When news broke that the Phoenix Suns were acquiring point guard Isaiah Thomas from the Sacramento Kings in a sign-and-trade deal earlier this month, you could almost here a collective ‘huh?’ from basketball fans around the Valley.
Thomas was one of only six NBA players to average more than 20 points and six assists per game in 2013-14, but the Suns’ strength is their backcourt — namely the two-headed point guard position manned by Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic.
Suns general manager Ryan McDonough finally got a chance to explain his thoughts on the move when he joined Burns and Gambo Monday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
“It might be a little counter to what some people thought we would do, or think we should do, but we wanted to add to what we feel is now the most talented and deepest backcourt in the league,” he said. “Those guys create a lot of shots for themselves and others. All three of them are very efficient in scoring and also in terms of breaking down the defense and getting good looks for the rest of of the guys on our team.”
Thomas, 25, is entering his fourth year in the league after being the 60th and final player drafted in 2011. Each season has seen his playing time and offensive production increase, yet Sacramento didn’t feel he was a starting-caliber point guard and made him available to the Suns.
“Last year, he was one of the most efficient offensive players in the league,” McDonough said. “He lit us up a few times and he’s one of those guys that, when you’re on the other side and you’re playing against him, you’re never really comfortable. He’s one of those guys that when he comes into the game, you don’t feel good about what’s going to happen because you know he can get hot and single-handedly either win a game or take over a game by creating shots for himself and others.
“We feel like that’s a good weapon for us to have. He and Goran and Eric are guys that are capable of getting 20-plus points or eight or nine assists on any given night. We feel like with the variety and having those three guys and having two of them on the floor at all times, that really gives Coach (Jeff) Hornacek a lot of weapons to choose from.”
With Dragic and Bledsoe in the fold, Thomas figures to be the first player off the Phoenix bench, but that doesn’t mean he’s any less important than a starter would be.
McDonough points to the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, who won their fifth title last season without having a player average more than 29 minutes per game, as the model of what the Suns would like to replicate.
“We want to create a system here in Phoenix, and upgrade our talent base to the level where when we go to the bench, we hope we can extend the lead,” he said. “Or if we’re behind, we hope those guys can bring us back and put us ahead in the game. That’s what we’re trying to do.
“While it might be a bit unusual to some, we feel like we wanted to get deeper and more talented and younger, and we feel like we’ve done that.”