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One-on-One with Suns general manager Ryan McDonough

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I had the chance to have an extended interview with Ryan McDonough before Wednesday’s Summer League contest.

NBA: Phoenix Suns-Media Day Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

LAS VEGAS — Heading into the first game of Summer League tournament play against the Utah Jazz, I spoke to Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough on a hand full of topics.

Here’s the transcript of our conversation.

Q: With Marquese’s added bulk, is he transitioning more towards a night-in, night-out spot at the five?

A: Yeah, he’s still growing into his body. He just turned 20 years old He has a young looking body. He takes his shirt off, he looks young. I think he’s just filling out. The added muscle does allow him to play the five for us. Not only here in Summer League, but NBA regular season games, too. It’s something we tried to protect him and Dragan from a little bit last year. They were two of the youngest players in the league, we didn’t want them necessarily taking a beating. They were giving up 30-40 pounds to NBA centers, especially the bigger centers. Now, I think with his added weight, Dragan’s added weight. Those guys will be able to play four, five versatile depending on the matchup.

Q: Dragan’s been bringing the ball up a ton this week. Are we moving more towards him seeing extended run as a point-forward type?

A: He’s a gifted playmaker, and I think in Phoenix we weren't able to see that more last year, due to the injury he missed a couple of months. Kind of towards the end of the season, he started to get in a pretty good groove, but that’s what we saw when we scouted him for the draft, for the Croation junior national teams, he can really pass the ball. I think that’s his favorite part of the game is finding people. At 7-1 obviously, with his length, he has a unique ability to see the floor, see over the defense and deliver the ball in places smaller guys can’t. That’s something were working with him on here. With our starting group, we kind of want whoever gets the ball off the defensive rebound to take the ball and push it up the court. And then sometimes we might sub a traditional point guard out of the game, have Dragan run the floor and initiate the offense. I think it’s a work in progress, but we think this experience, this development, will certainly help him grow as a player.

Q: You re-signed Alan Williams. He had a lot of interest, what made you want to bring him back

A: Alan, he produced when he got the opportunity to play. Early in the year, Tyson missed some time due to his mother’s passing and Alan stepped in and did a nice job. When he went back to the bench and didn’t play as much, he was a great teammate. He was the same, positive energetic guy on the bench that he always is. And then we decided to rest Tyson toward the end of the year, Alan really took his opportunity and ran with it. I think he averaged close to a double-double the last third of the season from the all-star break on. If he kept that up over the course of a year, he would’ve been among the league leaders in double-doubles coming off the bench. We really like his efficiency to score around the basket. We like his ability to rebound, he has very good chemistry with Tyler Ulis on the second unit, and he’s a good screener on the floor. Then, off the floor, I think if you asked our guys one through fifteen who their favorite teammate is more of them would say Alan than anybody else. He’s great in the locker room, organizationally we love having him around the front office staff, coaching staff, the players. The fact that he’s from Phoenix makes it a little bit unique. He’s got great ties to the community and he’s really embraced that role as well.

Q: You’ve hand selected these guys (Booker, Jackson, Chriss, Bender, Warren). You’ve got Josh Jackson, what’s the limit? Or is there a limit?

A: Hopefully there is no limit with time, it’s going to take some time. Anytime some of your most talented players between 19 through 22 or 23 years old, we’re talking about college age guys playing in a man’s league. So, I’d be foolish if we expected overnight results, but at the same time, we would like to see progress. I think how quickly we develop, along our timeline, depends on how quickly Tyler Ulis develops, Devin Booker develops, T.J. Warren, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender, on and on. I think, at the end of the day, it’s up to our young guys. We think multiple steps over the next couple of years, maybe at some point, it is step-by-step the switch flips and we get pretty good overnight. If that’s the case, I think with the age of our team, the contractual situation of our group, we have a chance to stay good for a long time after that.

