After the All-Star break, many NBA organizations have fans playing the role of fantasy general manager. There is a belief amongst many that only a selection within the top-five of the lottery will help the team succeed in the future. That idea has some cautionary tales. The timeline of draft selections and free agent signings can doom a franchise for a number of years. Case in point, the Phoenix Suns or should I say the Bad News Bears of the NBA.
Ryan McDonough’s Failed Rebuild
A disciple of Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics, Ryan McDonough was a young and cheap general manager hired by Robert Sarver. If successful, McDonough would make Sarver look like a competent NBA owner who was fixing his mistake when he signed Hakim Warrick to replace Amar’e Stoudemire. That backfired quickly. The owner and the general were directly responsible for the failure. Without getting into the Sarver problem, let’s just say he drank the Kool-Aid McDonough was serving.
Placing house money on talent such as Josh Jackson in the 2017 NBA Draft was one of the many blunders of McDonough’s era as the man in charge. He did not trade for Kyrie Irving when he had the chance. The rumored proposal was Irving for Jackson and Eric Bledsoe, however, a draft pick could have also been involved. Ryan McDonough made the mistake of believing he could develop Jackson into a Kawhi Leonard prototype. This past NBA draft, McDonough doubled-down on Jackson’s position and traded away an unprotected 2021 Miami Heat draft pick, as well as pick number 16 of the 2018 NBA Draft to move up for Mikal Bridges. So far, Bridges looks better than Jackson. Finally another small forward decision has come with the emergence of lefty slasher Kelly Oubre.
Suns Fans Have James Jones Playing With Their Money At The Poker Table
To fix the McDonough mistake, the Suns named James Jones their interim general manager. Jones was an excellent role player who had the privilege to play along LeBron James and Steve Nash. He learned a thing or two about winning. Jones has appeared on Arizona Sports Radio stating that the Suns will be seeking three to four and more recently four to five veteran players this off-season.
One of those key veterans will have to be a point guard. Many fans are stuck in the McDonough era, believing that a young phenom like Ja Morant will solve some of the Suns woes to winning, that’s not the case. Jones has stated that in order to win, the team cannot depend on 19 and 20-year-old players. This is true. The Suns have not won many games with their young core, how will another young player help the Suns win in the next two seasons? Depending on a rookie point guard won’t solve the team’s issues. This is no slight to Ja Morant, but the Suns roster has too much youth on other sides of the ball. Players like Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker are more valuable than any draft pick aside from Zion Williamson.
Decisions For The 2019 NBA Draft
Most noteworthy, some of the decisions Jones will make are dependent upon the draft lottery. Zion Williamson is a once in a generation player. There’s no discussion about trading Williamson if the Suns win the top pick. However, if not granted the top selection of the draft, Jones will have to channel his inner Kenny Rogers from the “Gambler”. He will have to know when to hold’em’, fold’em’, and when to walk away. Does he trade any selection that is not the top pick for a point guard or power forward? Is there anyone available? At the moment there are maybe two, Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday. The sweepstakes for Davis are too high. Holiday might be in Jones’ hand of cards. It’s a gambler’s decision due to dealing with New Orleans. Jones would be smart to go for Holiday over any player in this draft or free agent class aside from Zion.
2019 NBA Free Agency
Going back to being the “Gambler”, Jones will know who to walk away from in free agency. The Suns face a talent-deficit and cap space is important. In the starting rotation, the two biggest needs are point guard and power forward. The roster currently seems to be a rotation of replaceable player filling in and taking up space in those spots. That doesn’t help the team win games. From the bench, the team lacks competent backups in all areas other than the wing position. De’Anthony Melton, Richaun Holmes, T.J. Warren, and Josh Jackson all have question marks which the team will need to decide on this off-season. Decisions for the rebuild are needed, and players will come and go. Its getting closer to the time for Jones to make it happen.
Embed from Getty Images