Phoenix Suns general manager James Jones has been very active during his first off season. A lot of it has been cleaning the mess the last general manager, Ryan McDonough, made. Now, after Wednesday’s news that the Suns traded former top four pick Josh Jackson to the Memphis Grizzlies, the failures of the McDonough era have finally passed the team.
From 2013-18, the Suns were run by McDonough and didn’t have a lot of success under his watch, going 155-255. The team went through three head coaches and before his fourth coach, Igor Kokoskov coached a regular season game, he was fired by owner Robert Sarver. During that time, the Suns had made multiple bad draft decisions as they never lived up to their expectations. The veterans he signed were either over the hill or just there for a paycheck.
Now it isn’t fair to say everything McDonough did was bad. He did draft franchise cornerstones Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton and made a move to select Mikal Bridges last year who has shown flashes. However, his flaws trump his success. He failed to keep Eric Bledsoe — and a number of other players before that — happy and over the last two years failed to find a suitable replacement. In 2015, he traded the Lakers 2015 first round draft pick to the 76ers for Brandon Knight, someone who only played 115 total games for the team. The Suns had selected four players in the top ten within McDonough’s last three seasons, only Deandre Ayton is on the team. He’s started a rebuild that’s been going nowhere since 2015 and now, it’s Jones job to complete it.
Jones has done a lot to right the ship and resurrect the culture of the team. Trading for Kelly Oubre Jr. and Tyler Johnson brought in a winning/veteran presence that the team was desperate for. Jones fired Kokoskov after his first season to bring in his guy Monty Williams, a coach who’s well respected around the league. He’s also gotten rid of several players that either don’t fit the timeline (TJ Warren) or are not worth the trouble of keeping (Jackson).
In his first draft, Jones traded down from six to 11 in order to get power forward Dario Saric and picked forward Cameron Johnson with the pick. While it was a reach to snatch him, Jones was going for a need (outside shooting) instead of the best player available and hoping he reached his high potential. He then traded back into the first round for the 24th pick to snatch Ty Jerome, a point guard who can shoot and run the floor, while picking up veteran backup center Aron Baynes. Neither rookies are expected to start on day one but both are sure to make an impact their rookie seasons. Both guys also come from winning cultures in college and that’s what Jones wants to bring in Phoenix, a winning mentality.
Every move Jones has made has been to clean up the mess that Phoenix was in. Even if it meant losing draft capital, Jones has gotten rid of underachieving players to bring in those who fit the image he has for the team. Ricky Rubio, while not an all-star, is a solid point guard that’ll feed the array of shooters on this team. Center Aron Baynes plays hard nose, physical basketball and will make for a solid backup. Saric is a solid power forward and if he plays well, the Suns will be able to offer him a qualifying offer.
The Suns won’t become a playoff contender out of the blue, the Western Conference is an animal and the team isn’t ready for that jump. These move though help change the culture of the team and that’s something Jones seems dead set on doing. Only time will tell if it works but from this point onward, this is Jones’ team.