Lip service is tough to decipher in the world of professional sports from executives, coaches, and even players. Nobody is going to step out and say anything negative about an individual that is within the organization, which is simple organizational ethics.
So far the new regime is not playing with smoke and mirrors, but rather being very transparent with how they are building the team, why they make moves, and that they are open to trying anything within the realm of reason to make this team a contender down the road. Whether that is a draft pick or a trade; after a decision has been made they have come out and explained the rationale that specific move has in terms of the short-term and long-term.
When the Phoenix Suns traded for Miles Plumlee he appeared to be a simple throw-in to make the semantics of the trade work with salaries, but may play a more significant role next year.
He is a big, athletic big man which is clearly a direction the Suns are taking this year with the way the roster is being put together. The team is looking to get younger, more athletic, and push the tempo on both sides of the floor. In order to do that there is a need for having a big man in the paint that can play at that tempo as well as rebound, defend, and be a threat on the offensive end.
"Well I have always been impressed with Miles ability to rebound," stated General Manager Ryan McDonough on Plumlee.
"That is one thing that he has done pretty consistently either at Duke where he didn't play a whole lot early in his career and I thought came on and played better senior year. Even in the NBA in short minutes. He rebounded well in the D-League in a few games down there and also in the Summer League the past couple of years."
When Plumlee went No. 25 Overall in the 2012 NBA Draft it was a bit of a shock as he was projected as a value in the mid-to-late second round. Instead he was selected by the Indiana Pacers in the first round as a compliment to their dynamic duo in the paint as a reserve. He plays a game similar to the likes of a Jeff Foster, which was the role that an Indiana scout referenced to Plumlee when they drafted him, and has more of an opportunity here with Phoenix to get on the court and play.
Plumlee had a quality showing in the 2013 Orlando Summer League, or in the eyes of McDonough, was a very impressive showing.
"I have been impressed with him and walking out of the gym in Orlando for the Summer League down there I would say of the 10 teams there and probably 100+ players between those teams he was one of the Top 5 players in my opinion in that tournament."
Being a Top 5 player in Summer League is what it is, but the little takeaways like rebounding the ball and blocking shots consistently are nice improvements to his game.
With the current Suns big man situation having a young, athletic big like Plumlee fills a void.
Right now the Suns have Alex Len, Marcin Gortat, Channing Frye, and Markieff Morris on the roster capable of playing the five in either spot duty or full-time. Of those four three are coming off injury and one is a four that has little experience at the five while being more of a perimeter oriented player.
This year's top pick in the draft, Len, is recovering from multiple ankle surgeries as he is trying to get himself healthy for the upcoming season. After his college season ended Len made the decision to have surgery on his left ankle to repair a stress fracture that he had been playing through at Maryland for a good portion of his sophomore season. Recently he had "precautionary" surgery on his right for another stress fracture.
Ankle and leg injuries in general are not something to take lightly with big men as they put more force and weight on their legs than guards and smaller players.
A sprain in his right foot put Gortat in a cast and on crutches for the past six months, roughly. When the Suns were holding workouts with potential draft picks Gortat was around the facility and moving around with the same crutches.
Those two injuries had rehab process and time tables on a return, but Frye was given neither of those as he has been resting, not rehabbing, his heart condition. The cure for that was golf, rest, and extended time with the family. No basketball for a non-basketball injury. He may be available for the upcoming season, but with a heart condition there is no rushing a return to the court whereas with Len and Gortat they could be available for a return at the beginning of the season in October.
That brings everything back to Plumlee who was ironically traded for Luis Scola; the player that was a stop-gap center with all of the teams injuries last year.
"I think Miles will play," said McDonough on Plumlee's role next year. "I've said that is not my call that is Coach Hornacek's call, but like you said with Marcin coming off of a foot injury, Alex Len with the ankle surgery's Miles will get a chance."
As a collective unit the Suns could have used a player like Plumlee last year who, in only 55 minutes, improved the Pacers overall rebounding by 1.7% overall.
He did not get a lot of opportunity with the talented Pacers roster competing for an NBA Championship, but on a young, impressionable, rebuilding team he will have the opportunity to prove he belongs out there for more than 55 minutes in an 82 game season.
The Suns last year were 18th in total rebounding, 13th in blocked shots, and 26th overall in points allowed. They were a net -2.2 in total rebounding from the frontcourt and had a -5-5 in PER for the season. The collective unit last year was less athletic, older, and had a lot of players that were maybe not as hungry to earn playing time for a team on its way to 57 losses.
"I feel bad, as you know Kris, with the draft and how your career gets started is a product of your environment. Miles getting drafted to a team in Indiana with some All-Stars in the front line in David West and Roy Hibbert, good depth behind them, and there really wasn't a chance for Miles to play and I think he will get that chance with us."
As a ground floor scout McDonough (and his staff) have all seen Plumlee play, tracked his progress, and at 24 years old have a feel for what he can and cannot do as a player.
They are not asking him to come in and be a wrecking ball that averages 20 points 15 rebounds, and 3 blocks a game, although that would be great, they have perspective into his game that others do not. They have a vision for his role and did not acquire him to fill in the salary difference in the recent trade.
Plumlee was brought in to play, earn a spot, and be a part of the new look Suns as they attempt to rebuild a contender.