to lose the series if they might shake things up. They may be willing to part with Hibbert for some draft picks and say Alex len. Didn’t look into any details seriously. Even tho he’s a bit of a lane clogger, I couldn’t help but think he might look better with better pick and roll players like dragic and Bledsoe. Just putting my random thoughts out there

  • EBJM

    He probably would and that is why the Clippers were offering Bledsoe to the Pacers for Danny Granger. To make the numbers work, the Clippers needed to send Caron Butler also.

    McD jumped in and made the tree-way deal instead.

    It would seem the Pacers might find it easier to obtain a true PG instead of moving Big Roy. But who knows, the Hawks just killed them behind PG Jeff Teague.

    If the Pacers get upset in the 1st rd the most obvious player to be moved would seem to be free-agent Lance Stephenson.

    I think Larry Bird had some interest in moving Granger and Stephenson for Rajon Rondo earlier in the year. Bird and Ainge are old friends.

    Who knows? The ESPN trade machine says a Frye and Len swap for Hibbert works financially.

  • BCrayZ

    Suns have a secret weapon.

    Ryan knows it. Talking about our “Blur.” Ryan has signed him as a free agent twice.

    Once on a Celtics team, just last year, that had Jet Terry playing the 6th man role. When Avery Bradley went down, Jet moved into a starter role & Doc Rivers hand was forced to giving more playing time to “The Blur.” What was the result? He turned a poor Celtics team around, leading them to a 8-1 record when in the regular rotation, until he was hurt. With LB out for the rest of the year with a torn ACL, Boston fell apart at the end of the year. This year, it was the Suns falling apart without Eric. This year, Ryan calls the shots for the Suns. Having rehabbed the ACL tear, he was beginning to play in Brazil, when Ryan brought him back. Again, he has proved his worth & willingness to play practically for free. Gogi, Frye & now a whole new bunch of other guys on this new team love playing with him & he seems to elevate the level of play for those around him just as much in the NBA as he does in the international games for Brazil’s national team. This should be an easy layup for Ryan & a win/win for Barbosa & the Suns. Will it happen? Only Ryan knows. Make it so Ryan.

    MUST re-sign LB. Let’s go SUNS!!!!

  • EBJM

    MUST play Goodwin. Lets go SUNS!!!

    OUT with the OLD!!!!

    IN with the NEW!!!!

    Make it so Ryan!!!!!

  • DBreezy

    Teams don’t often intentionally tank first round picks, so I’m not sure the Suns waste one of their first rounders on an international guy unless it’s a really young guy. It’s another by product of the system that Stern and Silver created. Just like it isn’t financially wise for solid prospects to stay in college any longer than they have too, it’s not financially wise for strong foreign players to stay in the draft if they’re not going to go in the very top part of the lottery or slip to the 2nd round.

    Unless they’re very young, most of these guys can sign more lucrative contracts overseas than their NBA rookie deals with more playing time guaranteed unless we’re talking top of the lottery. No one towards the back half of the lottery is guaranteed playing time. Even though he wants a trade, I can’t see McD wasting a first round pick on a stash player if he doesn’t get the deal he wants. Those players aren’t assets to the team on the floor or in trade so why bother?

    I’m sure McD would prefer not to double up on positions with rookie or first year players, but in the end I think he takes whatever gives the Suns the best assets. When you look at the most favorable star trade situations around the league, I think they differ considerably from what occurred with the Harden trade. Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving are probably the most available stars in trade although how interested the Cavs and Wolves are remains to be seen. Ignoring the fact that Irving plays a position of strength for the Suns, both players mean more directly to their current franchise than Harden did to OKC. Regardless of what they did, OKC still has Durant and Westbrook, the Cavs and Wolves will have nothing comparable. Iow they will want more than what the Thunder got, especially with the league feeling being that the trade want worth it for the Thunder. That’s a hard deal to negotiate/swallow for either side so expect more ESPN breaking news talk than actual deals.

  • DBreezy

    While I still believe McD and crew are mostly just taking dreams and feel good stuff after a strong season, philosophically what’s wrong with bringing in 3 rookies to a potential playoff team in today’s NBA? The Thunder have made an art of it which is sound financially under this cba. Most of their core are the same age with a steady stream of youth coming in each year. They added vets selectively and for the most part affordable: Fisher, Perkins, Mohammed. The Warriors added Iggy and Bogut who are a bit older than their core guys, but they’ve also kept a steady stream of younger guys coming in to a playoff team.

  • bill_thomas

    Playoff basketball is completely different. I was at Clippers-Warriers earlier today In the second row.

    There’s absolutely no room to move, for one thing.
    Neither team was running any good pick and roll.

    Absolutely no room between players.

    This team needs to get A LOT TOUGHER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • bill_thomas

    Really tough situation vis a vis Eric Bledsoe.

    The pony don’t give up anything positive.

  • bill_thomas

    @EBJM: Frye, Len and Hibbert can eat bacon anywhere. I assume the PHX bacon is as good as Indy bacon and so forth.

