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What are the biggest needs of a 25-win Phoenix Suns team? Did they get increasingly better in the NBA Draft or are there more holes to fill?

With moderate cap space and some roster flexibility the Suns could be active this off-season with trades, signings, and everything in-between. The question then becomes is it more valuable to make moves this off-season that hurt the long-term rebuild for immediate gratification or to stay the course on this slow burn?

Sixth Topic: Five Questions on the 2013 Free-Agency

1. Breaking the Ice: Is there a free-agent that the Phoenix Suns should target above the rest?

Dave King: I am thinking the Suns should just find a shooter, someone who can come in and make 3s when the offense really needs it. Otherwise, just fill gaps behind whoever is traded away.

Jacob Padilla: Nobody in particular that I can think of, but there are plenty of players they should avoid. Stay away from Josh Smith, Andre Iguodala, Al Jefferson and the rest of the big name free agents. Signing a second or third option player is not going to help the Suns this year.

Jim Coughenour: The Suns could still use a shooting guard to compete for minutes with Shannon Brown and Malcolm Lee. I think they should go after Player X. Randy Foye (career .377 3P%) could be Player X. The Suns might be able to get him on a one year deal for about $2-3 million. Any kind of warm body would probably work, though. Or a cold one (have you seen Weekend at Bernie's?). Either way.

Kris Habbas: A young shooter that is cost efficient would be ideal. Someone like Anthony Morrow, Wayne Ellington, or Marco Belinelli could be flipped as assets around the trade deadline while an Andrew Goudelock could be a floor spacer to keep.

Richard Parker: None that I can think of. As mostly everyone has already said, we should just focus on rounding out our roster with a one year deal or two and head into the season prepared to lose a lot of games and enter the 2014 offseason with cap flexibility and youth. I like the idea of signing a shooter on a one year deal - someone like Martell Webster, Marco Bellinelli, or Wayne Ellington.

2. Should the team be overly aggressive in a year where there are not a lot of great options in free-agency?

JP: Absolutely not. Like I said, above, going after a big name this year is counterproductive. It's not going to improve the team enough to do anything but lower the Suns draft pick and it kills their cap space. Second tier players will get paid like stars and I want no part of that.

JC: I would be aggressive in exploring the market to move Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat for young talent. The team would still have a veteran presence in the locker room (Dragic, Dudley, Frye, Tucker) with these guys gone. I'd rather watch a different team win 25 games next season instead of last year's team plus Frye and Len. But... I wouldn't just give them away and before the trade deadline probably works too.

KH: Absolutely not. Sign a low cost shooter, sift through the undrafted free-agents and then call it a day. The current rotation needs development and adding veterans could hinder that process.

RP: Not at all. I think McDonough has already said this much, but we should focus on signing lower tier guys to one year deals once the tier 1 and tier 2 guys choose their destinations during the first couple weeks.

DK: Nope. Suns are still in transition. McDonough should be looking for trades, for Gortat at least. But then Gortat would just need to be replaced by someone else. But still, these guys wanted change and to bring back most of the lineup is nonsensical. A young player or two should be swapped for someone else's young player that brings a fresh attitude. Also, I still want Dudley traded simply to let him win games with someone, while the Suns get assets back.

3. Of all the positions, which one needs an upgrade the most? Explain.

JC: The Suns already took care of their biggest position of need when they canned Lance Blanks and brought in McMiracle. I would say shooting guard is still the extremity gushing the most blood, if we're deciding between limbs and only have one tourniquet. As previously mentioned, a guy like Foye could be a serviceable stop gap, but I'm really starting to lean towards Bernie Lomax.

KH: Shooting guard. Again, I would only look into the options for young, cost efficient shooters that will not be more that a stop-gap for this season. Archie Goodwin talks of playing the one, but he is naturally more of a two and that is where he will likely see the bulk of his minutes.

RP: We need shooting badly. I think shooting guard is where we need the most help. Even though we're bringing Shannon Brown back for another year, we still need someone who is efficient at knocking down open shots.

DK: Shooting, or rebounding. Signing a Kyle Korver or Chase Budinger is not a bad thing, to provide outside shooting, as long as they sign for low pay or short term.

JP: Shooting guard is clearly the weakest position on the court. Shannon Brown is the only pure shooting guard on the roster, and our second best option is Jared Dudley, a guy who's played the three his whole career. This is especially true if the Suns really want to play Archie Goodwin at the point.

