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.”