(You can listen to the Suns GM in this audio clip. His quote about Isaiah Thomas is about 74 minutes into the the broadcast.)
Like any other general manager, the Phoenix Suns’ Ryan McDonough has won trades and lost them.
What if he could have one decision taken back?
Jon Bloom and Greg Esposito asked McDonough just that Wednesday on the Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Suns Midseason Special. From a scouting trip in Omaha, Neb. — where we assume he was watching potential lottery pick Henry Ellenson’s Marquette team face Creighton — McDonough answered the question honestly.
“I think in retrospect trading Isaiah Thomas when we did was a mistake,” he said of last season’s trade deadline deal with the Boston Celtics. “I think sometimes in the recruitment process things sound better in July (luring Thomas in free agency) than they do in November.
“He wanted more, he wanted a bigger role and I understand why: He’s a talented player,” McDonough added. “In retrospect, we should have carried him into the summer. If there’s one (decision) that stands out, if I could get a mulligan, that’d be it.”
Thomas made his first All-Star game with the Celtics after being dealt by Phoenix for Cleveland’s 2016 first-round draft pick and veteran guard Marcus Thornton. Phoenix didn’t keep Thornton over the summer and it’s unlikely a player taken late in the first round of this draft will be an All-Star.
The Suns also traded Goran Dragic away at the deadline last summer, but a Thomas-Eric Bledsoe backcourt may have run on the small side.
Even if they had still acquired Brandon Knight in a separate deal, the Suns would’ve been leaving the problem of having too many point guards unanswered.
McDonough, however, could still have used Thomas as a trade asset for the draft or in free agency the following summer.
After all, there didn’t appear to be a locker room problem more than the admission from Thomas that he didn’t sign with Phoenix expecting to split so much time with Dragic and Bledsoe.
The summer prior, Phoenix worked out a sign and trade with the Kings, adding Thomas on a valuable four-year, $27 million contract. At the time, Thomas was, at best, insurance with Eric Bledsoe’s free agency looming and Goran Dragic’s free agency coming the next year; Dragic had a player option.
At worst, Thomas was on an enticingly inexpensive deal and a valuable trade chip.
Why the Suns didn’t wait to get more value out of it, even if Thomas was unhappy about playing time, is hard to reason. The timing with the sudden request by Dragic to be traded may have put McDonough in a tough situation if he’d already been shopping Thomas.
What we do know is that McDonough is quite aware he’s not been perfect in the first three years of his first general manager position.