PHOENIX – With just days remaining before the NBA Draft, the Phoenix Suns took one last look at players who had already worked out with the team. Villanova guard Josh Hart, Oregon forward Dillon Brooks and Southern Methodist forward Semi Ojeleye were among those given a second chance Monday to impress the organization.
The workouts came with the draft rumor mill in full swing. ESPN reported that the Suns were interested in trading up to acquire Lonzo Ball, while the Chicago Tribune suggested the Suns could be the third team in a Chicago-Cleveland trade for Jimmy Butler.
Even with the most recent trade between Boston and Philadelphia, general manager Ryan McDonough said the team was “unlikely” to trade up in the draft.
“I think we’re very comfortable at four,” McDonough said. “Regardless who goes one, two, or three, we really like at least two to three guys that will be at four or we think will be there at four. I think it’s less likely but you never know.”
The team would take the best available player, McDonough said, but then specified targeting guards and wings.
When asked if he would draft a player who had not worked out with the team, the answer was a simple “yes.”
“For me personally, a vast majority of what I go by in terms of my evaluation is what I see in games, five-on-five games,” he said. “Obviously, the medical portion is an important piece of it, too. But for me, what they did in actual games, not just college, but it could be back in high school, high level (AAU) tournaments, could be an international tournament, wherever, for me that’s the most important thing.”
With two later picks (the 32nd and 54th) also, McDonough understands there is value to be had in second-round picks.
“I think you can get good value in the early second round,” said McDonough, singling out landing Tyler Ulis with the 34th pick. “Right around that area, Malcolm Brogdon was the 36th pick, I believe. He’s a Rookie of the Year candidate.”
“Those are two very accomplished college players who made an impact right away in their rookie year. And if you look at this group we had here today, there are a lot of players who fit that criteria. Guys who may be a little bit older, might not measure the best or test the best but when they get in games, they’re pretty darn effective.”
McDonough has participated in 15 NBA drafts and for him, this group of players is one of the best he has ever seen.
For the players who worked out Monday, it was either the end or close to the end of their pre-draft workout journey.
“It has been a grind to say the least,” Hart said. “You go in there and compete and play hard. The flights and the hotels, it’s a long process, and I’m kind of happy that it is coming to an end.”
The hero of 2016’s NCAA Tournament said he has attended 14 workouts. SMU senior guard Sterling Brown has had 13 workouts and one more scheduled with Golden State on Tuesday. Miami senior guard Davon Reed has had 18 workouts with one more set in New York.
“I’m taking it one day at a time, staying healthy and just enjoying it. I’d rather be in this position than not be in this position at all,” Reed said.
For these aspiring NBA players, they will be watching the draft with family and friends.
“Thursday will probably be the longest day of my life,” Hart said. “I’m just trying not to think too much of it.”