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Jones reiterates new team focus on production versus potential

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After years of drafting for the future, the Suns will spend this summer getting mid-career vets so they can expect less from young and old guys.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Full-time General Manager James Jones has the same plan he’s had since taking over the team last fall, and that is to improve the Phoenix Suns by adding veteran mid-career NBA players to the young roster.

“I think the best way to improve our team in the short term as we prepare for the long term growth of our guys is to have veteran guys, NBA players,” Jones said.

Last year, in the fourth season of their latest rebuilding effort, the Suns were still relying on their rookie class for production in the starting lineup. They had five different rookies take turns in the starting lineup — Deandre Ayton (70, most starts on team), Mikal Bridges (56, 3rd), De’Anthony Melton (31, 5th), Elie Okobo (16, 9th) and Ray Spalding (3, 15th) — and often has three starting at any one time.

This while also counting on 2017’s rookie Josh Jackson (29 starts, 6th on team) and 2016’s remaining rookie Dragan Bender (27, 7th) in that same rotation, not to mention 2015’s top pick Devin Booker (64, 2nd).

None of those eight players is older than 22.

Jones never wants to see that again.

“I don’t want our young draft picks to feel the pressure or feel like they have to impact winning for us,” he said. “I want them to come in here and organically grow into really good NBA players.”

Does he want to add more 30+ year old players then, like McDonough had done the last few years?

“We need to add guys in their prime,” he said. “We need to raise the floor of our team, and you only do that with NBA players. Not prospects, but NBA players.”

And that doesn’t even consider a few other prospects that got lost in the shuffle before finding a long term role, including draft picks Alex Len, Marquese Chriss, Tyler Ulis, Davon Reed and Archie Goodwin, as well as Shaquille Harrison, Danuel House, Derrick Jones Jr., Reggie Bullock.

So many young guys, too few mid-career vets.

In fact, the front office has focused so much on youth and potential without wins that their few mid-career vets in recent years are the ones who wanted out (Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, P.J. Tucker, Markieff Morris and now maybe even T.J. Warren).

Thanks to losing 63 games, the Suns will have yet another top pick this summer but Jones doesn’t want to see them pushed too hard too soon.

“We’ll look towards the draft to add a very good, young talented player we hope we don’t have to rely on for production,” Jones said.

But he also does not want to rely on older players on the downside of their career because it’s too easy for them to bust.

During the season, Jones swapped 33-year-old Trevor Ariza for 23-year-old Kelly Oubre Jr. and 29-year-old Ryan Anderson for 26-year-old Tyler Johnson. Late last summer, McDonough effectively swapped 33-year-old Jared Dudley for 26-year-old Richaun Holmes. Oubre, Holmes and Johnson brought some relative shock value to the rotation with their level of maturity and consistent production.

“We are searching for the right mix of people, the right mix of players,” Jones said. “To chart this new direction for the Suns franchise.”

Watch the whole press conference here. Most of it was on the firing of Igor Kokoskov, but Jones offered the quotes above on his direction for the summer.