Ryan McDonough

Suns Rumors: Nash, Morris, Connelly, Point Guards

Former Suns guard and Hall of Famer Steve Nash has no interest in replacing GM Ryan McDonough, who was abruptly dismissed on Monday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets. Though Nash is a favorite of owner Robert Sarver, Nash does not want the time-consuming responsibility of running a front office, Wojnarowski adds. Nash is currently a Warriors consultant. Vice president of basketball operations James Jones and assistant GM Trevor Bukstein have taken over GM duties in Phoenix on an interim basis.

We have more from Phoenix:

  • Former Suns Markieff Morris and Mike James voiced their distaste for McDonough on social media, Dan Feldman of NBC Sports relays. McDonough infuriated Morris, currently with the Wizards, and his brother Marcus Morris by trading Marcus to the Pistons in the summer of 2015 after they signed team-friendly contracts with Phoenix. “Bout time lol,” Morris tweeted after learning of McDonough’s dismissal. James, who was waived last December after signing a contract two weeks earlier, tweeted, “I don’t think he was the right person for that job.”
  • Suns assistant GM Pat Connelly and director of scouting Courtney Witte were also fired on Monday, Michael Scotto of The Athletic tweets. Connelly was the Wizards’ director of player personnel before he was hired by Phoenix in 2013. More front office changes could be on the horizon, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN (Twitter link).
  • Isaiah Canaan, Shaquille Harrison and rookies De’Anthony Melton and Elie Okobo continue to compete for point guard duties and none has emerged, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic reports. First-year coach Igor Kokoskov admits that he needs to see much more from all of them. “A lot of mistakes,” he told Rankin and other media members. “There’s a lot of room for improvement.”
  • The timing of McDonough’s firing is an example of how Sarver has made a mess of the franchise, Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post opines. The Suns will probably never reach their potential with Sarver heading the organization, Bontemps adds.

Suns Fire GM Ryan McDonough

With the 2018/19 NBA regular season just eight days away, the Suns are shaking up their front office. Phoenix has fired general manager Ryan McDonough, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). Vice president of basketball operations James Jones and assistant general manager Trevor Bukstein will take over GM duties on an interim basis, Charania adds (via Twitter).

“After much thought and a long evaluation of basketball operations, I have decided to relieve Ryan McDonough of his duties as general manager of the Phoenix Suns,” team owner Robert Sarver said today in a press release confirming the move. “Our focus in the short term is to prepare for the upcoming NBA season and to continue pursuing opportunities to strengthen our roster. Over the course of the season, we will explore both internal and external options as we look to restructure our basketball front office leadership.”

The timing of the move is unusual, as teams generally make major front office changes in the spring, giving the new management group the opportunity to tackle the draft and free agency. McDonough also signed an extension last summer and had two years left on his contract, as John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 observes (via Twitter). The fact that the Suns are moving on from McDonough now suggests that ownership hasn’t necessarily been thrilled with the club’s offseason moves.

The Suns landed the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft and secured a potential franchise player in Deandre Ayton, then signed veteran forward Trevor Ariza in free agency. Phoenix also locked up Devin Booker to a long-term extension. However, the club’s efforts to acquire a starting-caliber point guard have thus far been unsuccessful, a potential source of frustration for ownership. As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski notes (via Twitter), many potential trade partners that the Suns have spoken to have held out for an unprotected first-round pick in any deal.

McDonough’s tenure with the Suns began in May of 2013. The club won 48 games in his first season as general manager, but finished below .500 for the next four years, failing to record more than 24 wins in any of the last three seasons.

McDonough’s roster moves during his time in Phoenix have been hit and miss, with solid draft picks like Booker and T.J. Warren balanced out by less impactful top-10 selections like Alex Len, Dragan Bender, and Marquese Chriss.

