By: Kayla Mortellaro
PHOENIX, Ariz.— When your team finishes the year below .500 and misses the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season, chances are several positions on the roster need to be addressed.
That is the case with the Phoenix Suns who finished the 2014-2015 season with a 39-43 record and in 10th place in the Western Conference.
One area of concern for the Suns was the sudden ineffectiveness by players from behind the arc. As a team, Phoenix finished the season shooting just 34.1 percent from three point land. Keep in mind, this was a Suns team that averaged 25 three-point attempts a game and clearly relied heavily on the shot’s success in order to win games.
“I think it’s a huge part of the game in the NBA right now,” Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough said in reference to the three-point shot. “I believe the Cavs and Warriors are the top-two teams in the playoffs in terms of three’s attempted and three’s made. It’s important.”
It’s so important that statistically, the Suns, under the duo of McDonough and head coach Jeff Hornacek saw their team from 2013-2014 shoot 3.1 percent better from behind the arc than in 2014-2015. In what seems to be such a small differential, proved to actually have a huge impact.
The 2013-2014 Suns averaged 105.2 points a game and finished the season just outside the playoff hunt with a 48-34 record. Comparatively speaking, the sophomore season for McDonough and Hornacek’s roster dropped to scoring 102.4 points per game with nine fewer games won.
“I feel like over the past couple years, we shot the ball well the first year, up until midway through this year we shot it okay and then really tailed off at the end of the season,” McDonough said. “So, that’s a need for us.”
During pre-draft workouts, the Suns are doing their homework and bringing in players who shot the three-ball well in college.
On Monday, the Suns brought Kentucky guard Devin Booker to Phoenix. Booker shot 41.1 percent from behind the arc for the Wildcats in 2014-2015.
“His shot held up well, he has very good technique and has a beautiful looking stroke and good strength,” McDonough said about Booker’s three-point shot translating to the NBA three-point distance. “Some of these guys you can tell need to get in the weight room and add strength to make that a more natural shot, he already has that a young age, now it’s just a matter of repetition.”
The Suns continued their pre-draft workout process Tuesday by bringing in another excellent three-point shooter in Pat Connaughton from Notre Dame. While helping lead the Fighting Irish to the Elite 8 this season, Connaughton shot an impressive 42.3 percent from behind the arc.
“He’s a tough player, he can shoot the ball from deep and he’s one of those effortless type shooters,” Hornacek said about Connaughton. “It’s almost like the way [Dan] Majerle used to shoot them, it looks so easy from 28-30 feet out.”
It is not for certain that the Suns will draft a sharp shooter from beyond the arc with the 13th pick in the 2015 NBA draft.
Si.com’s Chris Johnson and Jeremy Woo’s latest mock draft indicates the Suns will pick Kentucky forward Trey Lyles at 13. Johnson and Woo have the Suns passing on Booker, where he lands at 17 with the Milwaukee Bucks and they don’t have Connaughton being selected in the first round.
With so many positional upgrades and needs for the Suns, plus many more players still set to have pre-draft workouts at U.S. Airways Center before the June 25th draft, it is hard to say which way the organization is leaning.
But one thing is certain, a three-point shooter is a roster priority for the Suns general manager. With McDonough in charge of constructing the team, he knows he does not have to add that piece through the draft.
“That doesn’t mean we will necessarily address it [a three-point shooter] in the draft, we will look at addressing it in free agency or perhaps via a trade as well,” McDonough said. “But it’s important for sure.”