Q: Speaking of T.J., have you had the chance to talk his reps on an extension as of yet or is that more toward the season?

A: We keep all of our talks and negotiations private, but I think if you look at his rookie class, 2014 draft class, off the top of my head I don’t think anybody has done a rookie-scale extension yet. None come to mind, but usually, the timing of that is later, certainly something we’re open to discussing with T.J. and his group. I thought he had a good year last year, especially early in the year before his head injury. Late in the year, after he came back from the all-star break, especially when we made the trade with Toronto, it freed up some more minutes for him. I thought he played really well at three and four. Rebounds the ball well, and scores pretty efficiently from the perimeter, too. We like T.J., we’re big fans of his game, he’s gotten better every year. I think, at some point, those conversations will happen from now to the start of the regular season. I’m guessing that’s more likely to take place in September or October.

Q: Also, I wanted to get your thoughts on what you’ve seen out of Josh Jackson thus far at Summer League?

A: Josh has been kind of as advertised. We love his toughness, we love his aggression. We love his defensive ability. He’s a very good passer. He’ll see more when the game slows down and opens up more for him in terms of his passing ability. The shooting is a work in progress, but what we like about his shot, from his shoulder to when the ball goes up it’s not bad. I think we have to tighten up his mechanics and his release time a little bit. If and when he gets that shot down, he’s going to be a pretty complete player. I mean he’s got just about everything you want from a player physically, mentally, skill-wise, intellect-wise. He was advertised as one of the top players in this draft. We’ve had him for a few weeks, we feel very strongly that he will be at the end of the day.

Q: I’m really curious into the scouting aspect of prospects. Do you guys usually start bunkering down your process right after the draft or wait until after Summer League?

A: No, we start right away. In fact, after the draft this year, a group of us were going to get together and chat. I got a text from one of our scouts, Courtney Witte, director of scouting, said “Hey, I’m going to Colorado Springs tomorrow morning for USA U-19 trials.” It’s really a year-round thing, in some cases, it’s a multi-year process with the guys who aren’t one-and-dones, but yeah we’re right into it. We have guys in Europe at the Junior European League Championships, we have guys going to the Under Armour events, the Nike events, Adidas events. There’s really no breaks for us except in between events. Yes, we’re right back on the treadmill for next year. We’ve already started to project our board for next year in terms of guys we view as potential lottery picks, possible mid-late first picks, second round picks, we’ve already started that. We haven’t spent a ton of time on it, but we’ve put it up on the board, year-round thing, in some cases, it’s a multi-year process with the guys who aren’t one-and-dones, but yeah we’re right into it. We have guys in Europe at the Junior European League Championships, we have guys going to the Under Armour events, the Nike events, Adidas events. There’s really no breaks for us except in between events. Yes, we’re right back on the treadmill for next year. We’ve already started to project our board for next year in terms of guys we view as potential lottery picks, possible mid-late first picks, second round picks, we’ve already started that. We haven’t spent a ton of time on it, but we’ve put it up on the board.

Q: Last question from me. In terms of your roster flexibility, you’ve set it up to be this way for at least the next three summers. Let's say you wanted to take on a big contract, what would you want back in return?

A: Well it depends on how long it is and how much money it’s for. We probably need significant assets, in terms of draft picks, young players to use up our cap space. Obviously, the caveat being if we thought the player could help us and makes sense for our roster, we’d certainly just consider taking a player into our space, but we have so many guys on rookie-scale contracts or contracts we’ve kind of mirrored rookie-scale contracts that were under no financial obligation to go out and be real aggressive. We like the core of our group. Obviously, it’s a young team, so we’ve had those opportunities come our way. I think more will come our way. Maybe over the course of the summer, maybe even around the trade deadline or next summer.

I would have asked McDonough more questions, but this was right before tip-off of their game. He went over immediately and sat alongside other staff in the front office. Hopefully, I have the chance to have him on for a podcast sometime this summer.