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.
#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:"
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.
#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:
#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 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?
#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:
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.
#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:
CBS Sports: F (Len), B+ (Goodwin), B+ (Oriakhi)
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.
- 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).
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?