Over his first four seasons (through 2017-18), Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough cycled through more than 45 players on his active roster. That’s 45 players who were acquired after McDonough was hired, have suited up and played at least one game with the Suns.
Since a roster cannot carry more than 15 active players on NBA contracts, that’s three wholesale roster turnovers. In four years.
In May 2013, McDonough inherited a roster that had just gone 25-57 and arguably had the least talented roster in the NBA. The roster boasted no All-Stars, and no one appeared remotely close to getting there.
However, the 2012-13 roster was not completely barren.
- Of the four players he kept from the 2012-13 season, all four were eventually traded and ALL have been playoff starters for their new teams (Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, Goran Dragic, P.J. Tucker).
- Of the 12 players he shipped out that summer, a whopping 9 of them were playoff contributors for another team, or three.
Of the 11 he brought in to replace them that year, not one has made the playoffs as a Phoenix Sun, or won any kind of award. All 11 are now gone again, and 4 of those made the playoffs with other teams after leaving the Suns.
I mean, it didn’t have to look this bleak. All the Suns had to do was make the playoffs at least once in these five seasons under McDonough to balance those scales. And not panic-trade the best ones before they hit their prime.
While he’s churned the roster THREE FULL times, he has not acquired anything close to playoff success or brought in any award winners. In fact, the last three years, his teams have only won 27% of their games.
Players McDonough has acquired through draft, free agency and trade:
- 0 All-Stars
- 0 All-NBA
- 1 player scoring 20+ points per game full season (Devin Booker 2x)
- 0 players averaging double-double
- 3 All-Rookie (Devin Booker, Marquese Chriss, Josh Jackson)
- 0 playoff appearances
- 0 NBA Championships
Players McDonough has released or traded:
- 2 All-Stars (Isaiah Thomas, Goran Dragic)
- 2 All-NBA (Thomas, Dragic)
- 2 players scoring 20+ points per game full season (Thomas 2x, Dragic)
- 1 player averaging double-double (Gortat)
- 1 All-Rookie (Bogdan Bogdanovic)
- 7 starters on playoff teams
- 15 more who earned playoff minutes off a team’s bench, with potentially 3 new ones next season (Marquese Chriss/HOU, Brandon Knight/HOU, Elfrid Payton/NOP)
- 2 NBA Championships (Leandro Barbosa/GS, Channing Frye/CLE)
He has acquired NO ONE that has helped the Suns make the playoffs, yet at least half the players he’s jettisoned have been in the playoffs at least once if not every seasons since being dumped.
For example, Marcin Gortat has tasted playoff success as a starter four of the five years since leaving. Dragic, Thomas and the Morrii have each made it two of three years.
Back to the future
That 25-win team in 2012-13 ultimately had 13 players who would see minutes in the playoffs before their career ended, including five of them as starters. One of those went on to be named All-NBA twice and made the All-Star game (Goran Dragic).
In five years, if McDonough keeps the right guys from this roster, what could this checklist look like?
- 2 All-Stars (Booker, Ayton)?
- 2 All-NBA (Booker, Ayton)?
- 1-2 All-Defense players (Ariza, Jackson, Bridges, Melton)?
- 1-2 players scoring 20+ points per game full season (Booker, Ayton)?
- 1 players averaging double-double (Ayton)?
- 3 All-Rookie (Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Deandre Ayton)?
- 5+ playoff starters?
- 10+ playoff bench players?
The 2017-18 Suns have a better foundation than that 2012-13 team did. This current team is younger and has more potential. At least Booker and Ayton have potential to be All-Stars one day. Even Josh Jackson could reach that potential too. T.J. Warren could earn Sixth Man of the Year one day, while Ariza or one of the young wings could earn All-Defense team awards.
It’s got to start turning around for McDonough, but it won’t turn around without them winning games. Miami and Boston won a lot of games to support Dragic and Thomas’ award bids.
Booker, Ayton and the others will need to win games too.
Maybe now is the time.