Suns to retain GM Ryan McDonough despite again missing playoffs

The Phoenix Suns are planning to keep general manager Ryan McDonough in place entering the final year of his contract, according to league sources.

Sources ‎told ESPN.com that the Suns intend to keep McDonough in charge of basketball operations for at least one more season, despite the ongoing wait for the first playoff berth of his tenure.

It was reported when McDonough joined the Suns' front office entering the 2013-14 campaign that he signed a four-year deal, but one team source told ESPN.com that McDonough is indeed under contract through the 2017-18 season.

‎The Suns have missed the playoffs for a franchise-record seven consecutive seasons -- including the past two fully under McDonough's watch since he was elevated to head of basketball operations -- and sank to the league's second-worst record in 2016-17 somewhat by design in the second half of the campaign.

Once it became apparent that the playoffs were well out of reach, Phoenix shelved veterans Tyson Chandler, Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe, happy to let its youngest players soak up the bulk of the minutes. That gave management more of a chance to evaluate them and increased to nearly 56 percent the Suns' chances of landing a top-three pick in next month's lottery.

The Suns also have a 19.9-percent chance to land the No. 1 overall pick in the lottery.

"Obviously the record [24-58] is a little bit disappointing, given the expectations we started the year with," McDonough told the Arizona Republic last week. "Recently we've been encouraged with the progress with some of the young players. Since the All-Star break, some of the guys who weren't getting an opportunity to play much, if at all, got that opportunity and really made the most of it. I think that bodes well for the future.

"We'll have a high pick in the lottery. We'll have two second-round draft picks as well. We have plenty of cap space, so we'll have some options for this summer. We have a plan in our head right now, in terms of continuing to add through the draft and build with youth, but we'll also look at potential free-agent options. And then, the least predictable part of this, obviously, is the trades and what may swing our way. Those talks usually heat up closer to the draft."

The success of Devin Booker, drafted with the 13th overall pick in June 2015, is widely regarded as McDonough's standout move to date.

But the Suns could be in for a busy summer, with a likely top-three pick in a draft heavy on point guards and Booker, at just 20, and Bledsoe ranking as their two most established players. The Suns have a number of players in the early stages of their development, such as Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender, Tyler Ulis, T.J. Warren, Alan Williams and Alex Len, but have struggled to established a clear-cut core to build around.

"We're not as far away as it may appear, given our record," McDonough told the Republic. "We obviously made a difficult trade [at the February deadline] sending P.J. Tucker to Toronto and made some lineup adjustments that affected our win total in the short term. Hopefully it will help our win total in the long term.

"The West is brutal. It's hard to crack that [playoff] group. That's kind of the way it has been in the Western Conference, and I don't see that changing anytime soon. We're going to try and win as many games as we can and be as competitive as we can. We'll see how the dust settles, but we'll probably set making the playoffs as our goal again next year."‎

Last season was Suns coach Earl Watson's first full season on the bench. Watson, who has two seasons left on his contract, has proven popular with Suns players, despite Phoenix's on-court struggles.