A week before the NBA season is set to begin, the Phoenix Suns fired their General Manager Ryan McDonough. He was fired by owner Robert Sarver over the telephone. The scouting department and much of the front office were dismissed as well. There were a lot of Donald Trump-esque You’re Fired phone calls.
On Indigenous People’s Day, Sarver dug a wound in the franchise at the worst possible time. Raise your hand though if you are surprised. This is Robert Sarver.
It’s not that Ryan McDonough had not worn out his welcome. He hadn’t accomplished anything. His first problem was he didn’t have a vision and he didn’t stick to it. The Suns revolving door of coaches is a testament to how quickly McDonough and Sarver became disgusted with their own plan. While McDonough is the fall guy and no one is shedding tears at his kick to the curb reality, Sarver makes life difficult. By his own admission, and I’ll give him credit for admitting to a flaw, he didn’t think winning in the NBA was going to be so complicated. Most rich men inadequately assess the situation. In the private sector, they have fewer restrictions and can pretty much do whatever it is they want to do to manipulate markets, salary and success. Their money advantage is a difference maker. In sports leagues, the money is an equalizer. Talent matters more. On the court, in the organization. Being rich doesn’t give you a heads up. Every owner is rich. The advantage is in leadership intangibles and IQ.
Someone had to be the architect of a post-Steve Nash world and Ryan McDonough was it. Even if McDonough was another Jerry West in basketball intellect, risk, and timing, history shows that once a superstar leaves, it’s hit or miss for a while. With McDonough calling the internal shots, the Suns lost more games, 255, than they won, 155. McDonough drafted talent. But a lot of the players at the top of the lottery McDonough is responsible for aren’t All-Stars. The only elite talent so far is Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton.
His draft misses:
C.J. McCollum. Steven Adams. Giannis Antetokounmpo. Jamal Murray. Donovan Mitchell. Kyle Kuzma.
One of McDonough’s brilliant ideas was to go really small, trying to capture the magic of the Warriors. A year after he got the job, he grabbed Isaiah Thomas out of Sacramento. He already had Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe. The three scoring guards on the court at the same time had zero chemistry and new coach Jeff Hornacek, a tough guard in his own day, was helpless to create selflessness. Egos ran amok. Dragic was the first to yell get me out of here. After trading him to Miami at the trade deadline, the Suns sent Thomas to Boston. They acquired Brandon Knight and then overpaid him and then didn’t play him and then he was injured.
Last year’s home opener to Portland, the Suns lost by 48 points. Game one and the season was already over. Eric Bledsoe bailed the way Dragic bailed and McDonough went on talk radio so into his feelings it was embarrassing only because McDonough represents the Suns. Logic and leadership were warranted, not whining into the mic. He talked about Bledsoe not being loyal as if Bledsoe was an indentured servant tethered to master Sarver and didn’t have the freedom to go somewhere else if he wasn’t happy.
Even with McDonough’s front office flaws, it’s Robert Sarver who is living in fantasy land. He thinks the Suns are going to win this year. Like, how? With what? Their roster is not a playoff roster. It doesn’t matter how many shots and makes Booker has on the stat sheet.
The newly acquired Ryan Anderson can’t guard anyone. Trevor Ariza is nice defensively but his skills have eroded with age. He’ll give the Suns 14-16 points and a little better defense. Booker is who he is, a scorer who loves to dominate the ball. Ayton is a rookie who will have wow nights and on the bench in foul trouble nights. Igor Kokoskov has never coached one NBA game. So umm… Good luck with that winning thing.
The Suns will be back in the lottery.
Former NBA three point sub James Jones is running things on the player personnel side with Trevor Bukstein handling the GM player transaction duties. But for how long?