This summer the Suns made some odd moves, but they fit with what their GM Ryan McDonough said a few weeks back — the rebuilding was over, it was time to win some games.
Which from the outside seemed ludicrous because the team just drafted Deandre Ayton and was leaning on other young players such as Devin Booker (who just signed a max contract extension), Josh Jackson, Mikal Bridges, T.J. Warren, and others. Despite the West being ridiculously deep right now and it being a good time for the Suns to rebuild and add talent, McDonough picked up former Rockets Trevor Ariza and Ryan Anderson this summer as veterans to help the team win more in the short term. Many around the league saw this as a mandate from the involved, impatient, and often erratic Suns’ owner Robert Sarver.
What McDonough didn’t get this summer was a quality point guard, despite making efforts (including being the third team in a potential Jimmy Butler trade that could have brought Jeff Teague to Phoenix). Right now the Suns will use Booker (who is really a two guard) at the point and have Elie Okobo, De’Anthony Melton, and Isaiah Canaan getting minutes behind him.
That lack of quality at the one may have been what led to McDonough’s firing on Monday. Check out this note from Gina Mizell at The Athletic.
When asked how much the point guard situation played into McDonough’s firing, Sarver said in an interview with KMVP-FM (98.7) in Phoenix that he did not “really want to get into specifics.” But later, Sarver noted addressing that position is “definitely at the top of the list” of priorities for the organization.
This all kind of follows a twisted sort of Sarver logic. The Suns haven’t made the playoffs in McDonough’s tenure as GM, Sarver wants to win more and get in that dance starting now, he sees this team isn’t going to do that this season, and the lack of a quality point guard is the last straw.
That doesn’t make the timing any better.
There were reasons to let McDonough go. His first season (2012-13) the Suns won 48 games but still missed the playoffs by one game. Since then, the team has gone 155-255 and turnover has been the defining factor — Igor Kokoškov is the new coach, the fourth in five years. McDonough’s draft record is not exactly spotless and includes Alex Len and Tyler Ulis (neither still with the team), then in 2016 he picked Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss (Chriss is already gone from Phoenix and Bender has not panned out like one hopes a No. 4 pick would). Of course, under Sarver the questions on coach turnover, player decisions and more may not fall just on McDonough or any GM — last year Charles Barkley described Sarver as a control freak, and that’s long been his reputation around the league. He is involved in far more decisions than most owners.
Despite all those “reasons,” the timing of the McDonough firing is still just odd. It just feels like another setback for the Suns.