Ryan McDonough

McDonough: Suns ‘Overwhelmingly Likely’ To Keep No. 1 Pick

While nothing has been officially ruled out, Suns‘ general manager Ryan McDonough said it is “overwhelmingly likely” that the team keeps the first overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, Scott Bordow of Arizona Central Sports writes.

“There’s a very small grouping of players we’d consider trading it for,” McDonough said of the No. 1 pick. “It would have to be a proven young star player with multiple years on his contract or multiple years of team control. Once you start whittling down the list, that list probably shrinks to a handful of players, if not fewer players than that, so I think the overwhelming likelihood is that we keep the pick.”

We relayed last week that Phoenix is considering a “handful” of options in the draft. Arizona’s Deandre Ayton is the likely first overall pick and has been heavily rumored to be the Suns’ choice. However, international star Luka Doncic and Marvin Bagley III have also been mentioned as possibilities. Doncic has a relationship with the team’s new head coach, Igor Kokoskov.

It is difficult and I think people are jumping to conclusions as far as [thinking] there’s only one or two guys in the mix for us,” general manager McDonough said in an interview with ESPN. “There are more than that. There are a handful of guys.

If the Suns are comfortable with several of the perceived top choices, McDonough can follow in the footsteps of the Celtics last season. Boston traded down from the top pick to No. 3, using it to select Jayson Tatum. Markelle Fultz went to the Sixers first overall.

Barring a change of heart, however, it is widely expected that the Suns keep the No. 1 selection, with Ayton viewed as the frontrunner to head to Phoenix.

Pacific Notes: Untouchable Players, Bagley, Collins, McDonough

The Lakers have a busy offseason ahead of them as the organization enters the summer with ample cap space and a young roster loaded with potential. However, when it comes to trade discussions, the Lakers have let teams know that nobody on the roster is untouchable, Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times writes.

“While they like their young core and would prefer to keep those players growing together, they have told teams no player is untouchable in trades, according to multiple sources who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of trade and free-agent negotiations,” Ganguli writes.

Los Angeles wields four solid young assets, including Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Julius Randle, and Brandon Ingram. All four players are 23 years old or younger, which gives the Lakers a surplus of talent to deal with.

Check out more Pacific Division notes below:

  • The 2018 NBA Draft will be the Lakers’ opportunity to move on from the now ill-fated trades to acquire Steve Nash and Dwight Howard in 2013. The team does not have its own first-round pick this year, stemming from the Nash trade, Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus writes.
  • In a fun piece, Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times looks at Warriors assistant coach Jarron Collins and how he may be fighting a bias against really tall people getting head coaching jobs. Collins, who stands at 6’11”, would be the tallest head coach in the league if he were hired.
  • The Kings own the second overall pick in the NBA Draft and a lot has been made of who Sacramento will target. Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee examines whether or not drafting Duke’s Marvin Bagley III makes sense given the team’s surplus of big men.
  • Suns general manager Ryan McDonough gave a personal scouting report on Deandre Ayton and Luka Doncic as the team prepares to pick first in the draft, Scott Bordow of Arizona Central Sports writes. Ayton and Doncic — if he commits to leaving Europe for the NBA — are widely expected to be the top two picks.

Suns Considering ‘Handful’ Of Options For Top Pick

While the early consensus is that there are two players in the running to get drafted first overall, the Suns are considering a handful of options ahead of the big day. Adam Zagoria of ZAGSBLOG writes that the club met with No. 3-ranked Marvin Bagley III at the Draft Combine.

It is difficult and I think people are jumping to conclusions as far as [thinking] there’s only one or two guys in the mix for us,” general manager Ryan McDonough said in an interview with ESPN. “There are more than that. There are a handful of guys.

Of course it will be hard to imagine the perceived values of DeAndre Ayton and Luka Doncic dropping enough that the No. 1 pick goes to somebody else, even if that means the Suns end up trading it.

