Workouts over, Suns step back to reassess options

PHOENIX – After eight days and 45 job applicants, the Phoenix Suns’ pre-draft project moves to the next phase.

“We feel good about where we are,” general manager Ryan McDonough, who wasn’t referring to the friendly confines of U.S. Airways Center, said Monday after presiding over another workout that included six prospects.

Where they are in the evaluation process is the back-to-video-and-statistics stage. What just ended wasn’t exactly the shock-and-awe-phase, however, because McDonough and his new scouting staff already were familiar with players they’ve been assessing in – with the exception of a some individual workouts – groups of six.

“I feel like I had a good base on these guys coming into the workouts and then as we go through the workouts, certain guys might get a little more intriguing if they show well here,” McDonough said. “That might make me reassess them a little bit.”

The latest group featured Duke senior center Mason Plumlee and North Texas sophomore four-man Tony Mitchell, two players who – depending on which mock listing you’re following – could be on the board several picks beyond the lottery.

They were joined by USC center DeWayne Dedmon, Delaware power forward Jamelle Hagins, Temple shooting guard Khalif Wyatt and Murray State combo guard Isaiah Canaan.

Depending on how each prospect is categorized (and that can be very subjective), the Suns brought in six centers, six point guards, five combo guards, 10 power forwards, nine small forwards and nine card-carrying two guards in the seven auditions.

For a team that’s fairly solid at point guard and center (with glaring weaknesses everywhere else), the breakdown tracks with the roster.

But based on the expected range of where quite a few of these prospects will be selected, it seems fairly obvious that McDonough and his roster renovation (demolition?) crew might take a healthy swing at either moving up or adding a first-round pick.

For the record, the Suns’ 25-57 record was rewarded with the fifth overall pick; they’re also are on the board at 30 and 57.

In Plumlee and Mitchell, the Suns were looking at two very strong, bouncy athletes who probably won’t be around at 30 and are miles away from going at five.

“I know Mason right away in the NBA will be able to rebound,” McDonough said of the 23-year-old, 7-footer. “He’ll be one of the better bigs in the league running the floor. He plays above the rim, he rebounds above the rim.

“He’s ready to play, with his age and coming out of that that Duke system. He’s a guy I can see slotting in and being on the floor fairly quickly.”

To land Plumlee, the Suns would have to pool a couple of assets to either move up from 30 or add another selection.
McDonough said making such a move would require more precise knowledge of the draft range for a target player, such as Plumlee, before a deal is brokered.

Plumlee, who averaged 17 points (up from 11 as a junior) and 10 rebounds for the Blue Devils, believes what he does well — running, jumping and rebounding — will “translate real well” to the NBA.

Listed at mock pick No. 18 by and 17 on the board for, Plumlee has a recipe for climbing higher on June 27.

“Get a good matchup in a workout,” he said. “Go against somebody ranked higher than you. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, you have to take advantage.”

To prepare for such challenges, the brother of Indiana Pacers rookie Miles Plumlee didn’t spend the last two months attempting to expand his range or upgrade his ballhandling..

“Just being the best version of me,” said Plumlee, who has embraced his existence as a center. “You can’t reinvent yourself before these workouts.”

That seems to be what the 6-9, 235-pound Mitchell did between his freshman and sophomore seasons at North Texas.

Mitchell, who arrived – via Missouri (where he never played) – as one of the nation’s top high school recruits, averaged 14.7 points and 10.3 rebounds as a freshman. He made 57 percent of his shots from the field, including 44 percent of his selective 41 attempts from 3-point range.

As a sophomore, perhaps hoping to shake the dreaded “tweener” label, he fired up 100 3s and made good on only 30 percent.

But Suns coach Jeff Hornacek seemed to like what he saw from Mitchell in Monday’s workout.

“He has great athletic ability,” Hornacek said. “He can go out and make some 3s. He’s a very powerful guy. When he gets the ball around the basket, he’s a pretty darn good finisher.

“He’s a guy that’s pretty intriguing for the fact that he’s big, he can take the ball inside and has some athleticism.”


The Suns have a reputation for running that now extends to pre-draft workouts.

Thanks to texting and Twitter, prospects leaving Phoenix are encouraging their pals to prepare for a 3-minute running drill when working out for the Suns.

What does this drill consist of?

“See how many times you can get up and down the floor,” said Plumlee, who made 26 trips in those 3 minutes. “I won this group, but I don’t know how that measures up against the others.”

According to McDonough, the Suns haven’t made any official hires to surround Hornacek with more coaching wisdom.
But he did say a staff could be filled out and announced by the end of this week.