Armed with three first round picks from 14-27 in the 2014 NBA Draft, the Phoenix Suns plan to use them in trades rather than on rookies to join Archie Goodwin and Alex Len next year.

With 48 wins under their belts this season, the Phoenix Suns have already moved beyond the 'get as young as possible' phase of the rebuilding process. From now on, it is about acquiring top-end talent rather than stockpiling rookies.

No one in the Suns front office feels like this past season was a fluke, or that the youth they already possess is likely to regress next season.

"We are not going to sit here as a team that didn't make the playoffs and say we're all set," Suns GM Ryan McDonough said. "There are some roster upgrades you can make. But I don't think there are any glaring holes that aren't filled if you factor in some internal improvement."

Rather, President Lon Babby, GM Ryan McDonough and coach Jeff Hornacek foresee bright futures for this year's rookies, 19-year old Archie Goodwin and 20-year old Alex Len.

Add in the almost-certain return of 24-year old Eric Bledsoe and the continued maturity of mid-20s Miles Plumlee, Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris and you are already looking at six young rotation players on the rise in the coming seasons. And of those six, only Bledsoe will be on an expensive contract next season.

So would you really add three more rookies to that mix?

"I think it's unlikely that we'll bring in three rookies to the Suns," McDonough said. "With the success we had this year, and it's a good problem to have, it's tough to develop rookies and win a lot of games. If you look at the Rookie of the Year candidates, most of them are on teams at the bottom of the league. It's hard to do both."

Archie Goodwin, 19, showed a great deal of promise, but most of that was in the Summer League and during practices. He did not play much in the second half. Alex Len, 20, was injured for much of the first half of the season but played a bit in the second half as the backup center. Neither got more than 15 minutes per game.

McDonough discussed the options for those six picks in the next two years, and one of them was a new twist.

"I think if we do go in with the 14th, 18th and 27th pick," he said. "It's not likely we draft three guys and bring them to the Suns."

"Our preference would be to trade for a star," he said, just as he always has. In an ideal situation, the Suns would trade some of those picks for a top-10 NBA talent and start planning for deep playoff runs.

The second best option, short of acquiring a star, would be to package picks to move up in the draft for a better talent than is available outside the lottery.

"We could also draft a European player or two and leave them overseas," he said, as option #3.

If all those fail and the Suns can't move up, there's another way of moving out that just pushes the can down the road a bit.

"We could also trade our pick for future picks," he said. "And kind of spread the picks out."

There's something we hadn't considered before. Why bring in six rookies in the next 15 months to this team? No one really wants to do that. But there are other teams who want youth today, and they might be willing to trade today's mid-teens pick for tomorrow's potentially higher pick.

"You know we have three this year and potentially three next year." McDonough continued. "So we might spread them out a little. Lon did a great job of stockpiling picks and we added to that last summer. It gives us a great deal of flexibility going forward."

But the preference, of course, is to convert those picks into a star. That's always been the plan and will remain the plan going forward. Trading picks into future years only extends the Suns' flexibility if all else fails. You don't trade a 2014 pick for a 2016 pick unless all other options are off the table.

"We would like to retain as much of our core as possible," he said, "but if you look at our cap sheet, we have a lot of flexibility coming up. But we also have big decisions to make. How can you upgrade the talent? Or, how can you retain the talent you already have?"

Rather than six picks in two years, the Suns could benefit from having two picks per year for the next four years. That would allow them to always be able to trade a pick, and even picks in consecutive years. The NBA's CBA does not allow a team to go pick-less in consecutive years, so teams cannot trade consecutive picks unless they have more than one coming to them.

Still, the #1 priority is to acquire a star. The Rockets did it by getting James Harden two years ago, and then Dwight Howard last summer. The Warriors did it by acquiring Andre Iguodala last summer after having their own resurgent season in 2012-13.

"If we can use our draft picks in a package to get better, to get a veteran," McDonough said, "to get us from the upper 40s to the 50s and even the 60s, you know we'll do that."

McDonough concluded with a telling comment that the Suns are not just going to bring back the same exact team next year. They won't trust that everyone will come back with the same attitude and that making the playoffs is only about internal improvement. The Suns have 13 players under their control for next season.

But they are unlikely to bring back the whole team while just kicking a couple of draft picks down the road a bit.

"We could bring back all the guys," McDonough said. "But I think we'll make some tweaks and try to get better."