If you look around the NBA as far as the veteran players, there are probably a few players we would consider trading the pick for,” McDonough said. “It will be a busy month for us.

Perhaps that’s just McDonough doing his diligence and broadcasting that he’s open to high-value offers involving young stars with multiple years of team control left on their contracts.

For now, it’s reasonable to assume that the team will take advantage of the luck bestowed upon them at the Draft Lottery and, with that in mind, it’s worth noting that not only was Suns VP of Basketball Operations James Jones in attendance to watch Doncic play in the EuroLeague Final Four (h/t international hoops reporter David Pick) but franchise owner Robert Sarver was too (h/t Jonathan Givony of ESPN).

Couple that with the first-overall buzz that for months has surrounded Ayton, the Arizona Wildcat with whom the Suns are already quite familiar, and it’s hard to imagine the team turning down the opportunity to draft a potential franchise player at No. 1.

It’s still early and plenty can change in the weeks leading up to June 21. For now, it’s worth recognizing that Ayton and Doncic remain the conventional choices for the top two picks but that any team in the Suns’ position would be foolish not to explore all possible options.

If, when the dust settles, the team somehow still isn’t convinced about either Ayton or Doncic, there’s always the possibility of McDonough taking a page from Danny Ainge‘s book and swapping the first overall pick for a lower pick and additional assets, as Luke Adams wrote in a Suns feature yesterday.

Suns To Hire Igor Kokoskov As New Head Coach

The Suns are hiring Utah Jazz assistant Igor Kokoskov as their new head coach, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Wojnarowski adds that Kokoskov is signing a three-year deal with the Suns, while Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune tweets that Kokoskov will remain with the Jazz through the remainder of their playoff run.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 reports that the contract will contain no options and that the final decision to hire Kokoskov came when team representatives met with him in Houston yesterday in between Games 1 and 2 of the Jazz’ first round series against the Rockets.

The Suns have confirmed the news, writing that the hire will make Kokoskov the first NBA head coach born and raised outside North America in NBA history.

“We are thrilled to bring Valley resident Igor Kokoskov back to Arizona as head coach of the Phoenix Suns,” said GM Ryan McDonough. “Igor has been a pioneer throughout his basketball career and he brings a wealth of high level coaching experience to our club.

“He was one of the first non-American born assistant coaches at both the NCAA and NBA levels and his most recent head coaching stint includes leading the Slovenian national team to the 2017 EuroBasket title, which was the first European title in the history of the country. Igor’s teams have always had a player development focus, a creative style of play and a track record of success.”

Kokoskov, 46, will become the 19th head coach in Suns’ franchise history in his 19th season as an NBA coach. He was as an assistant coach with the Suns from 2008-2013 during their run of success with Steve Nash, including a trip to 2010 Western Conference Finals.

Kokoskov is also a successful international head coach, leading Slovenia to a first place finish at FIBA EuroBasket 2017 and also coaching the Georgian national team from 2008-2015. One member of the Slovenian national team he coached: potential top-pick Luka Doncic.

Suns Rumors: Head Coach, Draft Picks, Roster

Suns general manager Ryan McDonough participated in a Facebook Live interview on the Suns’ official Facebook page today, addressing several topics of note during that Q&A with fans. Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic rounded up some highlights from the discussion, which we’ll relay below. Let’s dive in…

  • The Suns intend to interview several candidates for their permanent head coaching job, per McDonough, who suggested that the team will consider college coaches (Twitter link). Interim head coach Jay Triano will receive an interview for the full-time job too.
  • McDonough referenced the possibility of using extra first-round picks from Milwaukee and Miami for “asset consolidation” purposes, per Bordow (Twitter link). In other words, the Suns would be open to packaging one or more of those picks to trade up in the draft or to make a move for an established star.
  • According to McDonough, a center is a “slightly higher” priority than a point guard for the Suns this offseason. As Bordow notes (via Twitter), that preference could be good news for fans hoping that Phoenix can land a high lottery pick and draft Arizona center Deandre Ayton.
  • The Suns would like to add more veteran players to balance out the age of their roster, says McDonough (Twitter link). Bordow observes that it makes sense to have some veteran depth on the bench so that Phoenix’s head coach has some options if the club’s young players struggle. The Suns entered the 2017/18 campaign with a bit more balance in terms of NBA experience, but Brandon Knight has missed the season with an ACL injury and Eric Bledsoe was traded.