The Suns have also rotated through three head coaches in the five years since McDonough was hired, going from Jeff Hornacek to Earl Watson to Igor Kokoskov. Additionally, it’s worth noting that the team’s hole at point guard might be particularly vexing for ownership since it wasn’t long ago that Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, and Isaiah Thomas were all on the roster.

According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), Sarver – who has recently become more involved in the Suns’ day-to-day operations – is fond of Jones, who will become a candidate for the organization’s permanent GM job. Wojnarowski also suggests that Kevin McHale is a long-term candidate to watch, while Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated wouldn’t be surprised to see former Cavs GM David Griffin receive consideration for the Phoenix position (Twitter links).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

McDonough: Suns ‘Overwhelmingly Likely’ To Keep No. 1 Pick

While nothing has been officially ruled out, Suns‘ general manager Ryan McDonough said it is “overwhelmingly likely” that the team keeps the first overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, Scott Bordow of Arizona Central Sports writes.

“There’s a very small grouping of players we’d consider trading it for,” McDonough said of the No. 1 pick. “It would have to be a proven young star player with multiple years on his contract or multiple years of team control. Once you start whittling down the list, that list probably shrinks to a handful of players, if not fewer players than that, so I think the overwhelming likelihood is that we keep the pick.”

We relayed last week that Phoenix is considering a “handful” of options in the draft. Arizona’s Deandre Ayton is the likely first overall pick and has been heavily rumored to be the Suns’ choice. However, international star Luka Doncic and Marvin Bagley III have also been mentioned as possibilities. Doncic has a relationship with the team’s new head coach, Igor Kokoskov.

It is difficult and I think people are jumping to conclusions as far as [thinking] there’s only one or two guys in the mix for us,” general manager McDonough said in an interview with ESPN. “There are more than that. There are a handful of guys.

If the Suns are comfortable with several of the perceived top choices, McDonough can follow in the footsteps of the Celtics last season. Boston traded down from the top pick to No. 3, using it to select Jayson Tatum. Markelle Fultz went to the Sixers first overall.

Barring a change of heart, however, it is widely expected that the Suns keep the No. 1 selection, with Ayton viewed as the frontrunner to head to Phoenix.

Pacific Notes: Untouchable Players, Bagley, Collins, McDonough

The Lakers have a busy offseason ahead of them as the organization enters the summer with ample cap space and a young roster loaded with potential. However, when it comes to trade discussions, the Lakers have let teams know that nobody on the roster is untouchable, Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times writes.

“While they like their young core and would prefer to keep those players growing together, they have told teams no player is untouchable in trades, according to multiple sources who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of trade and free-agent negotiations,” Ganguli writes.

Los Angeles wields four solid young assets, including Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Julius Randle, and Brandon Ingram. All four players are 23 years old or younger, which gives the Lakers a surplus of talent to deal with.

Check out more Pacific Division notes below:

  • The 2018 NBA Draft will be the Lakers’ opportunity to move on from the now ill-fated trades to acquire Steve Nash and Dwight Howard in 2013. The team does not have its own first-round pick this year, stemming from the Nash trade, Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus writes.
  • In a fun piece, Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times looks at Warriors assistant coach Jarron Collins and how he may be fighting a bias against really tall people getting head coaching jobs. Collins, who stands at 6’11”, would be the tallest head coach in the league if he were hired.
  • The Kings own the second overall pick in the NBA Draft and a lot has been made of who Sacramento will target. Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee examines whether or not drafting Duke’s Marvin Bagley III makes sense given the team’s surplus of big men.
  • Suns general manager Ryan McDonough gave a personal scouting report on Deandre Ayton and Luka Doncic as the team prepares to pick first in the draft, Scott Bordow of Arizona Central Sports writes. Ayton and Doncic — if he commits to leaving Europe for the NBA — are widely expected to be the top two picks.

Suns Considering ‘Handful’ Of Options For Top Pick

While the early consensus is that there are two players in the running to get drafted first overall, the Suns are considering a handful of options ahead of the big day. Adam Zagoria of ZAGSBLOG writes that the club met with No. 3-ranked Marvin Bagley III at the Draft Combine.

