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The 5: Reviewing the Suns’ biggest recent trade deadline deals

The NBA trade deadline this Thursday will mark general manager Ryan McDonough’s fifth in charge of the Phoenix Suns.

With the exception of his first season on the job — the Suns were clicking and making a run at a playoff spot — the Suns GM has been active at every one of the last four deadlines. Phoenix already made a big move this season, trading Eric Bledsoe to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Greg Monroe and a protected first-round pick.

Could more changes be coming?

As this year’s deadline approaches, let’s look back at the five most significant trades on deadline day of the McDonough era. We’ll look at what the Suns gave up and what they’ve gotten in return (so far).

Related link: Combing over PG options before the deadline

FEB. 19, 2015

The Goran Dragic trade

– Suns trade Goran and Zoran Dragic to the Heat

– Heat ship Danny Granger, a 2018 first-round pick (top-7 protected) and 2021 first-round pick to the Suns

– Heat’s Norris Cole, Justin Hamilton and Shawne Williams head to the Pelicans

– Pelicans send John Salmons (waived) to the Suns

What it looks like for the Suns in 2018

Years down the road, the first of three trades at the 2015 deadline is basically a swap of a first-time All-Star in Goran Dragic for two first-round picks.

The 31-year-old Dragic is having a down year by his standards, averaging 17.1 points, 4.8 assists and shooting 44 percent and just 35 percent from three-point range. He’s also being paid $17 million with an increasing salary over the next two years after Miami signed him to an extension.

Granger, who was already battling injuries, hasn’t suited up since being thrown into the deal because of his contract. The other players are also no longer in the league.

Unless there’s a massive plunge by the Heat, its protected first-round pick will convey as of the trade deadline — Miami finds itself as a bottom-tier playoff team in the Eastern Conference.

That might be in the territory where the Suns could draft 19-year-old Kentucky point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, or wings like Dzanan Musa (international), Lonnie Walker (Miami), Chandler Hutchison (Boise State) or Bruce Brown (Miami). All of those players are mid-first-round options on ESPN’s Jonathan Givony’s big board.

The Brandon Knight trade

– Brandon Knight and Kendall Marshall (waived) traded from the Bucks to the Suns

– Suns send Lakers’ 2018 first-round pick (from 2012 Steve Nash trade) to Sixers

– Suns send Tyler Ennis and Miles Plumlee to Bucks

– Sixers deal Michael Carter-Williams to Bucks

What it looks like for the Suns in 2018

To put it concisely, Knight struggled to fit alongside Eric Bledsoe, lost his starting job as Devin Booker rose to the forefront and had multiple minor injuries hamper him before he tore his ACL this offseason. Under contract for a deal averaging around $14.6 million per season through 2019-20, he is untradeable but he could have a chance to earn a starting spot if he returns healthy next season and the Suns can’t find a veteran point option in stingy trade and free agency markets.

Ennis is a mistake-free backup point who projects to stick in the league, Plumlee has bounced around as little more than a rim-protecting big and Michael Carter-Williams went from Rookie of the Year to a problematic backup point guard.

Of course, the painful part of the Knight deal was the Lakers’ pick. To make Suns fans feel 10 times worse, ESPN’s Feb. 1 mock draft has that pick at No. 7 and Oklahoma point guard Trae Young going to the Sixers. Boston gets the pick if it is second through fifth, but ESPN’s BPI has it as a 78-percent chance of it going to Philly.

The Isaiah Thomas trade

– Suns ship Isaiah Thomas to Celtics

– Celtics trade Marcus Thornton and 2016 first-round pick (Skal Labissiere) to Suns

– Pistons send Gigi Datome and Jonas Jerebko to Celtics

What it looks like for the Suns in 2018

Judge this trade the moment it happened, and it wasn’t a great return for the Suns. A year later, it looked so bad that McDonough admitted he wish he could have taken a mulligan.

Now? It’s not looking quite as bad.

All we know is it was a major win for the Celtics.

Thomas put together a magical season for Boston in his only full season after the deal, but since being traded to the Cavaliers for Kyrie Irving, it’s hard to say what would’ve happened if Phoenix hadn’t pulled the trigger.

In an alternate universe, maybe Phoenix would have traded Thomas at the 2016 deadline with his stock in prime shape. In another alternate universe, maybe the Suns would have kept him too long and his hip problems would have cut into his stock. We’ll never know.

In reality, Thomas has struggled in 13 games of 2017-18 as the hip injury has limited him. His defense — or lack thereof — has been one of many problematic pieces to the crumbling Cavaliers as the deadline hits this week.

The rest of this deal is filler. Jerebko is a solid backup forward in Utah, Datome and Thornton are out of the league, while the Suns’ first-round pick was traded to move up in the 2016 draft and take Marquese Chriss. The Kings used that 28th overall selection to grab power forward Skal Labissiere, who is 21 years old and averaging 7.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.

FEB. 18, 2016

The Markieff Morris trade

– Suns trade Markieff Morris to the Wizards

– Wizards send DeJuan Blair, Kris Humphries and a 2016 first-round pick (Georgios Papagiannis) to the Suns

If we’re looking at the Suns’ acquisition of the eighth overall pick to draft Chriss, consider this: It took trading the only useable assets from the Thomas and Morris trades to get there, plus the rights to now-rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic, who is averaging 11.2 points and 3.1 assists per game.

Morris, now 28, is having a quieter year by averaging 10.9 points and 5.7 rebounds a game while shooting 47 percent overall and 37 percent from three.

The 20-year-old Papagiannis is making it look more and more like the Kings reached with 13th pick in last year’s draft, but Chriss beginning his second year out of shape — and the recent one-game suspension — might be signs that a lot has to change before the Suns can call this trade a win.

FEB. 23, 2017

The P.J. Tucker trade

– Suns send P.J. Tucker to Raptors

– Toronto trades Jared Sullinger and 2017 second-round pick (Alec Peters) to Phoenix

The other trade of 2017 did nothing other than move the Suns closer to the cap floor, but the deal that sent Tucker’s expiring contract to the Toronto Raptors gave the NBA a glimpse of the value Tucker could bring in the postseason.

The 32-year-old Tucker parlayed that in to a four-year, $32 million contract with the Houston Rockets. This year, he’s averaging 5.5 points, 5.9 rebounds and shooting a career-low 38 percent, but he’s a key piece to Houston’s defensive retool that should have the Rockets pushing the Golden State Warriors atop the Western Conference.

The Suns never brought Sullinger to Phoenix, and he’s now playing in China.

Peters is averaging 2.0 points and shooting 24 percent in just seven NBA appearances and in 22 G League games has averaged 18.3 points per game on 41 percent three-point shooting to go with 8.1 rebounds and 1.7 assists.

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