With the Suns sitting on the sidelines for this playoff season, we here at Bright Side of the Sun thought it would be fun to re-live our team's magical playoff run twenty years ago. While the HEAT and Spurs pushed their way to the 2013 Finals, the Phoenix Suns did the same in 1993.
The Western Conference Finals were epic, and are definitely the stuff of dreams in the Valley of the Sun. The HEAT have LeBron James while the Suns boasted their own MVP Charles Barkley.
Take a look at how Barkley closed out the Sonics in Game 7 to push the Suns to their second Finals in franchise history.
With an incredible display of MVP-dom, the Chuckster further solidified himself in Suns fans hearts. To this day, even casual NBA fans remember that playoff run with a smile.
For the Sonics, their leading scorer in Game 7 was none other than Eddie Johnson. Yes, THAT Eddie who sandwiched that Sonics stint around a Suns run with new coach Jeff Hornacek in the late 80s and a post-playing career in the Suns' organization now spanning nearly twenty years.
Johnson poured in 34 points off the bench for the Sonics, while new Suns assistant coach Mark West put up 11 points in 24 minutes of his own.
The Suns got the benefit of a lot of whistles in Game 7, making 57 of 64 free throws, including 15 of 15 in the fourth quarter alone.
When the final buzzer sounded, the Suns were headed to the Finals with crowd chanting, "Bring on da Bulls!"
**Special Note to "those guys": I realize that, back in 1993, the NBA Finals between the Suns and Bull had already started, with the Suns going down 0-2 at home. Coming this week will be recaps of those and the remaining epic games of those memorable FInals.
On June 27th, the day of the 2013 NBA Draft, the Phoenix Suns will have the luxury of choice. With two first round picks (#5 and #30), GM Ryan McDonough will be forced to make a decision on how to cash in those two assets. As Dave King has already covered, McDonough stated that he is unlikely to draft two first-round prospects who share the same position. However, both he and Coach Hornacek share a belief that there is plenty of talent to be had with the 30th pick in this draft.
When asked about the difference between drafting at #5 versus #30, McDonough had this to say:
"It’s a challenge (to find the diamond in the rough) but I enjoy it. I think there are more legitimate options in terms of going in a number of different ways. That’s where the good teams pick, in the 20s and 30s every year, the playoff teams that have sustained their levels. There are good players there but obviously there aren’t as many as there are available at #5."
As a draft expert in Boston, McDonough had plenty of experience picking late in the draft and can hang his hat on several gems: Tony Allen in 2004 (25th), Rajon Rondo in 2006 (22nd), and Avery Bradley in 2010 (19th). He undoubtedly relishes the challenge of finding a quality prospect late in the first round and believes there is plenty of talent to be had with the 30th pick,
Coach Hornacek shares similar thoughts on the value of the late first rounder. He remarked that he could envision several of the prospects that have worked out for the Suns (those projected to go in that range) having a role on his Suns team.
"Obviously you have veteran guys but if you find that guy in the #30 range, and I don’t even discount #57, I was #46. So if you find that guy that’s willing to battle and push through the veteran guys, they might turn out to be better. You never know."
It makes perfect sense that Hornacek understands the value of a late pick. As he states, he himself was a second round pick who went on to have a stellar career. He knows that the later picks can go a long way in bringing in players that are willing to put in the effort to try and earn a spot in his rotation (something he himself went through in his first year in the league as an unheralded prospect).
Over the course of the last week, the Suns have had seven workouts and have brought in nearly 50 prospects to examine. Although they haven't worked out many big men projected to go in the 30th range (interestingly, most of the bigs the Suns have brought in are expected to go either earlier or later), many of the prospects who have visited US Airways Center are wings that are expected to go somewhere in the range of the Suns' #30 pick, such as Archie Goodwin, Tony Snell, and Ricky Ledo.
Whereas Snell is a relatively NBA-ready player with skills to contribute to the team immediately, Goodwin and Ledo are viewed as longer-term projects, making them riskier options than others. However, McDonough acknowledged that he is open to taking a risk with the #30 pick and remarked that the team itself is in a position to be considering such low-risk, high-reward investments:
"I feel like if you’re right there at a championship level and you need one more guy to put you over the hump, then it probably makes sense to draft a more veteran guy who can come in and play right away. Where we are, we obviously need to build this. So if there’s a guy you think could be a good starter someday, even if he's 18 or 19, that might be a risk you have to take."
McDonough rightfully points out that at risky proposition of drafting a longer-term project with obvious talent, such as Goodwin or Ledo, is something that the team shouldn't be and isn't afraid to undertake. He spoke extensively on Ledo in particular, who enters the draft with a great deal of talent but many questions about his game and off-court problems (he didn't play a single game at Providence due to academic ineligibility):
"I went and watched Ricky at practice in Providence as well as in high school. He really shoots the ball well. He’s just a natural scorer and has been his whole life. I think he shot the best in the drills today from the NBA three point line. The challenge is the rest of the game, especially not having played this year. He’s never guarded guys with his size and strength and athleticism, other than at AAU or whatever. He’s got a little ways to go defensively and in play-making but obviously there’s a lot of potential. Scoring remains his strength and he’s primarily still a scorer but he can also find guys and get other guys open and is developing his point guard skills, which at his size is obviously a plus."
All in all, both coach and GM have examined many prospects during this last week and they know there is plenty of talent to be had at various points in the draft. The Suns see definite value at the 30th spot in the draft - now it's up to them to make sure they cash in.