4. The team has (roughly) 6.5 million in salary cap this summer... How should they spend that money?

KH: In some cases the best way to spend money is by not spending it at all... Over the years teams have made some of their biggest mistakes by spending money just because they have it. The roster has depth with the three rookies and the returning players from last season. No need to win an additional 3-5 games because of an unnecessary signing.

RP: Unless we're getting Dwight Howard or CP3, once again, they should just aim to sign one year deals to reach the salary floor. There's no reason to max out our salary cap on role players that won't lead us anywhere (except to a lower draft pick) - see summer 2010. Retaining financial flexibility and youth for 2014 should be the primary goal here.

JP: First of all, they should spend a little bit of that to guarantee Tucker's contract. For sentimental reasons I'd like to see Garrett stick around as well but it looks like he's not going to get any more of a shot than last year. The only possible addition I see making sense is a cheap shooting guard on a one-year deal. Somebody like Wayne Ellington, Roger Mason Jr. or Daequan Cook.

JC: Garrett's gone. I don't see the team carrying four point guards (Dragic, Marshall, Goodwin). Tucker should definitely be back. Phoenix should keep as far under the cap as they can to facilitate potential deals down the road. The Suns have managed to accomplish the dubious feat of putting together a 25 win team with very little cap space until next summer. Lomax is looking better and better.

DK: Keep it. Take on salary in a trade for a good asset, but that's all. Make trades, and then fill in behind. Maybe sign a cheap shooter or big-time rebounder.

5. Should the team enter next season as is (unless a trade presents itself) to develop their youth and continue to position themselves for the 2014 NBA Draft?

RP: Yes, for the most part. Like I've said, we should look to develop our young players and head into the 2014 offseason with as much cap room as we can get and a very high draft pick. However, we should also trade Gortat at some point this year, whether that be before the season begins or just before the trade deadline. We should also definitely trade Scola as soon as possible for a draft pick or a young player.

JP: I could potentially see the team signing a shooting guard like I mentioned, or perhaps picking up another UDFA to try out. But beyond that I don't see much change happening barring a trade. The Suns have already eclipsed both the salary cap floor and the minimum roster count, so they don't really need to add anybody.

JC: Did you say 2014 NBA Draft? Let's skip to that. Or we could look at Babby's killer P's - preparation, perseverance, poise, pride, performance. I would add patience, since this is no time to panic after all of the posturing just to get to this point. A measured, opportunistic approach that looks at the bigger picture is what the team has preached and should remain their modus operandi moving forward.

DK: Nope. Make trades. This same lineup cannot be happier next year than they were last year. They all, to a man, wanted big changes. I think that will happen.

KH: Absolutely. The team has depth at most positions as is and there is no need to mortgage the future for a few wins today.

BONUS: How can the Suns win free-agency, remain financially flexible, develop their youth, and position themselves for the 2014 NBA Draft?

JP: Don't blow cap space on a long term deal. Trade away Luis Scola. Perhaps find someone who can turn into a key role player moving forward a la Danny Green or P.J. Tucker. Outside of that, they should sit tight for now, work on getting Hornacek's system in place, develop the rookies and prepare to endure what's going to be another rough season.

JC: The Suns still need to get younger going into next season. I count AT LEAST eight players on the roster that are past a developmental stage. As things presently stand, on opening night the Suns will have more players 27 and older (6) than 23 and under (4)... the latter of which is the same number as opening night last season. This is still a roster with an identity crisis.

DK: By doing what I said above. Switch out some parts in trades, freshen up the attitude, bring in guys who hustle hard and work to play together instead of in spite of each other.

KH: Sign Goudelock as a shooter/floor spacer off of the bench and then give the lion's share of the minutes to Dragic, Goodwin, Tucker, and Len. Let them develop and see what they have for the future as the better "young" players on the roster.

RP: The Suns can have a "successful" year if they only sign one year deals to retain 2014 cap flexibility, trade Gortat and Scola at some point this year for draft picks and/or young talent, see significant development from their young players as the season progresses (Len, Goodwin, Morrises, Marshall), all while having one of the worst records in the league, if not the worst, to earn a top 3 draft pick next year. Then, we would be in position to draft a franchise star and still have significant cap space to use during next year's free agency.

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Alex Len

The Suns' top overall draft pick is relatively new to Twitter judging by his 40 total tweets, but he's been tweeting up a storm since the commissioner called his name. Here's Alex chronicling his first couple days as a Sun:

Hello Phoenix! #GoSuns — Alex Len (@alexlen) June 28, 2013

Celebrating with @CoachTurgeon he has done a lot for me, honored to have him as a coach for 2 yrs @UMTerps! #GoSuns pic.twitter.com/JY5p9V3MWd

— Alex Len (@alexlen) June 28, 2013

He seems to be a fan of the #GoSuns hashtag. I like that one too.

