First-year GM Ryan McDonough has Suns rising before their time

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Right about now, Ryan McDonough and Danny Ainge were supposed to be swapping horror stories about their painful rebuilding projects — only McDonough didn’t hold up his end of the bargain.

While Ainge’s injury-ravaged Celtics are destined for the draft lottery, McDonough’s Suns are in the thick of the playoff race, grasping the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference, a competition that likely will come down to Phoenix and the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Suns’ success is perhaps the NBA’s biggest surprise this season. A group of youngsters has blossomed faster than expected. Goran Dragic has become one of the league’s emerging point guards, and Channing Frye has returned from missing a season with a heart condition to become a leader and 3-point marksman.

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