It is difficult and I think people are jumping to conclusions as far as [thinking] there’s only one or two guys in the mix for us,” general manager Ryan McDonough said in an interview with ESPN. “There are more than that. There are a handful of guys.

Of course it will be hard to imagine the perceived values of DeAndre Ayton and Luka Doncic dropping enough that the No. 1 pick goes to somebody else, even if that means the Suns end up trading it.

If you look around the NBA as far as the veteran players, there are probably a few players we would consider trading the pick for,” McDonough said. “It will be a busy month for us.

Perhaps that’s just McDonough doing his diligence and broadcasting that he’s open to high-value offers involving young stars with multiple years of team control left on their contracts.

For now, it’s reasonable to assume that the team will take advantage of the luck bestowed upon them at the Draft Lottery and, with that in mind, it’s worth noting that not only was Suns VP of Basketball Operations James Jones in attendance to watch Doncic play in the EuroLeague Final Four (h/t international hoops reporter David Pick) but franchise owner Robert Sarver was too (h/t Jonathan Givony of ESPN).

Couple that with the first-overall buzz that for months has surrounded Ayton, the Arizona Wildcat with whom the Suns are already quite familiar, and it’s hard to imagine the team turning down the opportunity to draft a potential franchise player at No. 1.

It’s still early and plenty can change in the weeks leading up to June 21. For now, it’s worth recognizing that Ayton and Doncic remain the conventional choices for the top two picks but that any team in the Suns’ position would be foolish not to explore all possible options.

If, when the dust settles, the team somehow still isn’t convinced about either Ayton or Doncic, there’s always the possibility of McDonough taking a page from Danny Ainge‘s book and swapping the first overall pick for a lower pick and additional assets, as Luke Adams wrote in a Suns feature yesterday.

Suns To Hire Igor Kokoskov As New Head Coach

The Suns are hiring Utah Jazz assistant Igor Kokoskov as their new head coach, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Wojnarowski adds that Kokoskov is signing a three-year deal with the Suns, while Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune tweets that Kokoskov will remain with the Jazz through the remainder of their playoff run.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 reports that the contract will contain no options and that the final decision to hire Kokoskov came when team representatives met with him in Houston yesterday in between Games 1 and 2 of the Jazz’ first round series against the Rockets.

The Suns have confirmed the news, writing that the hire will make Kokoskov the first NBA head coach born and raised outside North America in NBA history.

“We are thrilled to bring Valley resident Igor Kokoskov back to Arizona as head coach of the Phoenix Suns,” said GM Ryan McDonough. “Igor has been a pioneer throughout his basketball career and he brings a wealth of high level coaching experience to our club.

“He was one of the first non-American born assistant coaches at both the NCAA and NBA levels and his most recent head coaching stint includes leading the Slovenian national team to the 2017 EuroBasket title, which was the first European title in the history of the country. Igor’s teams have always had a player development focus, a creative style of play and a track record of success.”

Kokoskov, 46, will become the 19th head coach in Suns’ franchise history in his 19th season as an NBA coach. He was as an assistant coach with the Suns from 2008-2013 during their run of success with Steve Nash, including a trip to 2010 Western Conference Finals.

Kokoskov is also a successful international head coach, leading Slovenia to a first place finish at FIBA EuroBasket 2017 and also coaching the Georgian national team from 2008-2015. One member of the Slovenian national team he coached: potential top-pick Luka Doncic.

