Things we know about the Suns’ NBA Draft strategy

Jun 28, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough (right) introduces Alex Len (left) during a press conference at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 28, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough (right) introduces Alex Len (left) during a press conference at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports /

PHOENIX — Suns general manager Ryan McDonough expects teams to wrap up their draft workouts by Tuesday. By nightfall, teams will be hunkered around their big boards, clearing up questions of rankings. Phoenix worked out more than 70 players to complete their scouting season, so now it’s on to draft-day strategy.

Here’s what we know about how the Suns will operate on Thursday.

There will be a trade

The least-likely scenario, in McDonough’s eyes, is the Suns retaining all of their first-round draft picks. Combining the salaries of the 14th, 18th and 27th picks would bump the salary cap figure about $3.9 million. More importantly, there wouldn’t be roster space, assuming the team looks somewhat similar to last year’s squad.

Here’s a guess that might not be that bold: the only way the Suns don’t make a trade is if they draft and stash two players (here’s a short-list of options) and all trade attempts come up empty.

It might even be surprising if the Suns added two rookies that would challenge for immediate playing time. The 27th pick might be traded for a future first, the first two could be used in a trade, big or small. Just from the workouts conducted, it would seem that the Suns might be willing to hang onto the second round pick, as the depth in this year’s draft class could find them a diamond in the rough with their 50th pick. But that could also be perfect for a draft-and-stash.

Moving up a few lottery spots is possible

The Suns are confident they can make a small jump up the lottery if there’s good reason.

“Last year, for example, we felt like Archie Goodwin was undervalued at the very end of the first round, so we were actually trying to move up higher to get him,” McDonough said.

Be warned that the Suns won’t leap up the lottery unless they’re certain that a player they badly desire won’t last until the 14th pick. McDonough said he won’t make a move “for the sake of” and toss aside even a later pick just to move a few spots in one direction.

It’s hard to see Phoenix moving into the top-10. The price would probably be too high, and there’s enough talent where jumping to 11 or 12 could bring in a similar talent to leaping all the way to, say, eight, where the Kings have been rumored to be shopping their selection.

It’ll be harder than most years to project what teams ahead of them are doing

It’s apparent at this point that nobody knows what will happen, but there are clear tiers of players. The third of which (generally speaking) is large and will cover from the double-digits through the Suns’ first two picks. Now, it’s possible somebody from the second tier slips in the lottery, giving the Suns a chance to scoop them up.

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How do the Suns know when they should move up in the lottery before a team ahead of them picks their target?

“One of the interesting things will be, there are few teams with multiple picks ahead of us, in the top-13,” McDonough said. “So I feel like with those teams, what they do with their second pick, especially what position they draft with their second pick, may be contingent on who they pick with their first one. I think clarity this year will be harder this year than in other years.”

The Philadelphia 76ers own the third and 10th picks, while the Orlando Magic will select fourth and 12th. If either of those teams operate like the Suns, they won’t double up on positions within the draft, or even with younger players already on their rosters.

They’ll take the highest upside player

“What we don’t want to do, what we’ll never do, is draft a guy just because he is older and maybe more ready over somebody we think is going to be better and is going to have a better career,” McDonough said. “We won’t do that. I just think the draft is the best way to get guys who could be starters and hopefully potentially stars.”

This is purely a theoretical example but one that could lead to Suns fans being up in arms on draft night. Let’s say the Suns think James Young has star potential. And let’s assume they also believe Adreian Payne will top out as a very productive stretch power forward. Young will be their pick. He might not play too many minutes this season. People a year from now might be upset.

As we know from last season, McDonough drafts on potential: Who will be the best player six years from now?

Positions won’t guide decisions

When Arizona guard Nick Johnson visited Phoenix, Ryan McDonough said the questions about whether he was a point or a shooting guard didn’t hurt his stock but helped it — at least in McDonough’s eyes.

Versatility is important for the Suns, and it showed last season. And because Phoenix will draft the player with the most upside, position probably won’t matter. If the Suns value Tyler Ennis in the top-14, they’ll pick him and it might have nothing to do with how the franchise is gauging its future with either of Goran Dragic or Eric Bledsoe. Having too many good players at one position isn’t the worst problem to have, after all.