The 2016 trade deadline is a mere seven days away, and the Phoenix Suns critical path is to execute at least one trade between now and then.
The team as presently constructed, factoring in injuries, is unlikely to win more than half-dozen more games all season. But even worse, the chemistry on the team is so toxic that the franchise has become a laughing-stock around the country. No one understands how the Suns have fallen so far so fast to threaten posting an even worse record than the team posted in 2012-13, which prompted a house cleaning from top to bottom.
And yet, even while the team has lost 22 of their last 24 games, the Suns' wheeler-dealer has not made one trade in the past seven months.
In his first 25 months as an NBA General Manager, Ryan McDonough and his front office staff engineered a cool dozen trades. Some were big, some were small, but never did more than a few months pass in between activity.
McDonough's trades, in descending order
- July 2015: Sent Marcus Morris, Danny Granger and Reggie Bullock to Pistons for 2020 2nd round pick. Morris now starts for Pistons but per-36 numbers are atrocious. Granger/Bullock have done nothing.
- June 2015: Sent 2015 2nd round pick to Memphis for Jon Leuer. Leuer had a good half-season, but is currently chained to the bench by new Suns coach Earl Watson and will be a UFA in four months.
- February 2015: Two trades sent Miles Plumlee, Tyler Ennis, Isaiah Thomas, Goran Dragic, Lakers' 2017 (?) 1st round pick to various teams for Brandon Knight, 2016 1st round pick, 2018 1st round pick, 2021 1st round pick. Knight is 20/5 player, but currently injured (groin strain) with no solid timetable to return, and has missed nearly as many games as he's played. On the other side, Thomas is an All-Star, Dragic starts for Heat. Plumlee and Ennis are bit-players.
- December/January 2015: Three trades sent Shavlik Randolph and pocket lint to various teams for Reggie Bullock and Brandan Wright. The Suns got one good half-season from the two combined, but that's better than anything Randolph's done.
- July 2014: Sent dust bunny to Sacramento for Isaiah Thomas. Thomas played half-season before being traded.
- October 2013: Sent Shannon Brown, Kendall Marshall, Malcolm Lee and Marcin Gortat to Washington for Emeka Okafor. Gortat is still a starter in Washington. None of the others have an NBA career of note.
- August 2013: Sent Caron Butler to Milwaukee for Ish Smith, Slava Kravtsov. Ish was a good backup but left the team as UFA one year later, now exacts revenge games on the regular.
- July 2013: Two trades sent Luis Scola and Jared Dudley to various teams for Eric Bledsoe, Miles Plumlee and Gerald Green. Scola and Dudley are still NBA starters. Bledsoe puts up 20/6, but has missed nearly as much time to injury as not. Plumlee and Green provided the Suns some great value initially, left the Suns for no return value in the past year.
A once-promising GM career for McDonough has turned into quite a head-scratcher and potential swan song this season. Over the past year, nothing has gone well for McD. Nothing.
Now he gets probably one more shot to save his career and save the Phoenix Suns franchise from further embarrassment.
He needs to rid the team of Markieff Morris one way or another. Either trade him to some other team - for anything - or consider releasing him the way the Pistons released Josh Smith a year ago. Eat the contract, send him away, and ultimately clear some poison from the air.
Trading Markieff Morris won't be easy, as former Assistant GM in Brooklyn Bobby Marks writes. The pending felony charge, chemistry issues, lack of effort for three months and unpredictable behavior all factor in collectively as negatives more than his great contract and solid production factor as positives.
"Everything I do looks bad," Morris sagely commented the other night after pushing around his closest teammate in Archie Goodwin and flipping off a fan.
Yes, Markieff, you're right about that.
If a plea or conviction occurs after a trade, the team trading for Markieff Morris could expect to lose him for multiple games because of an NBA suspension. The looming concern over possible jail time further complicates a potential trade, and teams would want a complete understanding of the risks involved with the legal case. No organization wants to give up assets and suddenly learn that Morris would have to serve jail time.
Teams are intensely focused on how Markieff could impact the chemistry and character of their locker rooms. For teams involved in this process, the examination of their own locker rooms is crucial.
What's the mix of veterans and young players? How many dominant personalities do we have? How many players are considered loners? Is there a tough guy to whom Morris would gravitate?
What did generate considerable concern with teams: how Markieff reacted to the trade of Marcus from Phoenix to Detroit in July. Front offices are asking: Are we getting a perpetually disgruntled player who cannot play without his brother? Or is Markieff largely only upset with the Suns' management team?
Yet still, McD has to find a trade partner.
It's not about winning anymore. McD is holding out for the godfather deal apparently. He's trying to get better with his next trade, not worse. But that desire may be hindering McD's effectiveness. You can't just wait for that awesome trade that turns it all around. You need to make deals that incrementally make SENSE. And that starts with the remaining twin.
Trading (or releasing) Markieff Morris has to be THE primary action item over the next week.