Suns keep #1 pick plans 'close to the vest'

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Suns GM Ryan McDonough meets with reporters to discuss his options with the number one pick. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Suns GM Ryan McDonough meets with reporters to discuss his options with the number one pick. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

Even if he’s made a decision, Ryan McDonough isn’t saying.

The league asks us not to say anything even if we do,” said McDonough in his only pre-draft news conference before the Suns make the first selection on Thursday, June 21.  “It’s a good position to be in. I welcome that pressure and responsibility. Honestly, I think there’s some drafts where you prefer not to have the number one pick because there isn’t a player worthy of that. And I think you’re set up to fail in that scenario. This year we feel the opposite. We feel there are 4-5 players that in normal drafts who in normal drafts would be in the mix for number one if not be number one. So, we view that as a good problem to have. It’s a really talented draft. And I think this will be one that you look back historically and say that was one of the better drafts in the last decade or two. It’s great to kick it off number one for us.”

Will it be Arizona big man DeAndre Ayton going number one or European star Luca Doncic?

“We scouted DeAndre a lot, in person for games and practices,” said McDonough. “We have all the film from all the games, along with Marvin Bagley and Luca Doncic. Those relationships are good. The proximity is good. The fact that he and Marvin are Phoenicians. We view that as a positive. And Luca has strong ties to our head coach. We view that as a positive. That’s why it’s kind of a neat position for us to be in. At the combine we met with guys like Mohamed Bamba, who said 'look, I think I’m as good as any of these guys and I think I’m worthy of being the number one pick’ and we love that. We love that confidence. We love that competitiveness. And anybody who wants to come in is more than welcome to give it a shot.”

Ayton seems to be the consensus number one but there are questions about his defense.

“He’s a terrific athlete. I think a lot of it was schematically they had him playing the four. One the floor with Ristic he was guarding away from the basket on the perimeter. In the NBA he’s a center, he’s a five. He slides well. He moves his feet well. He’s a tremendous athlete at that size as far strength, fluidity, coordination, all that,” said McDonough.

“What I’ve seen on film and in person so far, a lot of it is experience. Defensive rotations, knowing when to switch, when to rotate. That just comes with time, playing. He has a high level feel for the game. Especially on the offensive end of the court. And usually guys who have that on the offensive end of the floor usually are able in time able to translate that to the defensive end of the floor as well.”

Doncic is a bit of a mystery. He did win the Eurobasket title last summer with new coach Igor Kokoskov and Slovenia.

“First of all, he’s really big and that’s one of the things that stands out when you see him in person. I think physically he’s comparable to Joe Johnson, who’s a big strong guy. I think T.J. Warren’s measurements are pretty similar physically. Because he’s so skilled at that size and has such a good feel. I think you don’t realize on tape how big he is. He’s able to jab and create his own shot,” said McDonough. “I think if you look at some of the All NBA teams, some of the guys are better basketball players that athletes. Do they test off the charts in terms or running or jumping? Maybe not but you put the ball in their hands and they know what to do.”

The Suns are hoping that all the top pick prospects visit Phoenix in the coming days to make their case. On Friday, the Suns welcomed a collection of older college players with former ASU guard Tra Holder headlining the group.

“It’s a dream come true for me,” said Holder, who was participating in his first NBA pre draft workout. “My plan is to probably not watch it (the draft) and I’ll get a phone call that I’m here or I’ve got to work even harder.”

The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday June 21, just after 4 p.m. Arizona time.

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