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Candidates to replace fired Suns GM Ryan McDonough

Phoenix Suns Vice President of Basketball Operations James Jones does an interview with The Doug & Wolf Show on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (Matt Layman/Arizona Sports)

Suddenly, the path that looked clear — even with expected bumps in the road — is no more.

The Phoenix Suns threw another curveball in their attempt to return to legitimacy on Monday, firing general manager Ryan McDonough nine days before the season-opener. It comes a year after the team fired head coach Earl Watson three games into the 2017-18 regular season

So what comes next?

Vice president of basketball operations James Jones takes over on an interim basis, and team owner Robert Sarver said in a released statement the team would use the season to evaluate internal and external replacement candidates to lead their front office.

Here’s a look at replacement options, some of which have been thrown out by media members and others that make logical sense.

James Jones, Suns VP of basketball ops (interim)

Just a summer ago, Jones announced he’d retired as an NBA player by stepping to the podium at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Suddenly, he’s thrust into the lead role with just a year of dipping his toes in the water.

That said, Jones brings a strong reputation to the team. He’s still familiar in player circles and has plenty of experience on the management side of things having helped the players’ association negotiate the last collective bargaining agreement while serving as NBPA treasurer. Jones, who has 14 years of NBA experience, has assistant general manager Trevor Bukstein helping him in the interim.

Bukstein, who has a Georgetown law degree and worked in an agency, joined the Suns in 2010 and served under former president of basketball operations Lon Babby, focusing on salary cap management, trade and contract negotiations.

Now, he and Jones have the opportunity to show long-term potential with a dress rehearsal of a season.

Kevin McHale, former Rockets coach

A name floated by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, McHale was on the Suns’ radar during their head coaching search this offseason before the team inked Igor Kokoskov.

The former Boston Celtics great first got into the Minnesota Timberwolves’ front office in 1994 and took on the VP of basketball ops role in 1995. He held two coaching stints with the T-Wolves, in 2004-05 as an interim and 2008-09, when he stepped down from his front office role.

McHale left Minnesota after that season of coaching, then was hired as head coach of the Houston Rockets in 2011, serving through 11 games of the 2015-16 season.

David Griffin, former Cavaliers GM

Here’s the one name that would resonate throughout the basketball world and in Phoenix.

The Arizona State grad developed in the Jerry Colangelo-led Phoenix franchise, beginning as an intern in the early 1990s and working his way up to senior vice president of basketball operations under former Suns general manager Steve Kerr. Griffin left to join the Cleveland Cavaliers’ front office after Kerr departed in 2010 and in 2014 became an acting GM only to hold onto the title through 2016-17, winning a title in the process.

Griffin, who is currently working in the media, might be an interesting figure who could be added alongside Jones, who played for Griffin’s Cavs from 2014-17.

Whether it’s good or bad for his job prospects or desires, Griffin also worked under Sarver in the owner’s successful first handful of seasons as NBA owner.

Steve Nash, former Suns guard and current Warriors consultant

Wojnarowski has already shot this one down.

The two-time MVP while with the Suns would bring name recognition, but it’s clear his retirement has included a wide breadth of interests that would be limited by leading a front office.

Currently a player development consultant for the Golden State Warriors, it’s hard to imagine Nash putting his young family and other interests aside.

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