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Recapping all the James Jones deadline deals, setting the stage for today’s deadline

Phoenix Suns GM really does not think much of in-season trades

NBA: Phoenix Suns-Media Day Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s a very short story on all the moves made/witnessed by James Jones as a member of the Phoenix Suns front office since summer 2017.

What kind of deadline deals has Jones seen in four years?

  • 2017-18: Acquired Elfrid Payton for a second round pick

Jones was a freshman front office member, just retired from a 17-year NBA career, with the title ‘VP of Basketball Operations’ reported kinda to Ryan McDonough but mostly to Robert Sarver. He watched McD intentionally tear down the roster around budding star Devin Booker to improve their odds to secure the top pick in the 2018.

By the deadline, they had already traded off any good vets they had, leaving them with no point guards to speak of. So they acquired Orlando’s young starting point guard Elfrid Payton, who posted a pair of triple doubles in his first nine games but otherwise has always been the Payton you see today. He was perfect for the tanking Suns, as they went 1-18 with Elfrid in the lineup.

  • 2018-19: Acquired Tyler Johnson for Ryan Anderson

For the second year in a row, McDonough had all off-season to shape the roster, ended up with zero playmakers and patted himself on the back for it. Sarver faked the back-pat, and instead patted McD on the butt on his way out the door while promoting James Jones to interim co-GM with Trevor Bukstein.

Jones got tired of watching zero playmaking, tired of constant losing, and acquired Tyler Johnson for the corpse of Ryan Anderson just before the deadline. Johnson, by comparison, looked like the second-coming of Steve Nash for a few weeks as the Suns won 6 of 10 games... before coming up lame with a knee injury that lingered more than a year and portended the premature decline of Tyler’s NBA career.

  • 2019-20: No trades

Finally the permanent GM, Jones did all his work in the off-season, changing all but four players on the roster he inherited (Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges and Elie Okobo).

As they approached the 2020 deadline, Jones liked what he saw with the Suns and decided he simply wanted to watch his roster grow and solidify their culture together.

  • 2020-21: Acquired Torrey Craig for cash

Last year, Jones kept to his pattern and pretty much stayed pat with the roster he constructed in the off-season. It helped that the Suns had the league’s second-best record at the time, and were cruising along as the trade deadline approached.

He did surprise some of us by poaching a little-used, minimum-salary forward from the Bucks who’d had some good moments in previous years in Denver. Torrey Craig turned out to be a really important acquisition for the Suns as he reprised that Nuggets role as a really good 15-20 minute player who delivered in playoff time.

  • 2021-22: ???

What will James Jones do today?

Like last year, the Suns are in very good shape at the deadline. Their weaknesses are even smaller now — 4th wing, 3rd point guard — giving Jones even less incentive to make a trade.

Still, Jones left the door open on Wednesday in his weekly radio interview.

“What holds you up is that we have 20 teams that are trying to make the playoffs,” Jones said. “We have six to eight teams who really believe they have a shot at winning the title and that’s what they’re going for. It’s one of those things where in order to acquire players, you have to get that player from some team that doesn’t want a good player. And we all know how that works in this business — it’s extremely tough.”

That’s not exactly a ‘we love our team and don’t see a need to make a trade’. That’s more like ‘I’m trying, but the competition over a very few players is tough’.

This year, the Suns don’t have an open roster spot waiting to be filled, having already filled it with Bismack Biyombo last month. If they make a trade, it’s got to include a player (or two). In four years, Jones has only seen one player (Ryan Anderson) leave at or near the deadline.

Assets available, not including core players or one-year deals who cannot be traded:

  • Jalen Smith (~$4.5 million), expiring
  • Dario Saric (~$9 million), one more guaranteed year after this
  • Abdel Nader (~$2 million), one team option year after this
  • Landry Shamet (~$3 million this year, $10 million next year), two more guaranteed years after this
  • conditional future first round picks, no earlier than 2024
  • second round picks, 2022+

Stay tuned.

The trade deadline is 1:00PM today, Arizona time.

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