Ryan McDonough, by all accounts, had a smashing debut yesterday in his press conference and later radio interviews. He is a no-nonsense, serious, analytical guy who has a clear vision of his coaching and front office structure going forward. He knows what he wants.
"On my staff, I told Lon and Robert I don't want specialists," he said, regarding what he wants in the front office with him. "What I generally prefer is a few guys that are master evaluators who know all the players, who can compare a guy who just got bought out in Europe to a guy who is available in the D-league to an NBA free agent who's at home working out. I want my top guys who can do that, and tell me who the best players are."
Grant Hill has been only a player in the NBA since graduating college. He's not a scouting junkie. Ryan McDonough seems to value a small team of guys who know it all, and have seen it all. He wants guys whose lives are all about video and travel to watch players face to face. Does that sound like Grant Hill, in the here and now, to you? Me neither.
You could say the Suns need better communication, and who's better than Hill at that? Well, after listening to McDonough, who got a communications degree, whose father was a journalist and whose brother is a TV guy, we don't need a mouthpiece who isn't the decision maker any more.
Ryan McDonough and the new coach look to be the faces of this franchise.
Grant Hill could fill a Mark West role, or an Alvan Adams role. They've been with the organization in various front office roles for years. But would Grant Hill be best served in a such a supporting, background role? Probably not.
While Hunter is still up for consideration, he doesn't appear to have the complete profile that Ryan McDonough wants in a head coach.
"Whether that's adjusted plus/minus, emphasizing corner threes, the value of two-for-ones," McDonough said about a future coach. "Those are just a few of the things we're going to ask our head coaching candidates about during the coaching search and I'm positive that the next coach of the Suns will understand the value of all those things."
Anyone who listened to Lindsey Hunter last spring, which I did a LOT, knows that Lindsey and analytics are not lifelong buddies.
"We are looking for a guys who's a leader," McDonough said, citing character and principle. "A guy who can develop players.
This might be Hunter, but that's still a stretch.
"Someone who's a good communicator. Someone who can embrace the rich tradition and history with the Suns, communicate our vision to the fans, to the media and all the people in the organization."
Hunter communicated, but not that well. He wasn't comfortable behind a mic, or sitting in his office with the press around him. It seems the Suns want a much better communicator this time.
While Hunter potentially has the leadership qualities that McDonough wants, the hard-working qualities, the toughness, Hunter just doesn't have the appreciation for analytics and the communication skills to fit McDonough's perfect profile.
And back to Grant Hill for a moment, you can write him off the list too. Hill's a wonderful communicater but he's not a coach, and McDonough already has a long list of actual, proven coaches at his disposal.
Emphasizing corner threes. Smart offense. Taking advantage of two-for-ones. Cutting edge analytics that prove theories and help you identify value that's not all about points and rebounds. Drafting Rondo at #21. Drafting Bradley at #19. Drafting Sullinger in the 20s.
How will Michael Beasley stack up to that scrutiny? Not well, I wager.
For now, McDonough is being diplomatic. And possibly also not killing Beasley's potential trade value, if there is any.
"With Michael, he's a talented player, " McDonough said on KTAR yesterday. "I've watched him for a long time. I remember seeing him in 2004 in Adidas camp. He was a child prodigy.
"He still has a lot of ability, but he has some maturing to do. I've seen him dominate at the high school level, at the college level at Kansas State. He has some growing to do. The new head coach and I get will get to try to have him see the value of hard work and hopefully he learns from some of those mistakes."
Being diplomatic. But also saying they have to investigate the allegations against him. Meaning, they aren't poo-pooing these rumors. The Suns are allowing the process to play itself out without defending Beasley in the meantime. It is what it is, and what it will be.
Doesn't bode well for Beasley's future, in my opinion.
Other measurables: 21 years old, 6'9" wingspan (reportedly), 42" vertical (reportedly)
I realize most analysts have Ben McLemore as the top wing prospect, but since this is my write up, I'm going with Oladipo. Victor Oladipo is as close to the total package as a shooting guard as I have seen in many years. He's explosive, ultra-athletic, a lock down perimeter defender, and a very good rebounder. He also has the highest motor of any prospect, and is the most clutch as well. In fact, the only things I can legitimately list as weaknesses are his passing, which still isn't bad, and his jump-shooting, which he improved considerably this season and turned into one of his strengths in my opinion. The only player I would strongly consider taking over Oladipo is Noel, and even then, I can't say I'm 100% on board with that decision. V.O. has been shooting up the mocks lately, and deservedly so. My fear is that he may already be gone by the time the Suns pick if Phoenix doesn't end up drafting in the top 3.
|2012 - Victor Oladipo||36||28.4||5.1||8.4||59.9||0.8||1.9||44.1||2.7||3.6||74.6||2.6||3.7||6.3||2.1||2.3||2.2||0.8||2.5||13.6|
Other measurables: 20 years old, 6'7" wingspan (reportedly), 40" vertical (reportedly)
Compares to: Ray Allen/Wesley Johnson?
