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Phoenix Suns not looking to trade down, ready to prep for free agency

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The Suns seem ready to wrap up the draft prospect evaluation process, and turn focus to trades and upcoming free agency to improve team the most.

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns have had 80 players visit for group workouts over the past three weeks, including players projected to go as high as the late lottery where the Suns currently sit. A logical conclusion might be that the Suns are looking to trade back in the draft in order to pick up another future asset in the process.

"We are really comfortable staying there," McDonough said of having the 13th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. "I think it would take a really good offer for us to move the pick. I think it's unlikely we'll grab an additional first round pick this year to drop down in the draft."

He said of course they would take calls from other teams, and if a great offer presents itself their thinking might change, but at the moment they really like who will be there at 13.

"I feel good about where we are," McDonough said. "There are a lot of good players that came in here. Some of them will be gone when we pick at 13 but a lot of them will still be there."

The Suns had 12 days of scheduled workouts over the past three weeks, seeing a total of 80 players including two injury-replacement fill ins. Given that the entire draft itself is only 60 picks deep, you'd think the Suns went above and beyond in their process for the third year in a row.

No top players

But in looking at the DraftExpress Top 100, the Suns publicly hosted only one of the Top 11 prospects (Frank Kaminsky, #9) despite having the #13 overall pick.

Of the Top 8, the Suns could still get one or more in to Phoenix some time in the next two weeks leading up the Draft on June 25. McDonough said last year it's really difficult to get guys to visit if they're projected to be drafted a half dozen picks or more before the Suns' top pick. It's hard to convince an agent for a Top 8 pick to dedicate a couple of precious days to a team in the late lottery.

"It's a grueling process," McDonough said, for the teams and especially for the players.

When a player commits to visiting a team, they have to travel one day, get a good night's sleep, then work out the next morning and sit down with team officials that afternoon for a working lunch before moving on to the next team. This is their livelihood on the line, and they'd rather focus on their immediate suitors - teams with Top 10 picks - than spread themselves too thin and come up short when they need to be at their best. Every pick they drop takes money out of their pockets for the next four years thanks to the NBA's rookie salary scale.

Immediate prospects

The Suns did, however, see each of DX's players ranked 12 - 19 and all of 20 - 28. Starting with #12, they saw SG Devin Booker (12), SF Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (13), PG Tyus Jones (14), PG Jerian Grant (15), SF/SG Kelly Oubre (16) and PF Bobby Portis (17). Any of them, or Kaminsky, could be tapped.

So could any of the next few guys, including PF Trey Lyles (18), PF Kevon Looney (19), SF Sam Dekker (21) or PF Montrezl Harrell (22) but you'd think if any of these were the Suns target they'd be talking about moving back a few spots to gain a future asset.

Maybe the Suns have narrowed to Kaminsky/Booker/RHJ/Oubre/Portis. Or maybe McDonough is just sending a message to other GMs to prepare to offer a lot for a move-down.

Either way, McDonough said discussions of finalizing their draft board are some of the most fun in the whole process.

"If everyone had the same rankings, we wouldn’t need a scouting staff," he said.

Holdouts

The only three players outside the Top 8 who didn't find a way to visit Phoenix were Kristaps Porzingis (10), Myles Turner (11), Cameron Payne (20).

"There are a few guys that we're interested in that we weren't able to get in for workouts," McDonough said. "But we'll keep evaluating them on film, and look at their stats and do the background."

Porzingis isn't doing team workouts at all, but his agent is having Porzingis juke out a chair or two at a couple of showcases for teams to watch. He's tall and uber-skilled, but these workouts won't do anything to quell concerns over his physicality and ability to hold his own against NBA athletes on the block.

Don't hold your breath on Payne, a skinny point guard, or Turner, an awkward but skilled big man, being called on Draft night without having been through town. Since Ryan McDonough took over the GM position, only one of seven draft picks didn't visit Phoenix during the predraft workouts (Bogdan Bogdanovic). Coach Hornacek said last year that while they'd certainly consider someone who didn't suit up against their competition in Phoenix, he implied that his type of player is more likely to relish that kind of competition in front of their future bosses.

T.J. Warren and Tyler Ennis both impressed the Suns during their workouts last year, prompting Hornacek to single them out with praise when they came through. To this day, he talks of Warren's focus and ability to D-up at any position in three-on-three that tipped the scales in his favor.

Wrapping up early

In 2013 and 2014, the Suns held these group workouts through the final week before the draft. Across the league, players consistently noted their exhaustion in that final week, especially those ranked in the middle of the first round. They try to visit as many as teams as they can, which can mean a dozen or more heavy but potentially life-changing workouts across the country in a span of three weeks.

"We wanted to do it earlier, so the guys are fresh," McDonough said of the Suns finishing a week earlier this year.

As they hone down their targets, the Suns have room to schedule repeat visits to bring back players to see them against a more competitive group of their peers. In 2013, the Suns brought Archie Goodwin back for a second group workout before targeting him in the draft.

But the Suns don't appear to be hanging the future of the franchise on his draft quite as much as the last two years. Picking at 13th or 14th for the fourth time in five years may not get the juices flowing quite as much as it once did. Chances of trading up are more about the trades themselves than over-evaluating players in workouts.

In addition, McDonough noted that they need a bit more time to prepare for what comes next.

"This is a big year for us in free agency," McDonough said. "We want to respect the draft process, but we also want to spend the proper amount of time preparing for free agency, working on any potential trades."

To the laymen, it kind of sounds like this year's draft is just an exercise for the Suns rather than the end-all-to-beat-all. But that could just be a smoke-screen for something bigger and better than we've seen yet.

Only time will tell.