Proud to be a Ukranian! Appreciate @borntotailor for putting together my #NBADraft suit! #GoSuns pic.twitter.com/tjb8qdnCCn

— Alex Len (@alexlen) June 28, 2013

I didn't catch this on draft night, but apparently he had a Ukrainian flag sewed on the inside of his suit. That's pretty awesome.

Wheels up to PHX! See you in a few hours Phoenix! #GoSuns pic.twitter.com/fUk3meJj7S

— Alex Len (@alexlen) June 28, 2013

Next stop for new @Sun @alexlen his new home @USAirwaysCenter. pic.twitter.com/VxBbQHzBJQ

— Tanya Wheeless (@TWheeless) June 28, 2013

Happy to be a part of the @Suns family! pic.twitter.com/4YLexuGL7M

— Alex Len (@alexlen) June 29, 2013

Great time last night meeting wonderful people & @Suns season ticket holders. Thank you Mr. Sarver for hosting us! pic.twitter.com/Kn1yYhJlRI

— Alex Len (@alexlen) June 29, 2013

I had a great 1st weekend in Phoenix thank you for an incredible welcome!! #GoSuns pic.twitter.com/9UDSnOZLxk

— Alex Len (@alexlen) July 1, 2013

Apparently not all bridges have been burned with Thunder Dan.

S/O to @DanMajerle, thanks for taking care of us tonight!

— Alex Len (@alexlen) July 1, 2013

Archie Goodwin

Just based on these few tweets, I get the impression that Archie's a hard worker and is excited to be a Sun.

Time to start this journey to the top. All the doubters about to see me in action

— Archie Goodwin (@A1Laflare10) June 28, 2013

Feels good to be apart of a new beginning RT @Suns: Welcome to your new home @a1Laflare10. #WelcomeArchie #SunsDraft http://t.co/QfRWVXMyDL

— Archie Goodwin (@A1Laflare10) June 28, 2013

I'm so proud of him. He deserves this! Thank you for being such a inspiration and good person to me. @A1Laflare10 🏀💙 pic.twitter.com/4VBLUuE7lh

— 10x (@Killa_MJ) June 29, 2013

First night in Phoenix as a sun and guess where I was? #gym http://t.co/PewN9HBFe3

— Archie Goodwin (@A1Laflare10) June 29, 2013

Sane here!RT @Suns: "@Goran_Dragic: @alexlen & @A1Laflare10 welcome to the @Suns family. Excited to play with you guys!!! Let's go #suns"

— Archie Goodwin (@A1Laflare10) July 1, 2013

Alex Oriakhi

Didn't get much sleep want to thank the @Suns for the opportunity.. Thank you all for the support!!

— Alex Oriakhi (@aoriakhi42) June 28, 2013

Another hard worker.

Spoke to Alex Oriaki around 2pm today "I'm on my way to the gym to workout the grind don't stop" he gets it congrats @aoriakhi42

— HoopDreamsMag.com (@HoopDreamsmag) June 28, 2013

He and Summer Suns invitee and Iowa State graduate Chris Babb apparently are bros. The chemistry should be great in Vegas sine a lot of these guys either know or have played together before.

@ChrisBabbII lets get it

— Alex Oriakhi (@aoriakhi42) June 28, 2013

This last one is for a certain Nigerian reader here on Bright Side. You know who you are (Rex).

@aoriakhi42 congrats on your draft bro!we support you here in nigeria.#naijaboy.

— Tobiloba Durojaiye (@Tobi_Dj) June 28, 2013

Obviously the Suns' two serial tweeters were going to weigh in on the draft as well.

Kendall Marshall

Kendall was obviously following along as the picks were being announced and welcomed each of the guys as they were drafted.

Welcome to PHX @alexlen! congrats

— Kendall Marshall (@KButter5) June 28, 2013

Welcome to PHX @A1Laflare10!

— Kendall Marshall (@KButter5) June 28, 2013

AO! @aoriakhi42 welcome to PHX

— Kendall Marshall (@KButter5) June 28, 2013

Congrats to all players drafted. Excited to get in the gym with @A1Laflare10 @alexlen @aoriakhi42. Let's work! #Suns

— Kendall Marshall (@KButter5) June 28, 2013

Jared Dudley

RT @AZSports620: RT @alexlen: Hello Phoenix! #GoSuns (Welcome to the team!! Congrats )

— Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) June 28, 2013

Goran Dragic and P.J. Tucker were active on draft night as well.