Suns Notes: Tanking, Triano, Len, Harrison

Suns GM Ryan McDonough promises there won’t be a repeat of the “strategic resting” that saw Eric Bledsoe and Tyson Chandler held out of the lineup late last season, relays Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic. Phoenix reached the All-Star break tied with the Hawks for the top spot in our Reverse Standings, but McDonough said the team won’t make any changes to try to improve its odds for the No. 1 pick.

“We’re planning on doing what we have been doing, that’s playing our young players. For us, that’s not a change,” he said. “… We want to continue to have them improve and get minutes and try to win as many games as we can.”

Interim coach Jay Triano echoed those sentiments and recalled that Bledsoe was angry about being forced to sit out the final 15 games last season, which played a part in his request to be traded. “I think we learned from last year with guys sitting out,” Triano said. “I don’t think that was real productive for us.”

There’s more tonight out of Phoenix:

  • Triano, who has served as interim coach since Earl Watson was fired in October, would like to be considered for the full-time job after the season ends, Bordow adds in the same story. “Listen, I love coaching, I love it here, I love the relationship I’m starting to develop with these players, so I’d like to keep it going and be a part of their development because I see a lot of positives,” Triano said. … “So there’s no reason I would not want to be [the coach].”
  • Fifth-year center Alex Len no longer seems to be in the Suns’ plans for the future, Bordow notes in a separate story. The plan for the final 23 games of the season is to start Chandler at center with Dragan Bender as the primary backup as Marquese Chriss gets another shot at the starting lineup. Len will be an unrestricted free agent this summer after agreeing to the Suns’ qualifying offer last year. He is averaging 8.4 points and 7.7 rebounds in 49 games, but the organization doesn’t seem to think his future will be in Phoenix.
  • Shaquille Harrison is thrilled to make his NBA debut after spending two seasons with the Suns’ G League affiliate in Northern Arizona, relays Craig Grialou of ArizonaSports“I’m just trying to seize the opportunity,” said Harrison, whose 10-day deal became official today. “I’m very grateful to be here. It’s a great organization, that’s why I stuck with them the past year-and-a-half, two years. I’m loving it and enjoying the process.”

Suns Plan To Be Aggressive In Free Agency

Suns GM Ryan McDonough has been encouraged by his team’s progress and is planning to make a strong push for free agents this summer, writes Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic.

McDonough hopes to use cap space and future assets to upgrade the talent level for next season, saying, “The team is ready.” He cites Devin Booker‘s rise to stardom and the improvement of T.J. Warren, which gives the team a solid foundation.

“There are certain core pieces that are starting to solidify,” McDonough said. “I think we’d be foolish or naïve to wait forever or be overly patient. We’ve been, I think, relatively disciplined with contracts we’ve given out in terms of length and dollars, but yeah, we’re planning on being one of five of six teams with a decent amount of cap space, and we’ll see if we can improve the team.”

The Suns will enter free agency with about $20MM to spend, assuming they don’t re-sign center Alex Len, who will be an unrestricted free agent after the team decided not to extend his rookie contract. More cap room could be created by trading veteran center Tyson Chandler, who is under contract for more than $13.5MM next season, and swingman Jared Dudley, who will make $9.53MM.

Bordow lists several potential targets for the Suns, including restricted free agents Clint Capela, Aaron Gordon, Jusuf Nurkic, Elfrid Payton and Marcus Smart, unrestricted free agents Derrick Favors and Tyreke Evans and potentially unrestricted free agents Nikola Mirotic [team option] and Enes Kanter [player option].

