Suns face uncertain choices with 5th overall pick
PHOENIX (AP) — The Phoenix Suns won’t have any problem drafting to meet a need. They have needs everywhere.
New general manager Ryan McDonough and new coach Jeff Hornacek brought in 74 players in preparation for their first draft.
With the exception of a few who were exempt due to injuries, the players went through strenuous workouts, usually in a 3-on-3 situation. Two of the players, shooting guard Ben McLemore and point guard Trey Burke, worked out individually at the insistence of their agents.
“You only draft 60,” McDonough said, “so if nothing else, I guess we’re thorough.”
With a roster that compiled the second-worst record in franchise history, just about anybody they pick at No. 5 will help.
“We’re not one move away,” McDonough said. “We need several good players. We need to build something here.”
McDonough said he is comfortable in the position of general manager after being Danny Ainge’s top assistant with the Boston Celtics.
“It’s exciting. That’s why you put in all that work,” McDonough said. “For 10 years I’ve been making suggestions, and I’m looking forward to making decisions.”
Because there is no clear-cut top tier of players who are certain to go ahead of the Suns, it’s difficult to predict just who will be available at No. 5.
“We have to be prepared for a number of different scenarios,” McDonough said. “The good thing is we have probably about eight guys we like. Of the eight, four will be gone and four will be there. It’s a good problem to have. I’d rather be there than outside that eight range.”
McLemore is arguably the highest touted player who came to Phoenix for a workout, and perhaps the least likely of the bunch to still be available when the Suns make their pick. Many forecasters have the sharpshooter from Kansas going to Orlando at No. 2.
A better bet might be Indiana guard Victor Oladipo, whose outgoing personality, work ethic and defensive talents make him an attractive choice. He has work to do to develop his offense, but hard work is the reason Oladipo rose from nowhere to the top rungs of the draft in one season.
Then again, it’s possible Oladipo goes ahead of McLemore. This draft has that kind of unpredictability.
It’s even possible, though unlikely, that centers Nerlens Noel of Kentucky or Alex Len of Maryland slip to the No. 5 spot.
Noel and Georgetown small forward Otto Porter were the only top tier players who did not come to Phoenix’s pre-draft gatherings.
Another intriguing possibility is New Zealander Steven Adams, the raw young center at Pittsburgh who is considered to have a big upside.
The Suns aren’t expected to be competitive for some time, so they can afford to be patient.
Hornacek said he was impressed with the workout of Indiana forward-center Cody Zeller, especially with the range of his shooting touch. Then there’s UNLV forward Anthony Bennett, who is considered to have NBA-ready talent.
McDonough said the workouts did not really alter his perception of the abilities of the top players available in a draft that’s considered sub-par at the top, especially compared with what is expected to be a stellar class a year from now.
“We’re hoping for a good, solid guy that at some point can be a starter for us,” McDonough said, “and be a part of our core as we try to build this thing.”
McDonough said he fully expects to find someone who can be a role player with the Suns’ No. 30 pick, the last selection in the first round.
“I like the guys in that range,” he said. “I don’t know how much difference there is, to be honest with you, between picks just after the lottery and picks at the end of the first round. I think there’s a pretty broad group of players that are pretty comparable. It obviously gets more difficult to predict who’s going to be there at 30. There are just more different variations as you go later in the draft, but I’m comfortable we’re going to get someone pretty good there.”
Hornacek said he’s comfortable with the options the Suns will have at No. 5.
“I don’t think there’s a guy in the draft that you say, ‘If we don’t get that guy we’re going to be devastated,’” the new coach said. “You go back to LeBron James or Tim Duncan and you say, ‘Man, I really wish we had that pick.’ But I really don’t have any idea who’s going to be there at 5 between six or seven guys, because other teams might pick someone who hasn’t been talked about as much.
“You never know.”
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