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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

GM James Jones clarifies ESPN article on Phoenix Suns’ draft strategy

After the Phoenix Suns did not trade into a 2022 NBA Draft they had no selections in, general manager James Jones clarified an ESPN article that came out on Wednesday and painted a detailed picture of the team’s unorthodox draft practices.

A quote from Suns senior analyst of personnel and team evaluation Zach Amundson said by the time the Suns’ scouting process is finished, their “draft board” only has five to seven players listed and the board “would be a mockery to other teams.”

The article, which featured quotes from many members of the front office including Jones, spotlighted Phoenix’s disinterest in young players who are drafted primarily because of their upside.

Phoenix’s draft board, later described as “sparse” and “tedious” in the piece by ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz and said to be a practice the Suns have “sworn off,” is in fact not just a list with not even 10 prospects on it. Sure, it ends up with a group of preferred names at the top, but Jones on Thursday made it sound like it is not a process where they are crossing a bunch of names off like the article suggested.

“Nah, man, we have every player that’s in the draft processed on our board,” Jones said with a smile and laugh when asked if the board winds up with somewhere around 20 players or less on it. “When you get down to it, if you look at the combination of fit, skill set, talent, need — you typically get down somewhere about 10 guys who you know are really high-level fits. After that, you’re talking about degrees of fit and how much time, how much energy, how many opportunities guys will need to assimilate and kind of get acclimated to how you play.

“So you just prioritize and you put them in tiers. But I think when you go into tonight, you have all of those players but you truly know there are about eight to ten guys that you can say are truly Suns players that from day one will come in and not have very many issues getting accustomed to or getting integrated to what you do.”

The article cited that Amundson came to Jones in 2019 with 200-300 reports on NBA prospects that Jones said he wouldn’t be reading. Instead, Jones said he wanted to focus on “macro-level conversations about the kinds of prospects the Suns should be monitoring, or even a holistic discussion about a specific college player’s career.”

On Thursday, Jones said the Suns were “extremely aggressive” and “chased down every angle” while having more teams contact them than usual, since Phoenix didn’t have a pick and other teams wanted to see if one would interest them.

“There are a number of guys we targeted,” Jones said. “Just the deals that we had, they didn’t come together. But I thought that the draft had some quality depth at some of the positions. Ultimately we weren’t able to execute some of those trades and now we will look forward to free agency.”

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