Ryan McDonough may have finished second to R.C. Buford in Executive of the Year voting, but the Phoenix Suns' first-year general manager was still the luckiest GM in the NBA this season.
No doubt, McDonough was also incredibly smart last summer. He looked at his roster—which did not look like much—and looked ahead to the 2014 draft class—which looked like a whole lot.
His idea? Trade away veterans approaching free agency for first-round picks. At the time, Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat had just led the team to a 25-win season and were likely to leave as free agents in another year. And the Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards were willing to send over first-round picks, in the deepest draft class in recent memory, for each of them?
It was a no-brainer for McDonough, and had the Suns lost 70 games this year, it still would have been the right move. But two throw-ins from the Scola trade—Gerald Green and Miles Plumlee—turned out to be fantastic fits in first-year coach Jeff Hornacek's system.
Hornacek, like McDonough, finished second to a San Antonio Spurs legend for a prestigious award in his first year on the job—only Gregg Popovich beat him out in Coach of the Year voting.
Hornacek, Green, Plumlee and a bunch of players who had career years won 48 games, something that McDonough had no idea was coming.
Now the Suns are in a ridiculously strong position. They have a powerful young roster and a dynamic young coach, and they still have all those draft picks.
The 2014 NBA draft, which was supposed to be the light at the end of an 82-game tunnel, is instead the crowning jewel on a season full of achievement.
Even the fact that the Suns became the second team ever to win 48 games and miss the playoffs works in their favor in a certain way, as they also became the second team ever to win 48 games and end up in the draft lottery.
Their luck ran out on lottery night (although becoming the most unlikely lottery-winning team ever would have been too much luck for one franchise), but entering the stacked 2014 draft with the No. 14, No. 18 and No. 27 pick is still an enviable position.
The question now is: Who should McDonough look at?