The Suns are also in good shape to make a move on draft night, with the potential for three first-rounders. They have their own pick, which is currently at No. 5 in our Reverse Standings, Milwaukee’s selection from the Eric Bledsoe deal, which conveys between No. 11 and 16 and is now 16th, and Miami’s pick, which is top seven protected and is currently at No. 22.

McDonough likes the depth in this year’s draft, noting that it’s particularly strong at center and point guard, two areas where Phoenix needs help.

“One of the things we’re excited about in this draft is if all the players we expect to declare are in, I think the strength of the draft is where we can use some help, at the one and the five primarily,” he said. “We’re kind of searching for answers long-term at those positions.”

The potential to draft a point guard makes it less likely the Suns will try to acquire Charlotte’s Kemba Walker, who has been linked to Phoenix in trade rumors, Bordow adds. Walker is 27 and has an expiring contract after next season, so he may not fit the Suns’ timeline. The team also is reluctant to make any moves that will reduce its cap space for this summer.

“I think for us to significantly cut into that and take us out of the free-agent market or make us less of a player in free agency, we would have to take a really good player coming back in return that fits with our young core,” McDonough said. “When I say young core, I don’t necessarily mean a guy 20 or 21 years old, but not a guy who’s in their 30s and closer to the end of their career than toward the beginning or the middle.”

McDonough: Bledsoe Trade Could Speed Up Timeline

The Suns got off to wretched start to the season and they didn’t wait long at all to make changes with an eye on turning the franchise’s fortunes around. Phoenix fired coach Earl Watson, something that upset Eric Bledsoe, and just weeks later, the team dealt the point guard to the Bucks.

GM Ryan McDonough believes the Bledsoe trade put the team in position to make a “compelling offer for a superstar,” as Greg Moore of the Arizona Republic passes along. The executive adds that if the organization wants “to be a player in 2018 and speed up our timeline a little bit, we’re able to do that as well.”

The Suns have could have as many as three first-round picks in the 2018 draft. They will receive Milwaukee’s 2018 first if it falls between No. 11 and No. 16, and they possess Miami’s first-rounder from the Goran Dragic, though the selection is top-seven protected.

If recent history is any indication of the trade market, dealing for a star does not require the kind of haul it has in previous years. Outside of the Kyrie Irving trade, one can argue that nearly every All-Star that switched teams over the past year via trade did so at a discounted price.

The Pelicans brought in DeMarcus Cousins for a lottery pick and a young prospect. The Bulls landed Jimmy Butler for a pair of guards with potential and the ability to move up nine slots in the 2017 draft. The Rockets only had to surrender a few solid NBA players in addition to a first-rounder in the Chris Paul trade. The Thunder landed Paul George for two players who each may never make an All-Star team (though, if Victor Oladipo‘s hot start continues, he’ll make a case for one this season) and they reeled in Carmelo Anthony from the Knicks for an Enes Kanter-headlined package.

Each of those deals had various circumstances to why the price was so low. However, had each of those players not been in their respective situations, the top talent would have likely never even been on the market.

Phoenix had the assets to make competitive offers for each of those stars and stood pat. After the Bledsoe deal, they maintain the ability to get involved should another star become available. However, it’s possible that the string of deals were more situation-based coincidences than a sign that new trend is emerging in the market for stars.

The trade adds to the Suns’ cupboard, though the increased flexibility doesn’t guarantee that the team is any closer to competing for a playoff seed in the West. McDonough’s talk of an improved timeline may be legit or it could simply be him masking a one-sided trade.

Do you buy what McDonough is selling? Let us know your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below and let us know how you would proceed if you were sitting in the GM’s chair. We look forward to what you have to say!

Suns GM Blames ‘Bad Advice’ For Bledsoe’s Actions

Suns GM Ryan McDonough believes Eric Bledsoe is receiving “bad advice” in his desire to get out of Phoenix, relays Chris Haynes of ESPN.

