PHOENIX – With only nine days separating us and the NBA Draft, we’re all shopping for context.
Fortunately, we have Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough to provide a dose.
“This is my 11th draft now since I’ve been working in the NBA,” McDonough said after presiding over a Tuesday morning workout that included six fringe prospects. “This seems like the least predictable at the top … starting with No. 1.”
Right, with the on-the-clock Cleveland Cavaliers reportedly falling in and out of whatever level of affection applies to a couple of prospects, it’s almost impossible to imagine what will transpire when the Suns pick at No. 5.
“Where we are at five, there’ll be multiple guys that I’m comfortable with,” McDonough, who – of course – was not offering names, said. “Probably more than five … less than 10 or 12, if I had to think about it.
“I think we’re in a good position at five. We’re not going to go chasing someone above us, most likely.”
And by chasing, he’s referring to trading up.
Anyway, the lingering mystery is just which of the more than five candidates will still be on the board after the Cavs, Orlando Magic, Washington Wizards and Charlotte Hornets have a go at the names on the 2013.
Now that we’re in the home stretch of draft speculation, the rumors are flying.
“I’d say the majority is misinformation,” McDonough said.
That may include reports that Kentucky freshman center Nerlens Noel and his rehabilitating knee have been less than reliable in showing up for business-related meetings. Noel also has been tagged for allegedly having “bad dudes” in his circle of personal associates; please note that sources for stories at this time of year often are such fonts of reality as jilted would-be agents.
We also have been put on notice by the Tweet-happy fourth estate that Kansas redshirt freshman shooting guard Ben McLemore – whose draft range goes from possibly No. 1 to 5 – was less than impressive (from a conditioning standpoint, at least) during workouts with the Magic and Suns.
A legitimate McLemore red flag was provided during an interview on NBA TV during which he struggled to create separation against his younger brother on an attempted drive to an outdoor hoop. Although there was an element of clowning involved in this situation, McLemore’s very real lack of off-the-dribble skill is more difficult to fix than a mediocre shooting stroke possessed by a prospect who excels at putting the ball on the floor.
The subjects of rollercoaster-inspired gossip includes Indiana two guard Victor Oladipo, who can be referred to as a coveted, hard-working threat to go as high as No. 1, or enough of an offensive uncertainty to actually slip past Phoenix at 5.
Maryland center Alex Len, who – due to injury – also has been unable to work out for draft suitors, has provoked some No. 1 projections, as well.
And Georgetown small forward Otto Porter is an alleged lock to not get past the Wizards at No. 3.
Where does all of this leave McDonough and the Suns? Well, the new GM doesn’t pay much, if any, attention to these tales, unless they’re personally rendered by representatives of actual teams involved.
But even those blasts of intel have the potential to be (cough) misleading.
So, with the draft lineup still up for grabs, McDonough prepares the only way that seems prudent.
“I just act like they’re all going to be there,” he said of selecting fifth. “For me, there’s not a player or subset of players I can set aside and say they definitely won’t be there at five. So we’re planning that any of ’em or all of ’em could be there at five and evaluating them all.”
It’s no secret the Suns could add another reasonably early pick by either moving an assisting human asset and/or using the 30th overall selection.
That 30th pick, by the way, isn’t exactly a discard item. For a Suns roster so devoid of young players with real potential, there’s value in having the last choice in the first round.
“I think there will be a decent amount of good players at 30,” McDonough said. “I feel comfortable at 30. I think we’ll get a good player, (there’s) a number of good options there. Right now, that’s a pretty broad pool of players.”
With a pretty good player available at 30 and a couple of solid veterans hanging around during a rebuild in Phoenix, the Suns could use a potential package of these assets and start next season with two highly regarded rookies.
“As usual, those offers haven’t been made and wouldn’t be made until draft night,” McDonough said when asked about making such a deal.
And the premise of trading down from No. 5 is not that easily accomplished.
“We wouldn’t trade down just to trade down,” McDonough said. “It would probably have to be for a comparable pick and a good young player or a good veteran player.”
With so much uncertainty attached to this draft’s leading prospects, teams won’t be that interested in giving those away.