In just four years since James Jones was first named general manager (had the interim title the first year of that period) and three off-seasons to rebuild the roster, the Phoenix Suns just finished their best regular season of all time.
Approach to the off-season
Coming off a 2020-21 season where Jones earned the league’s award for Executive of the Year, he elected to mostly keep the status quo going into the following season.
He completely opted out of the 2021 NBA Draft after trading away #29 (and Jevon Carter) for Landry Shamet and #59 (and Jared Dudley) for Darrell Arthur back in 2018, the ladder being a salary relief move by previous GM Ryan McDonough that saved Phoenix $2.1 million.
They also chose to not sign a single undrafted free agent despite there being intriguing names out there, like Austin Reaves, who ended up with the LA Lakers.
Throughout the rest of the season, Jones stuck with that minimalistic philosophy, making small moves around the margins, like the additions of big men JaVale McGee as a free agent and Bismack Biyombo during the season.
Jones also deserves credit for bringing in Ish Wainright during training camp, who played well in his season on a two-way contract and has earned his spot at the end of the bench, even to the point of earning a guaranteed contract before the conclusion of the regular season, awarding him a spot on the playoff roster.
Plenty of buzzwords surrounded the Suns throughout this off-season, like “continuity” and “internal development”.
It’s easy to forget now, but last season was one ravaged by Covid-19, “health & safety protocols”, and special 10-day hardship contracts across the league. A record number of players put on NBA jerseys across the league during the 2021-22 season.
The Suns signed various 10-day guys, like Emmanuel Terry, Justin Jackson, MJ Walker, and Paris Bass, but none really stuck around until Bismack Biyombo at the turn of the calendar.
Biyombo averaged 22.8 minutes over his first 12 games, averaging 11.1 points (64.3 FG%), 8.1 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks when the team was desperate for someone to fill minutes at the center spot. He played in 17 games before he played in a loss, as well.
At the trade deadline, Jones had plenty of options, but stuck to the plan, making minimal moves.
He turned the 60th pick in the 2022 draft into Torrey Craig and turned Cash Considerations into Aaron Holiday. Each had their moments, but each have their clear limits on how much they can help the team, as well.
I’ve talked ad nauseum about how I was really hoping for an Eric Gordon trade at the deadline, and I even wrote up an entire article welcoming him to Phoenix in anticipation that he’d be acquired. It, of course, was never published because he was never acquired, but he might be soon!
Windy mentions the Suns as a potential suitor in the Eric Gordon sweepstakes here: https://t.co/vAUMCaYwqa— Gerald Bourguet (@GeraldBourguet) June 21, 2022
On the note of giving credit for finding two-way contract players, late in the season, James Jones picked up estranged CSKA Moscow guard Iffe Lundberg, who played well in limited opportunities. He’s expected back for the Summer League in a couple weeks.
Whether Jones’s bashfulness in the summer and at the deadline came from misplaced confidence in himself and the roster he’d already constructed, or rather just asset treasury, the roster wasn’t enough to reach the ultimate goal.
I think throughout this summer, and even moving toward next year’s trade deadline, we could see a more aggressive James Jones that’s even more laser-focused on winning now, and winning it all now.
Final grade: B- for being solid, but not enough.
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