By shipping out Knight and Chriss, Suns GM moves on from mistakes
“Is it really going to be Brandon Knight?”
That was the question asked regarding the Phoenix Suns’ point guard situation. And on Thursday night, we found out the answer to that question when general manager Ryan McDonough traded Knight and Marquese Chriss to the Houston Rockets for De’Anthony Melton and Ryan Anderson.
The 26-year-old Knight had his brief time in the NBA where he was a valued point guard, but his three-plus years in Phoenix have mostly been a dumpster fire.
He was below average in the 2015-16 season, and the future backcourt including Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker was clearly the move the team had to make. The Suns benched Knight, and despite his on-court effort going a few ticks up, he performed as one of the worst players in the league.
Knight then, unfortunately, tore his ACL the following offseason, entering a year in which Phoenix surely would have liked to see what he had left after trading Bledsoe to the Bucks three games played into the season. With that injury, Knight’s season ended and he crossed the halfway point of his five-year, $70 million contract extension having contributed little to the Suns.
McDonough entered this season with no Bledsoe, no top selection used on a point guard and no large acquisition on the trade or free agent market.
There were stories written about Knight’s change in demeanor, a realization that he needed that change to be successful again in the NBA.
McDonough and the Suns wouldn’t fail to mention Knight in interviews, raving about the work he was doing off the court and the potential they believed he still had to be a quality NBA point guard.
Those stories and words wound up not mattering at all.
With the trade, McDonough sent a signal that he was ready to move on from two of his biggest failures as the GM of the Phoenix Suns.
Those two failures were also his two biggest gambles and most aggressive moves prior to this offseason.
McDonough has waited, and waited, and waited with assets, eyeing the next disgruntled All-Star or a younger player with the potential to reach that level to become available.
The closest he has gotten to pulling the trigger on that move was trading for Knight in 2015, a scoring guard who nearly made the All-Star team with the Bucks and could form a dynamic two-way backcourt with Bledsoe. The two never meshed well on the court, and the emergence of Booker quickly ended any possibility of that long-term pairing.
In the 2016 NBA Draft, McDonough fell in love with two power forwards so much he had to trade up to select Chriss at No. 8 after just picking Dragan Bender fourth, sending out two first-round picks and the moderately valuable Bogdan Bogdanovic along the way.
Whether the plan was for Bender and Chriss to play together long-term or switch off in a frontcourt rotation remains to be seen. What is undeniable, however, is he had major plans for both, and both players have massively underachieved as former top 10 picks through two seasons.
The move is not about Ryan Anderson’s stretch-four ability or De’Antony Melton’s long-term fit next to Booker. Anderson is far beyond his prime, and don’t forget the Suns just selected Elie Okobo over Melton in June’s draft.
The move is about moving on, and by moving on from those mistakes, McDonough has now sealed in cement that both of those gambles were complete, unmitigated disasters.