  • EBJM

    DBreezy, the Bulls are another reason the Suns should use all three picks barring a great trade. Gibson #26, Butler #30, their starting PF and SG next season and Tony Snell #20 who is their back-up SF who might even start if the Bulls don’t land that star player.

    Erik Murphy at #49 who was waived to get below the tax threshold.

    Then they have two more 1st rd picks coming in this draft.

  • Russell’s Suns

    @EBJM, what is #26, #30, #20? ???? Are those uniform numbers?

    The Suns hold the #14, #18, #28 picks as of right now unless that #14 pick lands in the top 3 lottery by some miracle.

    As for your trade, it has to be one of the worst trades in NBA history. Not only do the Suns play in the West where top teams score 105-110 points a game. You want Phx to give up 3 premier draft picks in a deep draft for role players? Are you high?

    Butler is one of the worst starting offensive player in the NBA he wouldn’t be a starter if he didn’t play int he bulls system which rewards defense over offense and the fact that in the East 95pts can win you a game. He has no value other then #7 or #8 player off the bench in the West. Gibson? Are you kidding me, we already have his clone is Markieff Morris.

    The trade you proposed is one I would expect from the last GM, there is no way McD packages those 3 picks for anything less than a star player. Either that or they will trade the 3 picks to move in to the top 10. I can easily see a team trading their 8th or 9th pick to get the 14th, 18th and 28th pick in the draft.

  • EBJM

    Russell are you high? What the heck are you talking about? Those numbers are where they were selected in the draft.

    What trade? Where do you read trade in my post?

    DBreezy was talking about McD using all of his draft picks this year and provided examples on why. I added the Bulls as an example of why the Suns should use all of their picks.

    Role players? The Bulls finished one spot ahead of the Suns and are in the playoffs. Taj Gibson is a very good PFs and he closes out their games while Boozer sits. Once they dump Boozer he will also start.

    Jimmy Butler is a premier defensive SG. Both of them are penciled in as starters along with Noah and Rose and if they acquire Carmelo they are projected as contenders.

    Have you even seen Tony Snell play? A more consistent, smarter, and in control Gerald Green.

    The POINT of my post is there are GREAT talents to be found with late picks. Taj and Markieff might have a similar skill set BUT Taj was taken at #26 while Markieff at #13.

    Butler might not have much of a shot yet but he does have a PER of 13.5 and was taken #30. Similar to Goodwin who was taken #29 and currently is a worse offensive player and in very limited minutes only has a PER of 10.3.

    Next time smoke the blunt AFTER you read and comment here.

    How could any minimally educated person infer such non-existent nonsense from my post is mind-boggling.

  • Ellensburgbballfan

    I wasnt saying that the Suns should draft a draft-and-stash guy, i was just saying, from what McD has said in interviews thats probably what they will do

    Theres just no way we can develop Len, Goodwin, and 3 rookies while also making the playoffs

    maybe in the pathetic east, but not the west

  • JK

    The only free agent that I’d be keen on signing in the offseason is Pau Gasol if he could be had at a reasonable price and a short-term contract. He would certainly help the development of Alex Len, and he would provide us with the low post scoring that was non-existent in the Suns’ offense this year. Other than that, I would try to orchestrate a trade for Kevin Love or Thaddeus Young to improve the 4 position. It will be interesting to see what McDonough has planned for the offseason, and I’m sure he’s going to continue to work his magic like how he did during the previous offseason.

  • Russell’s Suns

    @EBJM My apologies I did not know what you meant by those numbers.

    Regardless, those are eastern players, winning 48 games in the East is = winning about 40 games in a western schedule. The Bulls get most of their wins against the East 35-17 against Eastern teams and 13-17 against the West. Guys like Gibson and Butler get exposed against western teams as nothing more than bench players starting for an East team.

    Taj Gibson and Butler are effective against an eastern schedule throughout an 82 game season. However no top 5 team in the West would plug in Butler and Taj gibson in their starting line up over the players that they have now.

    They are nice little players but they are not who McD is looking for.

  • Lloyd I. Cadle

    Kevin Love can opt out after this year. The Wolves know that he will not re-sign with them.

    It seems like almost every time that the teams that have a star ready to leave and they wait until the trading deadline to make a deal, they get very little value in return.

    It would behoove the Wolves to make a deal with the Suns before the draft. The Suns can offer a better package of players and picks than any other team. But if the Wolves wait too long (the trading deadline), they will receive very little in return.

    If they cannot land Love, go for Gasol. You will then address low post passing and scoring and be better against teams that play half court basketball.

    In getting Gasol, you give nothing up (except salary), and you get to keep Plumlee for now and the future and develop Len and his great potential for the future. Plus, you keep your draft picks.

    Gasol would be elated and rejuvenated to leave Kobe and the mess that has become Lakers basketball (the Raiders of the NBA).

    Dan Bickley of the Republic says today that the Suns should quickly sign Bledsoe and then make a play for his pal – Lebron James.

    Great stuff!

  • Luka

    Frye, and a first round pick to Philadelphia for Young would work.