Report Cards for each player on the surprising 48-34 team, plus the coach and front office

So how awesome was it that Goodwin sacked Sactown in the team's final game this season? As far as grading goes, it's akin to killing his final exam. Although he definitely put an exclamation point on his rookie year with that 29 point career high performance, most of his season was much more sedate. Depending on how you want to look at it, Archie was a casualty of the Suns success.

In the end, there just wasn't a lot of spare playing time left over for a 19 year old rookie on a playoff contending team. That played into Goodwin having two quick stints in the D-League this season, one at the end of January and one in early February.

In five games (two starts) for the Bakersfield Jam Goodwin averaged 26.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. He shot a very respectable .494 from the field and .385 from three point range. He even shot .810 from the line on an impressive 8.4 attempts per game. The only real blemish on his record there was his 4.2 turnovers per game.

In a way, though, that's more cause for relief than a harbinger of future NBA success. I mean, really, what NBA player doesn't excel in that type of environment? See Marshall, Kendall.

But let's get back to the association. Here's a fun stat (now that we can make light of the hellish season just two years back).

In 2012-13 the Suns had seven players who finished with a WS/48 of 0.00 or lower (negative). Wesley Johnson, Hamed Haddadi, Kendall Marshall, Marcus Morris, Michael Beasley, Luke Zeller and Diante Garrett.

Yes, those guys were all on the Suns. What a cringeworthy collection of talent.

The magnificent seven combined to play 4,021 minutes for a net of -2.2 wins (2.2 losses).

Are you wondering where I'm going with this?

For the 2013-14 season Archie Goodwin had the lowest WS/48 of any player on the Suns... it was .018. Better than nearly half of the 2012-13 roster.

That he finished lowest on the team in this category isn't really a knock on Archie, either, it is just a testament to how every single player had a positive impact on the team.

Goodwin made 52 appearances during the season and averaged 10.3 minutes per game. The spot duty makes his 3.7 points per game look pretty anemic, so I'm going to focus on per36 numbers. His averages of 13.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.4 steals were pretty middle of the pack in terms of the team.

What stood out to me was where Archie was getting his shots and his success rate. Goodwin was second on the team in percentage of field goal attempts at the rim (.545) behind Viacheslav Kravtsov. He was getting more looks at the rim than Miles Plumlee and Alex Len. Then, by getting himself good looks Goodwin managed to tie Goran Dragic for best 2P% at .542.

Goodwin's biggest deficiencies were 3P% (.139), FT% (.673) and turnovers (3.0 - third worst on team). Not a surprise.

Basically Archie's stats are indicative of exactly what we expected from him this season.

Goodwin has flashed brilliance since I saw him in his Las Vegas Summer League debut in which he scored 13 points against the Portland Trail Blazers summer squad. What Ryan McDonough told me that day after the game still resonates with me as to what embodies Archie as a young player.

"Archie didn't shoot the ball very well (in college), that's an area he absolutely has to improve on, but he really knows how to get in the paint," commented McDonough. "He knows how to break down defenses and get to the basket."

What I saw in him that game translated to the NBA court as well...

Goodwin attempted a game high six free throws, making four, while displaying a mesmerizing combination of quickness and fluidity. Maybe graceful would be a fitting adjective?

That was the first time I saw him play in person, and I still think it embodies what he does fairly succinctly.

But in addition to the fluidity, I also saw some ferocity this season.

The best thing about these report cards is that all the writers here have total creative license to use any qualitative or quantitative methods they choose. Even the format is completely flexible. Maybe some will just be reviews and eschew my grading criteria completely. (Jim shakes fist)

In limited exposure Archie showed enough to give hope that he has the potential to grow into an effective player at this level. By all accounts he is a great teammate with an exemplary work ethic. He was even the consummate performer by leaving us wanting more after the season finale, but in the end he didn't do that much more than I expected. I think next year he'll have a better chance to crack the rotation, though, especially if he's in the gym shooting free throws and three pointers all summer. Maybe he can hit the weight bench, too. After all, he's only 19 and hasn't even grown into his NBA body.

Scary.

Grade: B

Mike D’Antoni has left two blazed trails during his time in the NBA. The former Phoenix Suns coach first changed the way the pro game was played. Then he left messes in the two biggest media...

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Jeff Hornacek’s first season on the job as Phoenix Suns coach went pretty well. The Coach of the Year runner up helped his team to 48 wins, pushed the right buttons with nearly every player on...

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When Hornacek took over as coach of the Phoenix Suns it was assumed he would take his lumps. Instead he was the one serving them out as he gained a lot of credibility and job security in his first season.

