Suns’ firing McDonough is justifiable, but frantic nature is worrisome
Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver knows what he signed up for.
He said so himself last summer when he gave general manager Ryan McDonough a three-year contract extension.
“I have no choice but to be patient,” Sarver said in July of 2017, joking but not really joking that he’s not a patient man.
Yeah, about that.
By firing McDonough Monday, nine days before the start of the season, Sarver has once again shown himself to make frantic, rash decisions that impact not only the team’s future but its reputation around the league and town as well.
Let’s first state the obvious: McDonough’s firing is certainly justifiable.
With picks Nos. 4, 5 and 8 in two drafts, he respectively wound up with Dragan Bender (2016), Alex Len (2013) and Marquese Chriss (2016).
McDonough traded Marcus Morris out of the blue without telling the player or his twin, Markieff Morris, after the brothers agreed to a team-friendly contract extension, a move reeking of a general manager lacking in the interpersonal requirements of the job.
Goran Dragic held the Suns hostage when demanding a trade. So did Eric Bledsoe and Morris.
McDonough traded the best point guard of the three on the roster at the time, Isaiah Thomas, for a whole lot of nothing.
His point guard in the aftermath of all that, Brandon Knight, was a disaster in Phoenix before being shipped out to Houston.
McDonough signed Tyson Chandler to help get LaMarcus Aldridge and then never got LaMarcus Aldridge.
And in what was his last wrongdoing as the Suns general manager, McDonough entered the 2018-19 season with the desire to be the most improved team in basketball without a starting-caliber — or backup-caliber for that matter — point guard.
The memory of McDonough, for me personally, will always be about the other sides of these moves.
Bender, Chriss and Len were all ranked right around where they were selected. Chandler wasn’t a bad value signing at the time, and Thomas’ excellent value on his contract made him tradable if it didn’t work out.
Dragic screwed the Suns by leaking a tiny list of teams he’d be willing to re-sign with during the next offseason, and McDonough still managed to get two valuable first-round picks out of it he turned into Mikal Bridges.
And did you see the way Bledsoe played in the playoffs?
Of course, the main defense of McDonough lands on what he left the Suns with. Deandre Ayton, Devin Booker, Josh Jackson and Bridges are a tremendous core four for the future. He maintained flexibility and pick control as well.
With that being said, he failed at his job enough times to deserve getting fired.
The timing of the firing, though, is incredibly irrational and makes the Suns look like a team that would fire their head coach three games into the season.
A year ago, I wrote that by the Suns extending McDonough, it was time to strap in and get comfortable for the team’s rebuild and #TheTimeline.
On the start of that journey one year through, McDonough made a quick pit stop to grab Ayton and Bridges.
But when McDonough came back to the car without a point guard who could help the team win at least 35 games this year, Sarver moved in the driver’s seat and left him at the rest stop.
The Suns owner now has his hands on the wheel, and for a team that has a very bright future if they remain patient, that is terrifying.
Remember, he said it himself — Sarver is not a patient man.