Suns GM: Monster deal was offered, but big trade would be more likely in summer

Feb 24, 2017, 9:41 AM | Updated: 11:27 am
Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough answers a question during an NBA basketball media day M...
Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough answers a question during an NBA basketball media day Monday, Sept. 28, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
LISTEN: Ryan McDonough, Suns general manager

Thursday was Ryan McDonough’s fourth trade deadline as the general manager of the Phoenix Suns, and relative to previous years, it was actually fairly quiet.

Sure, he swung two separate deals, but neither was unexpected nor are they likely to really move the meter.

The first trade saw them send a second-round draft pick to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for forward Mike Scott, the rights to Cenk Akyol and cash. The other led to forward P.J. Tucker being shipped to the Toronto Raptors for a pair of second-round picks and forward Jared Sullinger.

A guest of Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Friday morning, McDonough said while there were certainly calls near the deadline that could have produced something bigger, for the most part this year’s deadline was relatively quiet.

“I think one of the things that stood out league-wide is teams are really valuing draft picks,” he said. “Because of the new collective bargaining agreement there are so many advantages to not only having your own picks, but additional picks to go get players, key players. And you kind of have more cracks at the bat.”

McDonough said that was the motivation behind moving Tucker to the Raptors and while parting with the longest-tenured Sun was not easy, the veteran’s contract expiring made moving him a more appealing option.

That’s why it was widely assumed the Suns would part with Tucker by the 1 p.m. deadline, though as Tucker himself pointed out, it really did come down to the wire.

If you were hoping to see the Suns, who at 18-39 have the second-worst record in the NBA and are heading for their seventh straight season without the playoffs, pull off something bigger than what they did, you are probably not alone.

The Suns had previously been linked to DeMarcus Cousins before he was ultimately traded to New Orleans, and Friday McDonough confirmed there was some interest. The GM also mentioned that there were some discussions about an even larger deal.

“It didn’t really get serious, but one team mentioned three very good players — probably their three best players — for three of our top players, and it would have been a blockbuster deal,” he said. “We thought about it briefly, and at the end of the day decided not to pull the trigger.

“This would have been kind of a franchise-altering thing for us, in terms of a direction shift, so any time those discussions come up we obviously wanted more time to analyze it. Maybe there’s some other version of it we can reconstruct in the summer.”

Instead of signing off on that kind of trade, McDonough said the thought was it is best to play out the rest of the season and let the team’s young talent develop. He admitted the offer was at least worth thinking about, however, but changing the franchise’s course like that was something he just was not ready to do on such short notice.

Pressed for a bit more detail on the trade that never happened, McDonough said it was an Eastern Conference team, and with that feel free to wonder and speculate what it might have been.

Was Cleveland ready to blow it up and send LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love to the desert? Not likely, which is why nothing was agreed upon.

The Suns also never found a taker for guard Brandon Knight, who was also rumored to be on the trading block. McDonough did not want to get into whether a deal was close or not, and had little interest in going too far into what was going on with regards to every individual player on the roster.

Noting the team’s cap space, stockpile of draft picks and other assets, McDonough did say certain avenues may be explored again in the summer, when there is more time to really think about deals and their ramifications.

“We really like this draft — it’s one of the better ones I’ve seen over the course of the last decade-plus, so we really value our pick this year,” McDonough said, figuring that was the main hesitancy with potentially putting their draft pick on the table in an effort to make a bigger trade. “I realize that requires patience and a lot of people don’t want that or don’t want to have that or wait for the season to play out.”

It may be frustrating to see play out, but the way McDonough sees it, slow and steady is the way to win the race.

“Going through the process we’re going through now is not easy, for sure, but at the same time, that’s how the championship teams recently have been built, or that’s how they’ve been built the most sustainable,” he said. “It’s great to make deals and to wheel and deal…but some of the elite players that were available or were potentially available, their contracts are coming to an end soon and we just couldn’t risk mortgaging the future of the franchise on a short-term play without any assurances we’d be able to keep that player beyond the next year or two.

“Ultimately that’s what it came down to. Now, as we continue to acquire draft picks and young players and cap space, and as our players continue to grow and improve and develop more value around the league, I think we better position ourselves to make a deal. But that’s something I think would be more likely to happen in the summer time.”

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