Suns Rumors: Head Coach, Draft Picks, Roster

Suns general manager Ryan McDonough participated in a Facebook Live interview on the Suns’ official Facebook page today, addressing several topics of note during that Q&A with fans. Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic rounded up some highlights from the discussion, which we’ll relay below. Let’s dive in…

  • The Suns intend to interview several candidates for their permanent head coaching job, per McDonough, who suggested that the team will consider college coaches (Twitter link). Interim head coach Jay Triano will receive an interview for the full-time job too.
  • McDonough referenced the possibility of using extra first-round picks from Milwaukee and Miami for “asset consolidation” purposes, per Bordow (Twitter link). In other words, the Suns would be open to packaging one or more of those picks to trade up in the draft or to make a move for an established star.
  • According to McDonough, a center is a “slightly higher” priority than a point guard for the Suns this offseason. As Bordow notes (via Twitter), that preference could be good news for fans hoping that Phoenix can land a high lottery pick and draft Arizona center Deandre Ayton.
  • The Suns would like to add more veteran players to balance out the age of their roster, says McDonough (Twitter link). Bordow observes that it makes sense to have some veteran depth on the bench so that Phoenix’s head coach has some options if the club’s young players struggle. The Suns entered the 2017/18 campaign with a bit more balance in terms of NBA experience, but Brandon Knight has missed the season with an ACL injury and Eric Bledsoe was traded.

Suns Notes: Tanking, Triano, Len, Harrison

Suns GM Ryan McDonough promises there won’t be a repeat of the “strategic resting” that saw Eric Bledsoe and Tyson Chandler held out of the lineup late last season, relays Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic. Phoenix reached the All-Star break tied with the Hawks for the top spot in our Reverse Standings, but McDonough said the team won’t make any changes to try to improve its odds for the No. 1 pick.

“We’re planning on doing what we have been doing, that’s playing our young players. For us, that’s not a change,” he said. “… We want to continue to have them improve and get minutes and try to win as many games as we can.”

Interim coach Jay Triano echoed those sentiments and recalled that Bledsoe was angry about being forced to sit out the final 15 games last season, which played a part in his request to be traded. “I think we learned from last year with guys sitting out,” Triano said. “I don’t think that was real productive for us.”

There’s more tonight out of Phoenix:

  • Triano, who has served as interim coach since Earl Watson was fired in October, would like to be considered for the full-time job after the season ends, Bordow adds in the same story. “Listen, I love coaching, I love it here, I love the relationship I’m starting to develop with these players, so I’d like to keep it going and be a part of their development because I see a lot of positives,” Triano said. … “So there’s no reason I would not want to be [the coach].”
  • Fifth-year center Alex Len no longer seems to be in the Suns’ plans for the future, Bordow notes in a separate story. The plan for the final 23 games of the season is to start Chandler at center with Dragan Bender as the primary backup as Marquese Chriss gets another shot at the starting lineup. Len will be an unrestricted free agent this summer after agreeing to the Suns’ qualifying offer last year. He is averaging 8.4 points and 7.7 rebounds in 49 games, but the organization doesn’t seem to think his future will be in Phoenix.
  • Shaquille Harrison is thrilled to make his NBA debut after spending two seasons with the Suns’ G League affiliate in Northern Arizona, relays Craig Grialou of ArizonaSports“I’m just trying to seize the opportunity,” said Harrison, whose 10-day deal became official today. “I’m very grateful to be here. It’s a great organization, that’s why I stuck with them the past year-and-a-half, two years. I’m loving it and enjoying the process.”

Suns Plan To Be Aggressive In Free Agency

Suns GM Ryan McDonough has been encouraged by his team’s progress and is planning to make a strong push for free agents this summer, writes Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic.

McDonough hopes to use cap space and future assets to upgrade the talent level for next season, saying, “The team is ready.” He cites Devin Booker‘s rise to stardom and the improvement of T.J. Warren, which gives the team a solid foundation.

“There are certain core pieces that are starting to solidify,” McDonough said. “I think we’d be foolish or naïve to wait forever or be overly patient. We’ve been, I think, relatively disciplined with contracts we’ve given out in terms of length and dollars, but yeah, we’re planning on being one of five of six teams with a decent amount of cap space, and we’ll see if we can improve the team.”

