The Phoenix Suns have been on a roll for quite some time now. Going back to the Orlando Bubble, the team has posted an NBA-best 96-30 (.762) regular season record and navigated their way to a Western Conference Championship and an NBA Finals appearance.
You may wonder when the tide began to turn for the team who spent a decade on the outside of the playoffs. If you were to connect the dots, it all began when James Jones officially took the reins as General Manager of the Suns on April 11, 2019. Since that time he has orchestrated numerous transactions that have bettered the franchise, improved the team, and revitalized a fanbase.
On Tuesday, the Phoenix Suns rewarded the reigning NBA Executive of the Year with a multi year extension, as first reported by Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated.
Jones, who played 14 years in the NBA including two seasons with the Phoenix Suns, has the respect of his players and coaches around him. The three-time NBA Champion is simply referred to as “Champ” and he has excelled at bridging the gap between the front office – which is currently under investigation – and the players.
Following his playing career, Jones joined the Phoenix Suns front office in 2017 as the vice president of basketball operations. Following the release of Ryan McDonough, which occurred two weeks before the beginning of the 2018-19 season, both Jones and Bukstein shared the GM responsibilities for a team whose roster was already in place to a start a 19-63 season.
They were the driving force in trading with the Washington Wizards for Kelly Oubre, Jr. on December 17, 2018. It was a transaction that began the metamorphosis of Phoenix Suns culture.
When the season ended and James Jones took full control of the general manager responsibilities, he began fortifying the team and surrounding budding star Devin Booker with complementary players that would allow him to not only progress, but free him from ball handling duties.
He signed Ricky Rubio, re-signed Kelly Oubre, and took a swing in the draft by obtaining forward Cameron Johnson. Slowly but surely, the Suns began winning more games. Devin Booker made his first All-Star team in 2020. The Suns were 26-39 when the COVID-19 pandemic halted the sport. Shockingly, even those measly 26 wins in 65 games were already two more than the Suns had recorded in any full 82-game season in five years!
When the team was allowed to play once again, they ripped off 8 consecutive wins in Orlando, narrowly missing the playoffs. But the show they put on was noticed and James went to work.
He turned Ricky Rubio and Kelly Oubre (and Ty Jerome) into Chris Paul (and Abdel Nader). Much akin to the Cameron Johnson draft pick, many questioned the move made by Jones. And just like CJ23, CP3 proved Jones right.
Phoenix had the second-best record in the league in 2020-21 and marched to the NBA Finals. James Jones was awarded the NBA Executive of the Year Award during the Western Conference Finals, although he declined any interviews about the honor as he wanted to focus to be on the team.
This season the Suns are leading the league with a 37-9 record. The work James Jones has done continues to allow for sustained success. He signed Mikal Bridges to an extension this past offseason. He brought in JaVale McGee. He signed Bismack Biyombo. Not every transaction is a winner – we are still waiting for Landry Shamet to pan out, to see what the Jalen Smith draft pick will garner, and probably should have extended Ayton – but Jones continues to prove everyone wrong.
It’s good to know he’ll be here even longer, helping sustain the success of the Suns and making Phoenix a destination in the basketball world.
For a franchise, and an owner, who’d memorably moved on from two prior successful GMs — Bryan Colangelo, who’d built the SSOL Suns, and Steve Kerr, who’d kept it alive — when new contract negotiations hit snags, it’s great to see continuity now.