Ryan McDonough has plenty of variables to consider in deciding how to best use the 14th, 18th and 27th picks in this year's draft: "It's an inexact science. Good information is hard to get this time of year."
PHOENIX — Any catalog of basketball-coaching advice includes the strong recommendation for players to have a purpose as motivation for their movements.
This also seems to serve for off-the-court maneuvers, at least in terms of how the Suns are planning to handle what could be a draft-night predicament.
While having three first-round picks (Nos. 14, 18 and 27) certainly provides roster-upgrading flexibility, the attached notion is that Phoenix should be able to package a couple of these selections and move up.
General manager Ryan McDonough, now presiding over his second season of draft preparation, thinks that’s true . . . to a point.
"With us, I think if we wanted to move up a little, we could do that," he said Friday after two workouts that conclude this year’s public, media-offered sessions. "I’m pretty confident of that."
Please hold for the caveat.
Let’s begin the tricky portion of the Suns’ situation by reminding ourselves this particular pool of draft prospects is rather thick at the top.
The presumed selection order of players with elite potential is being juggled, of course, by news of a foot injury to Kansas center Joel Embiid. And the list of these upper-tier whippersnappers goes seven or eight deep.
Identifying how the lottery — which ends with the Suns at 14 — behaves from there isn’t easy.
"From my experience, the lottery rarely goes as you expect it to," McDonough said. "I think clarity ahead of time might be harder this year than some other years."
With McDonough and a few other sharp customers on the Suns’ player-evaluation payroll, however, Phoenix should be able to take 14 and 18, for example, and move up to snag a player other teams aren’t savvy enough to covet … right?
Well, the process isn’t that easy.
"I don’t think anyone’s getting into the top three or four," McDonough said in regard to true upward drafting mobility. "It would take a lot to get there, I should say."
While Suns fans have reconciled themselves to the premise that getting into the top three or four won’t happen, a lot of draft followers think the idea of jumping up a few spots behind that level is reasonable.
"But we don’t want to do it (trade up) just for the sake of doing it and give up an asset and say, ‘Aw, shoot . . . that guy we moved up to get would have been there at 14 anyway,’ and we could have kept the pick or the player or what have you."
And figuring out what’s going to happen in the first 13 selections is made even more unstable during this Campaign of Misinformation ’14. Anything heard or read in the days leading up to draft probably is attached to an agenda of fakery. With social media added to the previous media vehicles of informational chicanery, prep work may be even more important these days.
"It’s an inexact science," McDonough said. "Good information is hard to get this time of year.
"That’s why I think it’s important to have all the players evaluated and ranked and have assigned value to each of them."
Among the mock-draft cognoscenti, it’s believed Phoenix is zeroing in on perimeter players because the Suns drafted a center (Alex Len) at No. 5 last year and this year’s crop of low-post candidates is limited; based on these fairly amateur assessments, the late lottery figures to be the province of perimeter players in 2014.
The list of players linked to the Suns includes quite a few names among the 71 prospects who’ve worked out here. Michigan two guard Nik Stauskas reportedly will work out for Phoenix, but so far he hasn’t been in the gym on the days made available to reporters.
It has been postulated that Stauskas won’t get past Charlotte’s pick at No. 9 — but that could just as likely be misinformation-driven speculation. Getting a read on just who might end up where can be dizzying.
We do know it’s not unreasonable to imagine the stress fracture of Embiid generating a slide from No. 1 overall down to a level that alters what others teams do. As McDonough pointed out, two teams (Orlando and Philadelphia) have a pair of selections in the top 13. Their second picks probably will be influenced by their first picks . . . which are fluid to begin with.
That means the Suns will have to wait and see just how to use that aforementioned flexibility . . . or if they don’t have to.
"How high we can get we probably won’t know until right before the draft or after the draft starts and we’re on the clock to see who starts coming off the board," McDonough said.