McDonough: Suns’ 2017 Draft Class Fills Needs

By Justin Toscano

When Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough would hear NBA folks talk about Kansas guard Josh Jackson this year, they’d describe him as “the best two-way player” in the draft. 

“The game is played on both ends, so doesn’t that just mean he’s the best player in the draft?” McDonoguh would ask himself.

If that’s the case, McDonough and the Suns scored by drafting Jackson with the fourth overall pick in last Thursday’s NBA Draft. The pick addresses what is perfect Phoenix’s biggest offseason need: defense.

“I think defensively, he’s got very quick feet for a 6-8 guy, he’s got very good length,” McDonough told in a phone interview on June 23. “But I think as importantly if not more importantly, he’s got some aggressiveness and tenacity about him defensively. He’s willing to take on any challenge.”

McDonough said Jackson was the best fit for the Suns out of this year’s entire draft class. Not only does he bring it on defense, but the general manager feels Jackson’s passing ability is an underrated part of his offensive game.

McDonough spoke to the media following Thursday’s draft and talked about how he liked Jackson’s competitive spirit, especially because he felt the Suns needed more of that fire.

While speaking with Jeff Munn, he said all great players have a chip on their shoulder for one reason or another. Kevin Garnett and Draymond Green are two examples he pointed out.

Whatever they have, Jackson seems to have it too.

“They think every time that they step on the floor, that they’re able to impose their will on the game and that nobody’s going to outwork them and nobody is going to out-tough them,” McDonough said.

The Suns drafted Miami shooting guard Davon Reed with the No. 32 pick, the first of their two second-round selections. Reed is 6-foot-6 and has a 7-foot wingspan.

His most impressive accolade may be the 2016-17 ACC All-Defensive team honors he received. As avid basketball fans know, the ACC regularly provides the NBA with great talent, meaning Reed was regularly going up against future pros.

“The more we studied him, the more he grew on us,” McDonough said. “He’s not a flashy guy, he didn’t put up huge scoring numbers, but he is able to defend his position at a high level. He’s another guy who brings toughness and grit.”

Phoenix selected Valparaiso forward Alec Peters with their final draft pick. Following the draft, McDonough called the 6-foot-9 forward “one of the best shooters in the draft.”

The Horizon League Player of the Year missed the pre-draft process due to a foot injury and isn’t expected to play in the Las Vegas Summer League, but McDonough said the team fully expects him to be ready for the season.

The draft itself is interesting, but the many rumors in the time leading up to it consume fans. Suns guard Eric Bledsoe is often one of the names thrown around in those talks because he is viewed as one of the team’s best assets if it were to make a move.

Prior to Thursday’s draft, McDonough saw Bledsoe and forward Dragan Bender at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Both players were looking at trade rumors being thrown around, so McDonough decided to joke around with them and ask if they’ve been traded and if so, where they were going.

The general manager’s message to players and their agents amidst swirling rumors is simple. 

“If you ever were to get traded, you’d hear it from me, you’d hear it from us first,” McDonough said. “Don’t pay attention to any of the speculation.”

The Suns could still make moves this offseason as they appear to have the assets to do so. But other than guard Devin Booker, one of the other players who seems least likely to be moved is Jackson.

Phoenix eyed him all along.

“I think if you asked him, he’d think he should’ve been the No. 1 pick, and is set out to prove the three teams who passed on him made a mistake,” McDonough said.