Ben McLemore was one of the more exciting players to watch this year. He was the best player on a very good Jayhawks team that stepped up on multiple occasions, especially in the fourth quarter, to pull out some hard fought victories. McLemore has elite athleticism, second only to Oladipo among the wings, and he has the smoothest jumpshot in college. He also has nice length and the lateral agility to be a very good defender. McLemore has all of the tools to be a star at the next level...but will he fulfill his potential? Despite his athleticism, McLemore rarely creates his own shot, and doesn't attack the rim nearly enough. He can be so much more than a catch-and-shoot player, but we didn't see him do much more than that this year. Probably the highest boom/bust ratio of any wing in the draft, but Phoenix could be in the market for just such a player, as long as his rewards outweigh his risks...and I believe they do.
|2012 - Ben McLemore||37||32.2||5.4||10.8||49.5||2.0||4.7||42.0||3.2||3.7||87.0||1.3||3.9||5.2||2.0||2.1||1.0||0.7||1.9||15.9|
Other measurables: 19 years old, 7'1" wingspan (reportedly)
Compares to: Tayshaun Prince/Nicholas Batum
Porter is one of the most productive and less risky picks in this years draft. H's a very good shooter/rebounder and an excellent perimeter defender who can utilize his length to disrupt the offense. He is also a very good and willing passer and he can create his own shot off the dribble. However, with less risk comes less reward. I see Porter as a quality starter at best or a productive role player at worst...but I don't see him turning into an all-star caliber player at the next level. He doesn't possess elite athleticism or seem to have a killer instinct that often separates the cream from the crop. Don't get me wrong, Porter would be a very solid pick. But Phoenix may be looking for more than just that at this point.
|2012 - Otto Porter||31||35.4||5.4||11.3||48.0||1.4||3.3||42.2||3.9||5.1||77.7||1.8||5.7||7.5||2.7||1.5||1.8||0.9||2.0||16.2|
Other measurables: 21 years old, 6'6" wingspan (reportedly)
Compares to: Stephen Curry/Reggie Jackson
You know that player from the small school that hardly anyone talks about before the draft, that suddenly shoots up the mocks and ends up being one of the top picks? Well, McCollum could be that guy this year. Stifled by a season ending left foot injury last January, McCollum kind of dropped off the radar for a while. However, he is back practicing at full speed and appears ready to pick up where he left off as one of the top scorers this year in college basketball. As a senior, McCollum has proven that he can consistently be a potent scorer, and has even improved his points-per-game average every year (19.1, 21.8, 21.9, 23.9). McCollum is very quick and loves attacking the basket. He also has a solid jump-shot and loves to get steals and score in transition. His biggest drawback is of course his size, but if the Suns are looking for some lightning in a bottle in the form of an elite scorer, CJ McCollum may be the perfect fit.
|2012 - CJ McCollum||12||31.0||8.0||16.2||49.5||2.8||5.3||51.6||5.2||6.1||84.9||1.0||4.0||5.0||2.9||2.7||1.4||0.3||1.8||23.9|
Other measurables: 20 years old, 6'11" wingspan (reportedly)
Compares to: Paul Pierce/James Harden
Shabazz Muhammad has to be one of the most debated prospects in this year's draft. Coming into the season he was the top ranked prospect overall, but after going through some troubles with his NCAA eligibility and finally showing up at UCLA a little overweight and out of shape, some of the luster quickly started to wear off. However, once he got into the grove at UCLA he showed exactly why scouts and analysts were so high on him. He is a versatile player who can slash to the rim or score with a jumper. He is a pretty good athlete, a willing defender (if not a very effective one), and he has a very high motor; giving it his all on both ends of the floor. The biggest knocks against Shabazz are that he heavily favors his dominant left hand, he struggles in transition, and he sometimes struggles to create his own shot. However, Shabazz has all of the physical tools to be successful in the NBA, and many of his weaknesses are areas that he can improve upon. If he slides in the draft he could end up being a steal for the team that ends up selecting him.
|2012 - Shabazz Muhammad||32||30.8||6.3||14.3||44.3||1.3||3.3||37.7||4.0||5.6||71.1||2.7||2.5||5.2||0.8||1.6||0.7||0.1||1.7||17.9|
Other measurables: 19 years old, 6'10" wingspan (reportedly)
Compares to: Chandler Parsons/Hedo Turkoglu
Saric is an international player from Croatia who is known for his court vision, high I.Q., ball-handling, and playmaking ability. He has excellent size for his position and is also a good rebounder as well. Dario has been climbing up the mocks lately because of his unique skill set and his potential. However, he is still unfinished as a total package, and needs to add more size and work on his jumpshot, which is inconsistent at times. Still, while Saric definitely won't be an option with an early lottery pick, he's worth keeping an eye on in case the Suns somehow acquire an additional pick.
