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Woj: Suns a ‘concern for the NBA,’ might hire exec next to GM Jones

In an on-camera segment of less than two minutes, ESPN’s top NBA reporter described the Phoenix Suns as “a concern for the NBA,” confirmed they haven’t been sending their top decision-maker to scout very often and added that the interview process for them to potentially pair co-interim GM James Jones next to an experienced executive hasn’t begun.

“This is an organization that is in a spiral in almost every way,” said Adrian Wojnarowski. “It is a concern for the NBA. Owner Robert Sarver has not seemed to learn a lot of lessons throughout the years about his management style, his hands-on nature and his ability to put an infrastructure in place and allow it to build an organization.”

Wojnarowski’s detailed account of the Suns’ front office aligns with what’s been understood from the ground level and what Jones has said in interviews.

For one, that means there’s been a reduced amount of scouting. Jones’ and fellow co-interim GM Trevor Bukstein’s staff has made one noted hire of scout Ronnie Price since firing GM Ryan McDonough and four of his top basketball evaluation specialists nine days before the 2018-19 season began.

“Jones has had a rather unorthodox view toward the NBA draft. There’s not a lot of scouting going on in Phoenix,” Wojnarowski said, confirming what Jones has said in interviews. “He’s not on the road a lot.

“I’m told that (Sarver has) considered the idea of hiring a president of basketball operations that would perhaps oversee James Jones, hasn’t started on interviewing candidates for that, but it certainly is a consideration and probably a pathway to at least get somebody in Phoenix with the experience, the resume, of running an NBA organization, running it successfully.”

This, as Phoenix’s recent 17-game losing streak has set the team up to earn the best odds to win the 2019 NBA Draft lottery. But under the reformed lottery rules, even earning the top odds comes with a 47.9 percent chance of landing the worst-case fifth overall pick.

In a draft class where Duke forward Zion Williamson is atop most teams’ big boards and little is agreed upon after that, researching an entire lottery’s worth of players would be optimal.

As for his job status, Jones has said Sarver told him the year-long co-interim tag is an evaluation period and that he has yet to discuss his future with the team’s owner. Wojnarowski reported before the season that Sarver was “leaning toward” retaining Jones beyond his interim tenure.

“There’s no question from the league office to teams around the league, there’s a lot of raised eyebrows at Phoenix and how they’re operating right now,” Wojnarowski said. “This is another crossroads for Robert Sarver to figure out how to get this team from really a state of disrepair back on the path to relevancy even before they consider the idea of being contenders again.”

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