Goran Dragic

@alexlen & @A1Laflare10 welcome to the @Suns family. Excited to play with you guys!!! Let's go #suns

— Goran Dragic (@Goran_Dragic) June 28, 2013

P.J. Tucker

Apparently Tucker is buddies with Dez Wells, a Maryland guard and teammate of Len. It looks like Wells was talking his boy up to Tucker before the draft.

I like it.. I like it a lot, Dez told me how hard he go so he gon fit right in #Pause #WelcomeToPhx

— PJ Tucker (@PJTUCKER17) June 28, 2013

The official @Suns account has put out plenty of great stuff as well over the weekend, so be sure to check that out.

On behalf of the entire Bright Side staff, welcome to the Suns Alex, Archie and Alex!

In the wake of a seven-game NBA Finals and the one of the most unpredictable drafts in recent memory, the NBA community turned off their cell phones this weekend, sat down on the couch with a bowl of...

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NBA Free Agency negotiations are officially allowed to begin tomorrow, July 1. Players will be able to sign contracts with teams starting July 10, following the end of the July moratorium. Use this open thread to discuss any NBA free agency or trade news/rumors.

I doubt we'll hear about the Suns pursuing any names until later in the summer. With most of the roster spots already occupied, don't be surprised to see the Suns head into next season without any notable free agent signings. If anything, look for them to find sign a cheap contract or two with a free agent later in the summer, once the big guys all find their next destinations.

That being said, it's very possible that the Suns could choose to pursue a trade or two. Once again, any trades made during the summer will have to occur after July 10. At that point, the 2013-14 salaries will kick in, allowing many teams to get rid of the cap holds that their expiring contracts currently have in place, thereby creating cap space to sign players/have more cap flexibility in trades (maybe the much discussed Gortat to Portland deal?).

In other news, Houston is actively looking to dump Thomas Robinson to create cap room to sign Dwight Howard (who they're meeting with tonight). Should the Suns get in on that? What would it take?

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The NBA media and fans are seemingly divided when it comes to assessing the Phoenix Suns' 2013 NBA Draft choices. With such an emphasis placed on immediately grading draft results and projecting future returns, let's take a look back at the past few years to see how recent Phoenix Suns drafts (2008-13) have been received.

NOTE: Since the Suns did not have a first round pick in 2010, we will not be revisiting that year.

2008

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#15: Robin Lopez
#45: Goran Dragic

In what was arguably the most successful of the team's drafts in the past ten years (thank you Steve Kerr), the Suns netted what would become a quality rotation player in Robin Lopez and a solid starting point guard in Goran Dragic. Although the former was let go to New Orleans even after he was wooed by last year's front office in quite a "comical" fashion, as you all know, the latter is currently the team's best player after a return from being banished to Houston in 2011 (no thank you, Lance Blanks). Let's see what grades these picks received in 2008 from NBA "experts:"

ESPN: B
Yahoo Sports: B
DraftExpress: D

Both ESPN and Yahoo Sports elected to give Phoenix a "B" for their 2008 draft haul, which seems fair in retrospect. Both picks of Lopez and Dragic were appreciated by those outlets. On the other hand, DraftExpress gave the Suns a "D," in essence implying that the team failed the draft. Although they were fine with picking Lopez at 15, they strangely had an issue with the trade that landed Dragic in Phoenix while surrendering two late second rounders and cash. Most hilariously, they had this to say about the Dragic pick:

We always talk about value, value, value…the Suns did not get a lot of it here.

Right...

2009

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#14: Earl Clark
#48: Taylor Griffin

The 2009 draft is famous among Suns fans for having nearly brought Steph Curry to the desert. Instead, the end result was quite disappointing: Earl Clark and Taylor Griffin. While Clark was a disappointment during his time in orange and purple (and in Orlando before he inexplicably had a productive season for the Lakers last year), Griffin was not a disappointment. This is primarily because no one expected him to ever stick to the roster; he lived up to those expectations and was last seen living on his brother's couch playing in the D-League. These are some of the grades the Suns' underwhelming 2009 draft received:

ESPN: A-
CBS Sports: B
NBC Sports: C
Looking back, the only one of these three grades that seems close to fair is the "C" the Suns got from NBC Sports. However, my personal favorite is the "A-" from ESPN's renowned draft expert Chad Ford, who used words such as "dominant," "terrific fit," and "top-five" to describe the inimitable Earl Clark. I have a feeling "butazz" is probably a more accurate and relevant description of Clark's time in Phoenix.