Let me start with a very transparent example that is a microcosm of Hornacek's performance as a tyronic head coach.

In the 2012-13 season Markieff Morris took 45.3% of his shots from 16' or further away from the basket.  Under Hornacek's tutelage that shrunk to 31.9%. As a result of this his eFG% went up from .442 to .507. This tangible improvement isn't anomalous, either, as the team as a whole took better shots and made a higher percentage as a result.

Hornacek coached the players to capitalize on the strengths in their skillsets and eschew their weaknesses... and the players embraced his message. They bought in. That's a very important part of effective coaching. Basketball knowledge can be futile when it isn't complemented with the ability to instill that knowledge in the players. Many good coaches have been tuned out before and lost their teams.

Hornacek seemed to make the Suns self aware... and that may have saved and/or revitalized the careers of many players on the roster.

The inimitable, and our very own, East Bay Ray already did a lot of the heavy lifting for me with his story that detailed how the Phoenix Suns delivered on Coach Jeff Hornacek's August forecasts. It is a testament to a coach's ability when he can get that kind of across the board improvement out of his players.

Here's how stupid the improvement on the team was last season. Eric Bledsoe went from a bench player averaging 8.5 points and 3.1 assists per game to a starter averaging 17.7 and 5.5 while increasing his eFG% from .473 to .522 in the process. That's a bigger jump than most other players will ever experience, but it was basically an afterthought in the wake of what his teammates achieved.

Part of what made Jeff's effort so spectacular was the depth expectations had sunk to after the calamitous state of affairs last season had spiraled into. It wasn't just that the team was abysmal, the organization appeared completely rudderless.

The palingenesis of the team gained notoriety throughout the league as the season progressed, but I think in many ways the people that were most surprised were the ones closer to the team (Jim raises hand).

But maybe not those closest. From the outset those directly within the organization had confidence the team would be much better than the prognostications of peril. Still, I don't even think any of them expected 48 wins.

Instead the team took the stance of letting their play on the court do the talking. There was no bluster or bravado over how much better the team would be than the consensus predictions. There was no indignance over a perceived slight from those predictions. The team even hedged itts bets by alluding to the season as one that shouldn't necessarily be judged by wins and losses. There was no discussion of the team contending for the playoffs after the team had been burned by such statements the previous preseason.

Under Hornacek the Suns (48-34) won 23 games more than they did the previous season (25-57). That is tied for the third biggest turnaround in franchise history behind the 2004-05 SSOL team (+33) and the 1988-89 team (+27) which Hornacek was a member of.

Of course, this doesn't include the 1999-00 Backcourt 2000 squad that went from 27-23 to 53-29 (+26, right?).

When Jeff took the job he said he'd always thought of coaching, like his father, he just didn't think it would be at this level. In a season with a leitmotif of exceeding underwhelming expectations it seems like Hornacek surprised himself again. Not only is he coaching at the highest level, but it appears he is a prodigy.

He's even a really likable guy, even if he's not necessarily dripping with charisma. The abrasive, unpoised nature of Lindsey Hunter feels like a lifetime away.

The players like to play for him. There is a cohesiveness in the locker room and on the court. The Suns never gave up on their coach this season. What evidences this more clearly than the fact that the team was basically never out of a game? When some teams would pack it in and play for the next game the Suns would scrape and claw with palpable desperation. Hornacek rarely ever criticized the effort of his team this season and that's because the team rarely ever gave less than maximum.

When asked about the one positive that stood out in his mind the most this season Hornacek responded, "I think overall, for the team and the organization, it's that we got it back to Phoenix Suns basketball and what that's really like."

Pretty much sums it up for me.

The biggest blemish on Hornacek's inaugural season was that the Suns fell painfully short of a postseason appearance. He facetiously took the blame.

"I screwed up at the beginning of the year. We had this little three game set that we kept track of. I told the guys that if we end up with a plus seven we're going to be in the playoffs, but plus seven over .500 put us right at 48 and we didn't get in. So I guess I screwed that up. It should have had plus eight."

That was just about the only thing Hornacek didn't get right.

Since Hornacek finished second to Greg Popovich in the Coach of the Year voting I guess that makes him Rookie Coach of the Year instead.

Jeff almost got an A+, but in the end the playoffs was the cherry on top. In a way it's like he killed it all semester long, but didn't quite ace the final.

For that reason Hornacek will have to settle for an A.

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