Jun 26, 2014; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Tyler Ennis (Syracuse) shakes hands with NBA commissioner Adam Silver after being selected as the number eighteen overall pick to the Phoenix Suns in the 2014 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Takeaways from the Suns' 2014 NBA Draft

PHOENIX — Just as it seemingly became somewhat clear what the Phoenix Suns would do in the 2014 NBA Draft, it all came undone. At least, that’s how it’ll appear for reporters and fans who expected to know, in some generalities, what general manager Ryan McDonough and crew were about to do.

The Suns did take a wing, as expected. And unless there’s a major shakeup on the current roster or a major surprise by one of four rookies drafted, Phoenix won’t be bringing three rookies onto the roster next season. As expected.

The selections of T.J. Warren (14th pick), Tyler Ennis (18), Bogdan Bogdanovic (27) and Alec Brown (50) were surprising for a number of reasons, but if we accept that we didn’t know anything about what the Phoenix big board looked like — because nobody apparently did — it makes a bit of sense.

“I feel like in the draft with our four picks we got a blend of everything,” McDonough said. “We got some scoring, we got some shooting, we got some playmaking, we got a proven winner and one of the top players in Europe, and we feel like it was a great night.”

There was no trade

Going into the draft, I wrote that the Suns would very likely make a trade. That didn’t happen, but it means that the night was possibly not so stressful for McDonough and coach Jeff Hornacek. It was especially easy on president of basketball operations Lon Babby, who this year had no need to step up to the microphone to discuss any CBA minuatie.

“Sometimes you have to move or give up a lot; give up future pick, give up players to get exactly what you want. We didn’t have to do any of that,” McDonough said.

One of the few scenarios where a trade wouldn’t happen for Phoenix would include the Suns drafting and stashing two of their picks, and that is likely to happen. Bogdanovic is a year or two away from joining the Suns, McDonough said, while a brief discussion after the draft with Brown’s agent, Bill Duffy, leads the team to believe the Green Bay stretch center is likely headed overseas. McDonough said the Suns would like Brown to play for the Summer League squad, but nothing is set in stone as of draft night.

Another reason for the lack of movement was the Suns’ targets falling into their lap.

Phoenix quietly worked out Warren twice and promised him they would select him. It’s obvious McDonough would say so, but he added that both Warren and Ennis were rating higher on their boards than where they were selected. In fact, it’s possible the Suns had Ennis high enough where they would have selected him 14th if Warren — and potentially others — weren’t on the board.

“We talked some about packaging picks to move up, but as the draft was kind of unfolding – obviously those are tough calls and you don’t know how it’s going to go – but we were confident that at least one of those guys was going to be there at 14 and we felt good about it,” McDonough said. “When we took T.J. and Tyler was still there at 18, we were ecstatic about that.”

Something different

Tyler Ennis is a pure point guard on a roster generally considered to be positionless. McDonough is even slow to label Dragic and Bledsoe as point guards, but in keeping with the Suns’ philosophy of taking the player they think will have the best career, Ennis was the selection.

“I think that’s something that really caught the front office and the coaching staff’s eye is I’m a pure point guard, pass-first guy who is able to come in and make others better,” Ennis said on a phone call from New York.

McDonough, like in his post-workout media session after Ennis’ workout, went back to the tape.

“If you look at his numbers in close and late games, they were terrific, like, unbelievably good, what he did down the stretch of games with the game on the line,” the general manager said. “When he needed a shot to win or tie the game, or needed to make a play to bring the team back, he did it at a remarkable rate. That’s pretty rare for a 19-year-old freshman.

“I think at one time Syracuse was 25-0 and the number one ranked team in the country, and I thought he was clearly the best player on that team,” McDonough added. “For a young freshman point guard just to be able to step in that role and lead a group of older guys and win a lot of guys, I think that shows a lot of maturity and a lot of talent.”

Question the picks all you want; don’t question the process

Suns fans who didn’t like the first two picks by Phoenix have a right to be unhappy. If they didn’t like the talents, so be it — time will confirm the opinion or quell the worry.

But don’t question Phoenix’s process.

Warren’s case is interesting. He’s a talented scorer without a jumper, and that seemingly doesn’t fit into the plans right away. Ideally, a shooter fits best alongside a squad led by Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, and both Rodney Hood and James Young were available.

But the Suns ultimately believe they can’t teach Young and Hood how to attack the rim and score so naturally. They can, however, teach Warren how to shoot.

Another note: there’s a reason why it seemed odd that many had Adreian Payne going 14th to Phoenix. Simply put, certain talent evaluators don’t see him as a high-upside prospect. While he indeed fits into the system as a stretch 4, neither he nor college teammate Gary Harris have the upside of Warren or Ennis. Such is why Harris fell a pick below Ennis.

“What we’ll never do is take a guy who might just be a little more ready, potentially a little better in the short-term and then have the other guy zoom by him and … two, three, four years from now sit here and say, ‘Shoot, why did we do that?’” McDonough said.

