Ex-Celtics exec McDonough has reshaped Suns

Ex-Celtics exec McDonough has reshaped Suns
February 20, 2014, 6:30 am
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Ryan McDonough, 34, hired by the Suns away from the Celtics, where he was an assistant GM, should be a front-runner for NBA executive of the year.

(AP Photo)

PHOENIX — Every year there's a team that comes out of nowhere and shocks the NBA with a better-than-expected season.

That team this year is the Phoenix Suns whose roster has undergone a major overhaul this summer, courtesy of Ryan McDonough.

The 34-year-old McDonough, hired this summer away from the Celtics, where he was an assistant GM, should be a front-runner thus far for NBA executive of the year.

Not only are the Suns exceeding the expectations many had for them which includes a 100-94 victory over Boston on Wednesday night, but the Suns (32-21) currently have the sixth-best record in the always tough Western Conference where they are ahead of more talked-about teams like Golden State and Dallas.

"Our expectations were to get better and improve as the year went on," McDonough told Comcast SportsNet's Abby Chin. "We felt that we had some talented young players. It's a little bit surprising how quickly it came together."

Goran Dragic has emerged as a legit All-Star caliber point guard and former Celtic Gerald Green has become a consistent scorer this season.

Go down the Suns roster and you'll see several players who are having career-best seasons in large part because they are in a system that plays to their strengths - shooting the ball.

"They play together, they play unselfishly," McDonough said. "I've had a few GMs and head coaches tell me that they think our guys play as hard or harder than any team in the league."

You can count Celtics coach Brad Stevens among those who think highly of Suns and the job McDonough has done in assembling a squad that has been among the Western Conference's better teams most of this season.

"They have a nine or 10-man rotation that's playing exceptionally hard, exceptionally well together," Stevens said. "They're expertly coached on both ends of the floor. They're clearly all pulling together which is really fun to watch from the outside."

And McDonough who was part of the Celtics' front office for more than a decade, acknowledged that Wednesday's game was a bit awkward for him facing the only NBA team he grew up rooting for.

"I never cheered against the Celtics in a game, ever," he said. "When they're playing anyone but us, I'll be rooting for them."

Even as he looks at the Celtics in the midst of their rebuilding process, you get the sense that there's still a part of McDonough - a big part - that's pulling for Ainge and company to re-establish Boston as a major player in the NBA sooner rather than later.

"When I was with the Celtics in 2003 until last year, it's difficult going through it," McDonough said. "But I think Danny and the front office have positioned themselves very well going forward. It's always painful in the short term. They do have some good young players. They have a great draft pick situation. I feel like the Suns and the Celtics probably have the two best pick situations in the league going forward.

McDonough added, "I know Danny and Austin Ainge and Mike Zarren's draft acumen and what those guys can do with those picks. The future is bright in Boston."