2011

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#13: Markieff Morris

Widely deemed as a "safe" pick, the selection of Markieff Morris in 2011 received mixed reviews from the media and fans alike. The pick looks even worse in hindsight when considering the fact that players such as Kawhi Leonard, Nikola Vucevic, Iman Shumpert, Kenneth Faried, Jimmy Butler, and Chandler Parsons were all chosen after Morris, who is yet to show any consistency in his career. Here's how this selection was received by various media outlets:

Yahoo Sports: B-
CBS Sports: F
Hoopsworld: A-

Yahoo gave the Suns a conservative grade of "B-," pointing to Morris' "long arms and defensive instincts" as characteristics that would help the team (Morris has notoriously short arms for his height and has very poor defensive instincts). CBS' grade was harsh, yet accurate, noting that Phoenix should have picked Leonard at this spot. Hoopsworld's "A-" seems hilariously inaccurate today, especially since they noted that this was a great need-based pick. Drafting for need is always smart when there are better players on the board, correct?

2012

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#13: Kendall Marshall

In the 2012 draft, the Suns selected PG Kendall Marshall from UNC, once again drafting for need over talent. Thus far (keep in mind that it has only been a year), this has proved to be a mistake yet again. Marshall will definitely need more time to develop, but the results thus far have been mixed at best. Although the final verdict on this pick is still up in the air (we won't know for another couple years, at least) this is how this pick was graded:

Yahoo Sports: B
CBS Sports: F
Hoopsworld: A-

The Kendall Marshall pick received nearly identical grades as the 2011 selection of Morris. While Yahoo was once again conservative and CBS critical (noting that Marshall was picked "about six picks too high"), Hoopsworld for some reason really loves when bad teams draft for need.

2013

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#5: Alex Len
#29: Archie Goodwin
#57: Alex Oriakhi

New Suns GM boldly selected Alex Len ahead of Nerlens Noel and Ben McLemore, traded up one spot to draft Archie Goodwin at the 29th spot, and selected Alex Oriakhi near the end of the second round. Overall, the reactions to the Suns' picks have been mixed:

Yahoo Sports: B
CBS Sports: F (Len), B+ (Goodwin), B+ (Oriakhi)
Hoopsworld: C-

Most NBA media pundits are questioning McDonough's selection of Len over Noel and McLemore, with some even arguing that this pick seems reminiscent of the type of move the last GM would make. This is a sentiment that I completely disagree with.


Summary

  • Yahoo Sports has been consistently conservative in grading Suns' drafts, while Hoopsworld has for the most part been laudatory of the team's questionable picks in recent years.
  • CBS Sports hates us.
  • There is no discernible pattern or correlation that established the accuracy of most draft grades.
  • Draft grades given out immediately after a draft serve almost no purpose but to increase readership. Since most draft choices are made based on potential, it makes no sense to assess the immediate returns a team receives from its draft picks, which is what draft grades aim to do. Revisiting past years' draft grades allowed me to uncover some hilarious and wildly inaccurate projections of past prospects.
  • The only way to really assess the success of a team's draft is to review it at least a couple years afterwards.
  • The 2008 draft (Lopez and Dragic) was the most successful one the Suns have had since 2002 (Amare Stoudemire).
  • McDonough's draft choices this year are not at all similar to Lance Blanks' picks in 2011 and 2012. Whereas Blanks repeatedly made safe draft choices, McDonough's moves were the exact opposite. By going against the grain in choosing Len over Noel and McLemore, McDonough not only displayed conviction in his system, but also great bravado in making a move that is easy for many to doubt. The Goodwin trade/pick is another shrewd move that represents high upside.
  • Ryan McDonough's move to trade up one spot to draft Archie Goodwin is highly reminiscent (at least to me) of the last time a Suns GM bizarrely traded up a couple spots late in the draft to take an underdeveloped guard - when Steve Kerr moved up from 48 to 45 to acquire Goran Dragic in a draft day trade (a move that was doubted and criticized by the NBA world at the time).

CONCLUSIONS:

1) Draft grades are meaningless. In fact, it really is practically impossible to judge a team's choice of prospects until they are given time (a few years) to display the full extent of their NBA-level talents.

2) If anything, Ryan McDonough's draft selections represent a welcome departure from the safe picks made by the Suns in the last two years. Although immediate reactions have been justifiably mixed, one thing is for certain: the new GM is not afraid to make a move that he believes is best for the franchise, even if no one outside the organization does. Since everyone seemed to support his hiring and acknowledge his scouting experience and expertise, shouldn't we give him the benefit of the doubt until he proves otherwise?

Poll
What grade do you give to assess the value of immediate draft grades?

  344 votes | Results

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