It’s OK to question whether Warren and Ennis will be as good or better than either Michigan State Spartan, but it’s borderline denial to say it’s unclear where the Suns are coming from.

It all comes down to the big board.

Bogi and Gogi?

Guard Bogdan Bogdanovic has already made quite a name for himself overseas and could be added insurance to the guard depth in the next few years. McDonough, addressing Ennis’ situation in a deep backcourt, said the Suns want to make sure they always have a reserve of ball handlers. Down the line, the 6-foot-6, 22-year-old could be a necessity.

“We expect him to and anticipate he’ll return to Europe and play for Partizan in Serbia,” McDonough said. “He’ll continue there, we’ll retain his rights. We’ll be very interested in his development. We’ll send scouts over and maybe coaches over to work with him and make sure we’re tracking his progress. But we feel like he’s a guy who has a good chance to be an NBA rotation player at some point down the road.”

And if you want to get a feel for Bogdanovic’s game, here’s a nine-minute highlight reel of his scoring.

Bogdanovic had a successful summer with Serbia in the 2013 EuroBasket, dropping 14 points on a very good French squad and 11 on Dragic’s Slovenian national team.

More Brown puns

We miss the “Let Shannon Fly” chants from Suns fans. But we have a return of “Brown” puns with the selection of Alec Brown, who at No. 50 gives the Suns a project big man who can stroke the three-point shot. The Wisconsin-Green Bay center also has potential on the defensive end.

“He also blocked a few shots per game, as well, so a really unique combination for a guy who can step out and hit threes and also protect the rim some,” McDonough said.

ISO excited for T.J.

Jeff Hornacek doesn’t gush per se, but he got close when talking about Warren. When Warren was in Phoenix for an announced workout, the Suns coach said he surprised him defensively and finished through contact quite well.

The Suns see Warren playing well off their two guards, and think his natural ability to catch balls off screens or on the move is unique. The shooting deficiencies can be fixed.

“A lot of teams in the league … have a guy they can throw to,” Hornacek said. “Take one dribble, 15-foot range. I think he’s got that combination. Especially at the 3 spot, he’s got the good size that if we work a play and get him the ball and at that free-throw line, top-of-the-key area and let him go with it, we got a good chance of getting a bucket out of it. That’s a tough skill to have. A lot of guys, they can shoot open shots.

“Hopefully we’re in the playoffs – when it comes time for the playoffs and you need tough buckets, we think he’s a guy who can get tough buckets.”

  • 4everis2long

    Really good article into the minds of management Kev. I love the process as I think this is how champions are born. While I think Napier has a greater upside than Ennis, I think he is also three years older than Ennis so that may have factored into Suns blueprint. If Coach Horny is really impressed with TJ, that is enough for me as I think he is an excellent talent evaluator. I look forward to seeing these guys in Vegas.

  • Adam

    I like the Warren and Bogdon picks. I can see where they fit in with the Suns. I question the Ennis pick unless Dagic/Bledsoe are not going to be around much longer. I think Gary Harris filled more of the immediate needs, he can shoot and score, and can handle the ball well enough for a backup. If our backcourt is being shopped or one is on the move, then I can see taking Ennis to be a primary ball handler.

    Either way it was a solid, but not very exciting draft. I was expecting and kind of hoping for a big splash…but it didn’t happen yet.

    One interesting thing from yesterday though: Sarver was being interviewed by Gambo…and said the Suns intend to spend all of their free cap space , and “hopefully a lot more”. That means they are going to be super active in the coming weeks. The big splash might be that the Suns sign a slew of quality FA’s and that would be fine by me.

  • JT3

    Nicely informative article really. My own personal line of thinking is that McD struck out on deals to move up, or for a veteran player during the draft. Still all is not yet settled is it? There will be more deals to come over the Summer right? I can’t really see Tyler Ennis making it to TC. I have read too much on Sarver’s desire to make it to the Playoffs ASAP,. And how much PHX was hoping to acquire a Vet to help them get over the hurdle. FA in July could bring such a player but it’s kinda hard to see Lon paying a premium in FA for such a Veteran role player looking for a bigger deal in FA. No, I think a very likely scenario is Ryan McD took a player at #18 he thought would be a nice trade asset to facilitate a trade down the road since none could get done before the clock for his second pick was up. At least that’s what feels right to me. We all know Suns wanted to work out some trades in this draft but it would seem he couldn’t quite get in on some of those deals like for Affalo. But we should expect McD will be working the Phone lines all summer like that Verizon “can you hear me know?” guy.

  • coachj

    you stole the bogi-gogi thing from me :(

    • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

      Really? I’m Serbian and I seriously doubt you had even heard of Bogdan before this draft. I’m guessing you want the credit for naming the Dragic brothers too, Goran and Zoran?

      • coachj

        Whoa there nelly! I was talking to Kevin, who I posted a reply to in an earlier article and used the Bogi-Gogi reference and he stated he liked that, then wrote this article.

        I was just poking a little fun. Relax.

        • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

          So was I! Don’t you get my dry humor over the Internet?

  • Robb

    Excellent read, thank you!

    I LOVE the TJ Warren pick. At first blush, I was not beaming with joy, but after pondering it, reading up on Warren, and reading McD and Coach’s takes, I am THOROUGHLY excited.

    Why? Warren has the invaluable experience of being “the guy” on a team. 24+ PPG, 50+ FG% in the ACC with limited talent around him!? This guy can fill it up.

    Not a great outside shooter? Fine. Practice makes perfect. But the ability to score by any means necessary is hard to teach. Please excuse the comparison, but LeBron was not the best outside shooter for many seasons, but he shot 40% and 38% from 3-pt the last two seasons respectively (and 40% from 3 during this year’s playoffs).

    Not a great defender? Of course not! One only has so much energy to go around. If he wasn’t an offensive juggernaut, then I’d be concerned. But if you’re carrying an offense on your back, except for the creamiest of the crop, it’s tough to go all out on D (a la James “all beard, no defense” Harden).

    And with the addition of LeBron and Kevin Love this offseason … zomg

  • DBreezy

    My biggest takeaway from everything is that the Suns went into the draft probably in the top 10 teams out West and ended up in the top 11. That’s not saying that they’re the 11th seed just that right now I can’t see them finishing worse than that. Denver had a great draft and trade and the Asik move may prove to be huge for NO. I also don’t know when to officially predict that Utah is going to suddenly rise from the ashes with a team most fans and media aren’t thinking about. Could be this season, could be next but it will happen it just seems like that’s their MO.

    As for the Suns specific picks, I really can’t complain. McD seems to have a system to find the BPA and I trust what he’s done so far. Let’s hope these guys tear it up this summer and beyond, becoming great assets either on the court for the Suns or helpful in trades. If Tucker moves on, Warren could find himself getting rotation minutes next season. It seems like Ennis is in Kendall Marshall’s shoes from last summer. The minutes are his unless he shows complete incompetence in the summer and camp and then perhaps they keep Ish. Would have loved it if Capella slipped to the 27th, but oh well.

  • Matt Schubert

    I must admit I was disappointed with the Suns draft, but I can at least understand the reasoning. The glut of players on the roster may have called for PHX to draft and stash late, but with Kyle Anderson sitting on the board at 27, it seemed foolish to pass him up. The front office should be a bit more flexible when situations like this arise in the draft and a talented player like Anderson falls into their laps. Other players can always be moved and Anderson himself could have been a nice asset for future trades.

    • Earl

      I liked Anderson as a college PG. However, if you watched him play this past season what stands out is his lack of speed and athleticism. You can get away with that in college but I don’t think he would have made a great NBA PG where speed is much more important.

      Ennis and TJ in my opinion will add a new dimension to the Suns offense. Instead of go go go all the time they can succeed both in transition and in the half court set when that’s all the defense allows. I watched both of these players this past season and they are smart versatile players. They will be great additions to the Suns roster.

      • Matt Schubert

        I agree he’s not a PG at the NBA level, but he’s certainly a very useful player. It’s extremely rare for players who put up the sort of across-the-board numbers Anderson did in college to flop at the NBA level. No doubt, what turned most teams off on him was the lack of athleticism that you allude to. But there are many productive players in the NBA who thrive without top-shelf athletic ability. And we are talking about a 6-9 player with multiple basketball skills. Those guys tend to find a place somewhere on the court.

      • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

        The fact that Popovich and Buford were smiling ear to ear tells me McD made a mistake taking Bogdan over Anderson.

        Spurs just won the title with the infamously out of shape and heavy Boris Diaw starting and two steps slower than his prime Manu Ginobilli.

        Remember Diaw was drafted as a 6′-8″ PG out of France by the Hawks. He lacked speed and athleticism to play point in the NBA. So instead he played point forward or even point center.

        In the Suns positionless system Anderson would have been a third ball-handler helping all of the Suns combo guards bringing the ball up the court.

        • Earl

          I guess it all depends on what the Suns were looking for. You reference Diaw and while he has had a long successful NBA career, I don’t think anyone would argue that he is anything more than a role player. And don’t get me wrong, role players are important to any team’s success.

          However, did the suns want to take a 6’8″ PG and rebuild him as a 3? Or after the workouts did they see better positional fits with their selections? Only time will tell but I say let’s trust coach Horn and staff until they show us otherwise.

          Do I think Anderson will succeed at the next level? Well, there is no coach that I would rather learn under than Pop so he is in good hands.

          • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

            I don’t think Diaw can be considered a role player despite his modest stats. Pops put him in as a starter specifically for his PG ball-handling skills. He also shared defensive duties on James with Kwahi Leonard. When pushed by the injured Parker he led the Spurs with 26 points in a game against the Thunder and again against the Heat.

            My point being that ball players will always have a place in the NBA. Kyle Anderson IMO was the best ball-player on the board when the Suns selected Bogdanovic.