With Lon Babby at his side emitting a visual beam of confidence, his newly hired general manager, Ryan McDonough, was introduced to the Phoenix Suns organization and the valley. Full of quips and anecdotes mixed with plenty of cheer and candor, the introduction of McDonough seemed to be a huge sigh of relief after a few tumultuous years for the team.
"First of all, let me introduce a couple special guests," Babby began the press conference. "As you all know by now, the Phoenix Suns have a little bit of a fetish for brothers. Let me introduce a couple of Ryan's family members..."
Along with a plug for some special issue Suns' team neckties that Ryan was wearing that can also be found in the team shop, it was clear from the beginning that Babby and the Suns were nothing short of elated to welcome in another era of Suns basketball.
The sigh of relief comes from the team getting their man. Three years ago, there was a list and Lance Blanks only rose to the top after others pulled out. There was no question where McDonough ranked in the eyes of the team this time around.
They got their guy.
For McDonough, being the first man in the gym and the last man out of the film room has certainly paid off, as his ten-year journey in the NBA has led up to this point.
"I am beyond excited, thrilled to be here," were McDonough's first public words as the team’s general manager.
This was not his natural setting. Sitting at a podium answering questions is not where he is most natural, McDonough is a gym rat and a video junkie that was able to rise from the film room to leading a team of his own through years of hard work. His career began with the Boston Celtics in the film room and as a scout for a handful of years before becoming an assistant to current Celtics GM, and former Suns mainstay, Danny Ainge.
As McDonough described Ainge, he was a "professional mentor" and the person that believed in him enough to bring him up from the lowest ranks to help build a championship-caliber team.
Bringing in an elite basketball mind that is as meticulous and organized as McDonough is a positive move for the Suns. When McDonough got the call to interview, he was given a precursor of five questions. He came prepared with doctoral-caliber essays that were thoroughly written to answer those five questions along with any other questions about his work ethic or preparation.
There was not a lot of candor from McDonough, although he showed his human side while discussing his two brothers being in the room as he was being introduced. That tender moment where he choked up in front of his family endeared McDonough to the media and the fans more than the three collective years of what was the Lance Blanks Era ever did.
Now that the pleasantries are out of the way, now begins the grind of being an NBA general manager and decision-maker.
"There are some good young pieces in place here," McDonough began assessing the Suns roster. "Lon and Robert (Sarver) have done a good job of acquiring draft picks and young players and positioning themselves for sustainable success."
One of the first orders of business is to move swiftly on naming the franchise's next head coach. That is a question that seems to have already begun to be answered with a small list of names already being rumored: Brian Shaw (Indiana), Kelvin Sampson (Houston), Quin Snyder (Russia), and Mike Budenholzer (San Antonio).
Finding both a "teacher and a leader" are the criteria for the team's next head coach, according to McDonough and Babby. Those four, along with Lindsey Hunter and potentially a few others, will be on the short list of coaching candidates.
The coach has to be an extension of what the front office is trying to instill for the organization as a whole. That is a necessary factor for game planning, communication, and overall success for the team. A teacher to bring along a young team in the midst of a rebuild, while having the command and respect of the locker room, is invaluable. Bridging analytics and feel for the game is a challenge. That is a trait very few have.
McDonough is a scout at heart that has worked with the likes of Chris Wallace (current Memphis GM) and Danny Ainge over the years to develop a feel for the game. The next coach needs to be an extension of that.
"There are different ways to build a team," McDonough explained. In Boston, they built through the draft with Al Jefferson, Delonte West, Gerald Green, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, and two lottery picks that were shipped off for a future Hall of Famer in Ray Allen. All of those assets were then subsequently used to acquire Kevin Garnett and as they say, the rest is history.
With the way this current roster is constructed, the draft is the most important platform to build off of at this juncture. The team has two first round picks and a pick in the second round as well. "We have to nail these picks" was McDonough's first thought and called this year’s draft the "first focus" of his.
Then, there is the NBA Draft Combine next week, player workouts for a month after that, and the draft itself in June before free agency.
McDonough probably has written more player profiles than Merriam-Webster has written words over the years, so he knows this class. The Celtics were preparing to draft 15th overall while the Suns will draft in the top half of the lottery and at the very end of the first round. He likely has a plan already, but now he gets to look at the top of the draft.
There has not been one negative word written about the hiring of McDonough, but as he has stated and every Suns fan has to keep in mind, this is not an overnight fix.
It will be a process that takes time and might take all four of McDonough's contracted years before the Suns are back to the success that they are used to having. They have six picks over the next four years in the first round and a few bricks laid in the foundation. McDonough can be a part of the foundation in the slow build to the re-ascension of a proud and successful franchise.
The Suns are ushering in another era of Suns basketball, but instead of advertising it, they are putting in the work. You can try to sell a bad team or you can be progressive with necessary change. The Suns are done selling.