  • DBreezy

    It’s no secret what McD wants to do, but it remains to be seen if an appropriate deal is out there to be made. If there were odds on it, I’m guessing they wouldn’t be in the Suns favor given their current assets and the market. Not saying McMiracle can’t pull it off, just that I would have a plan B and C which I’m sure he does.

    As part of those plans, personally I would take all 3 picks if a quality deal doesn’t present itself by draft night. It gives them more assets going into the offseason and free agency/trades and more importantly it reflects the reality of the new NBA cba. Previously it made sense for a rising team like the Suns to eschew add more young players in favor of using that money on veteran players as the effects of going into the luxury tax were almost purely financial. Now the effects are even greater financially and they also limit your roster flexibility-possibly for years depending on what clauses you trigger.

    That has resulted in a much greater premium being placed on rookies with inexpensive deals and vets on short, cheap deals around a core of more expensive players. The Spurs, and the Thunder each represent both sides of this.

    Unless we’re talking blockbuster trade or franchise free agent, for the Suns you’re basically talking about adding role player veterans or role player rookies. I’d opt for the latter. It’s still a young team and it needs more talent as McD recently said and there’s more upside in the rookies if you draft well. Vets pretty much are what they are when you sign then and the trend is to get them on short deals. This is because teams aren’t throwing big MLE money anymore, so guys are taking the highest number they can get on a one year deal or a two year deal with a player option.

    Personally I’d rather trust a good front office to get me some more solid players to develop rather than rent say a Gasol or a Brand for a year or two. This isn’t even a playoff team yet and contention will likely require a year or two of postseason disappointment before they actually become contenders. This is especially true in the West where you not only have to look up at today’s playoff squads, but back at some pretty good squads nipping at your heels. So today’s rooks will likely be 2nd or 3rd year players by the time the team is a contender. Where will a Gasol or Brand type be by then?

    This isn’t to say that I think McD shouldn’t be burning the phone lines up for good superstar or draft trades, he absolutely should be. Failing that though, add some more young guys and get back to work. It just seems like the smart thing to do as an organization under this cba unless you can land a sure fire thing.

  • DBreezy

    I think the problem with going after Love and Irving for that matter as well is that their franchises aren’t in the position that OKC was with Harden. While you can argue that losing Harden cost the Thundee a second straight finals appearance last season and may cost them a chip in the future, you can’t say that it took them out of contender status as they still has Durant and Westbrook. It’s like when the Suns lost JJ but still had Nash, Matrix and Stat.

    If the Wolves or Cavs trade their guys they have no one to fall back on. So they’re going to want the world or they’re likely to ride it out. The Thunder could take back a package centered around Lamb and picks. What does that do for the Cavs or the Wolves unless they’re top 3 picks in a great draft?

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    Not all rookies need to be “developed” at the same rate.
    The One & Done guys, despite their potential, are rarely ready for the rigors of the NBA.

    Meanwhile, 4 year players are often under-valued….such as Chandler Parsons, who despite being the SEC Player of the Year, lasted into the 2nd round of the 2011 NBA Draft.
    Parsons is now an integral part of an elite squad.

    This year, the 2 main candidates with 4 yrs college experience are Doug McDermott from Creighton, merely the Consensus Player of the Year and Cleananthony Early, the 6’8″ 23 yr old forward who led Wichita St. to a 62-7 record over the last 2 years.

    I think the Suns take McDermott if he is there at #14 with Early a distinct possibility if McDermott is off the board.
    Both of these players are further along in their careers than either Len or Goodwin…..McDermott especially (imo) would transition smoothly into the Suns rotation.

  • GoSuns

    I really hope we give a long hard look at McDermott

  • DBreezy

    I know the draft order isn’t set yet and that any lottery squad could move up or down, but I have McDermott going earlier than the Suns pick right now. I know they’re waiting on a new GM, but Detroit seems like a good fit for him. He can play that stretch 4 spot for them and solve a lot of issues for them in the front court. Smith can play the 3 or 4 defensively but is a nightmare at the 3 on offense, especially when paired with guys like Monroe and Drummond. McDermott can allow them to move Smith off the perimeter on offense and put them in the drivers seat on how they handle the Monroe rfa.

  • Foreveris2long

    Hawki, DBreezy, I was reading the other day, Monroe’s agent is looking for a max deal for him, which could force Detroit’s hand to secure another small forward like McDermott.

    I absolutely agree D”Breezy he would be a better fit with Drummond and Smith than Monroe is. I definitely agree Hawki all rookies do not need the same level of development. I am also glad you mentioned Early from Witchita State, who I think will be a very good small forward at the next level. He would be a nice acquisition for the Suns with one of their top 20 picks. I definitely like him over Robinson from Michigan and Paeyne from Michigan State.

  • BUTLER

    Thanks Dave for the breakdown on the SUNS’ prospects.

    We’ve seen how Hornacek can light a fire under his playas. I’d rather see more young talent come his way. Do it cheap and wait for the right star who can be lured into Phoenix for the right deal.