The remarks were made during an interview Tuesday with Arizona Sports 98.7 and are apparently a swipe at Bledsoe’s agent, Rich Paul, who represents several other high-profile clients, including LeBron James. Bledsoe reportedly had hoped to join James in Cleveland as part of a deal for Kyrie Irving and was “depressed” when that trade fell through.

“I think Eric’s a good person,” McDonough said. “I think he’s unfortunately gotten some bad advice and is listening to the wrong people. I think generally, any time you sign a contract, it doesn’t only work one way. It works both ways, and for a guy with years on his contract to say or intimate he didn’t want to be here anymore, I didn’t find that to be appropriate, and I think if he says he wants to be a leader, that’s the opposite of what a leader does and the opposite of what leadership is.”

Bledsoe, 27, is currently in limbo after being sent home prior to Monday’s game. It seems unlikely that he will ever play for Phoenix again, but the team hasn’t made much progress in trade talks over the past 48 hours, with one source suggesting that the asking price is way too high.

Bledsoe made news Sunday with a tweet that stated, “I Dont wanna be here,” and although he insisted it wasn’t related to the team, there have been other indications he wants out of Phoenix. Haynes notes that Bledsoe met with McDonough and owner Robert Sarver during the preseason, questioning several personnel moves and free agency failures during his four years with the franchise. Sources say Bledsoe was told that the team had underperformed since he became the starting point guard.

McDonough said in the interview that he has received some “pretty intriguing offers,” but feels no urgency to complete a deal because Bledsoe isn’t playing. The Knicks, Nuggets and Bucks are among the teams that have reportedly reached out to Phoenix.

“If you can imagine, my phone was ringing a lot yesterday,” McDonough said. “The ideal time to get a deal done is whenever the best offer presents itself. So we’d be fine doing it sooner rather than later. At the same time, he’s under contract for this year plus next year. We sent him away from the team to eliminate that distraction. So we’re willing to do a deal, we’re open to do a deal whenever the best offer presents itself.”

Knicks Notes: Ntilikina, Bledsoe, Kanter

Frank Ntilikina, who remains out of the lineup with a sprained ankle hears his name in the Eric Bledsoe trade rumors, but it’s not something he’s worried about, as Al Iannazzone of News Day relays. The No. 8 overall pick said it was “nice” that the Suns have interest in him, but his focus remains on getting healthy.

The Knicks spoke to the Suns about Bledsoe after Phoenix made it clear that it was shopping the point guard. GM Ryan McDonough apparently wants Ntilikina and Willy Hernangomez for the Kentucky product, but Iannazzone hears that neither player is on the table at the moment in a Bledsoe talks. While whispers of Ntilikina being off-limits are circulating, the team hasn’t told the French point guard that he won’t be dealt.

“Not really. No,” Ntilikina said. “I’m focused on basketball and on how I can make my ankle be better and my game be better so I can be back on the court.”

There’s more the New York:

  • The Knicks have “gone out of their way” to include Ntilikina and Hernagomez when discussing their cornerstone players Iannazzone notes (same piece). The scribe can’t envision the team dealing either player away for Bledsoe unless Phoenix is willing to take on long-term money, like the contracts of Joakim Noah or Courtney Lee.
  • New York will have to address its surplus of centers at some point in the future, Iannazzone adds. Hernangomez is currently out of the rotation as he watched Kyle O’Quinn and Enes Kanter gobble up the minutes at the five. Joakim Noah will only be suspended nine more games after tonight’s tilt against the Nets and Kristaps Porzingis could use additional minutes at the center position.
  • Kanter, who arrived in New York via the Carmelo Anthony deal, has played well in his first two games with the club, scoring a total of 27 points in 46 minutes. The big man has also developed on-court chemistry with Porzingiz. However, Fred Kerber of the New York Post wonders if Kanter’s presence is hurting the team long-term, as the franchise may be better served to give Hernangomez more opportunities.