Robert Sarver and the Phoenix Suns have fired GM Ryan McDonough this morning, nine days before the regular season starts and just two years before his contract ends. The move hasn’t perplexed fans, the timing has. After what many would call a successful offseason; drafting #1 pick Deandre Ayton, signing key veteran Trevor Ariza, and even trading a disgruntled player in Marquese Chriss. But the question remains, why now? There are few possibilities, let’s dive right into them. But first, a statement from Robert Sarver:
“After much thought and a long evaluation of our basketball operations, I have decided to relieve Ryan McDonough of his duties as general manager of the Phoenix Suns. Our focus in the short term is to prepare for the upcoming NBA season and to continue pursuing opportunities to strengthen our roster. Over the course of the season, we will explore both internal and external options as we look to restructure our basketball front office leadership. On behalf of the entire organization, I want to thank Ryan for his efforts and contributions during his five-plus years with the Suns. We wish him nothing but the best moving forward.” – Robert Sarver
Did Ryan McDonough actually quit?
It’s possible. The way that things have transpired, it seemed like McDonough might have had enough of being under Sarver’s microscope. This organization has proven to be dysfunctional since the Robert Sarver era has begun. Granted, Ryan McDonough had his issues handling current players, none short of Goran Dragic, The Morris Twins, Eric Bledsoe, and Isaiah Thomas. But the straw that could have broken the camels back would be their lack of a starting point-guard. When only years ago, the Phoenix Suns had 3 starting point-guards. I don’t see this as a possibility, not when considering how Robert Sarver has run the organization in the past.
Was there a trade on the table, only to be contested?
This would have to be one of the more intriguing speculations out there. Was there a trade that was ready to go, only to be vetoed by Robert Sarver? Or was there a trade that Robert wanted, only to be refuted by Ryan McDonough? Even more intriguing, what if a deal was on the table to reclaim Miami guard Goran Dragic (for a 3rd time), only to be canceled by Goran himself, due to the very existence of Ryan McDonough? We may never know the answer to this one, especially when the Phoenix Suns are still trying to acquire a starting point-guard. It will be very interesting to see what the Suns will acquire after letting Ryan McDonough go.
McDonough valued James Jones instead?
Many people around the league saw the hiring of James Jones as the Vice President of Basketball Operations as Ryan McDonough’s eventual replacement. Some, however, still see James Jones as “a few years away” from being capable of handling the role. Could the relationship between Sarver and McDonough have been that bad to push Sarver to “pull the plug” and go with James Jones earlier than expected?
James Jones is likely 3 years away from being a GM – Being the front man of an organization. The leader. He has no level of real experience. Now Sarver has hired and elevated people like that before in organization but just means that he (Sarver) is likely calling the shots.
— John Gambadoro (@Gambo987) October 8, 2018
Also, take note Suns fans, not even Steve Nash (a valley hero) wants to be part of this organization again. This simple tweet from Adrian Wojnarowski speaks VOLUMES to me on the state of the organization.
Suns legend Steve Nash — a Sarver favorite — continues to have no interest in pursuing the demands of the day-to-day duties of running a front office, league sources tell ESPN. He works as consultant with the Warriors now.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 8, 2018
It’s been done before
Regardless of the reason, this reeks of a similar situation that the Philadelphia 76ers had with former GM and President of Basketball Operations, Sam Hinkie. Sam was beloved for starting the #TrustTheProcess movement that has revitalized the 76ers roster after spending years at the bottom of the barrel. This may be the real model on how to rebuild your NBA franchise:
- Lose as many games as possible.
- Hire a GM who doesn’t always make the best moves, but is analytical.
- Fire him once ownership feels they have the best amount of young assets.
- Hire a “yes-man” GM
Robert Sarver may truly desire an owner-led organization, where the GM is actually a puppet, following whatever has been pre-determined by the owner. If that is the case, the Phoenix Suns may be in for another tumultuous season(s). Be that as it may, Ryan McDonough left the organization better than when he arrived and for that, we can all be thankful.