The Suns will enter free agency with about $20MM to spend, assuming they don’t re-sign center Alex Len, who will be an unrestricted free agent after the team decided not to extend his rookie contract. More cap room could be created by trading veteran center Tyson Chandler, who is under contract for more than $13.5MM next season, and swingman Jared Dudley, who will make $9.53MM.

Bordow lists several potential targets for the Suns, including restricted free agents Clint Capela, Aaron Gordon, Jusuf Nurkic, Elfrid Payton and Marcus Smart, unrestricted free agents Derrick Favors and Tyreke Evans and potentially unrestricted free agents Nikola Mirotic [team option] and Enes Kanter [player option].

The Suns are also in good shape to make a move on draft night, with the potential for three first-rounders. They have their own pick, which is currently at No. 5 in our Reverse Standings, Milwaukee’s selection from the Eric Bledsoe deal, which conveys between No. 11 and 16 and is now 16th, and Miami’s pick, which is top seven protected and is currently at No. 22.

McDonough likes the depth in this year’s draft, noting that it’s particularly strong at center and point guard, two areas where Phoenix needs help.

“One of the things we’re excited about in this draft is if all the players we expect to declare are in, I think the strength of the draft is where we can use some help, at the one and the five primarily,” he said. “We’re kind of searching for answers long-term at those positions.”

The potential to draft a point guard makes it less likely the Suns will try to acquire Charlotte’s Kemba Walker, who has been linked to Phoenix in trade rumors, Bordow adds. Walker is 27 and has an expiring contract after next season, so he may not fit the Suns’ timeline. The team also is reluctant to make any moves that will reduce its cap space for this summer.

“I think for us to significantly cut into that and take us out of the free-agent market or make us less of a player in free agency, we would have to take a really good player coming back in return that fits with our young core,” McDonough said. “When I say young core, I don’t necessarily mean a guy 20 or 21 years old, but not a guy who’s in their 30s and closer to the end of their career than toward the beginning or the middle.”

McDonough: Bledsoe Trade Could Speed Up Timeline

The Suns got off to wretched start to the season and they didn’t wait long at all to make changes with an eye on turning the franchise’s fortunes around. Phoenix fired coach Earl Watson, something that upset Eric Bledsoe, and just weeks later, the team dealt the point guard to the Bucks.

GM Ryan McDonough believes the Bledsoe trade put the team in position to make a “compelling offer for a superstar,” as Greg Moore of the Arizona Republic passes along. The executive adds that if the organization wants “to be a player in 2018 and speed up our timeline a little bit, we’re able to do that as well.”

The Suns have could have as many as three first-round picks in the 2018 draft. They will receive Milwaukee’s 2018 first if it falls between No. 11 and No. 16, and they possess Miami’s first-rounder from the Goran Dragic, though the selection is top-seven protected.

If recent history is any indication of the trade market, dealing for a star does not require the kind of haul it has in previous years. Outside of the Kyrie Irving trade, one can argue that nearly every All-Star that switched teams over the past year via trade did so at a discounted price.

The Pelicans brought in DeMarcus Cousins for a lottery pick and a young prospect. The Bulls landed Jimmy Butler for a pair of guards with potential and the ability to move up nine slots in the 2017 draft. The Rockets only had to surrender a few solid NBA players in addition to a first-rounder in the Chris Paul trade. The Thunder landed Paul George for two players who each may never make an All-Star team (though, if Victor Oladipo‘s hot start continues, he’ll make a case for one this season) and they reeled in Carmelo Anthony from the Knicks for an Enes Kanter-headlined package.

Each of those deals had various circumstances to why the price was so low. However, had each of those players not been in their respective situations, the top talent would have likely never even been on the market.

Phoenix had the assets to make competitive offers for each of those stars and stood pat. After the Bledsoe deal, they maintain the ability to get involved should another star become available. However, it’s possible that the string of deals were more situation-based coincidences than a sign that new trend is emerging in the market for stars.

The trade adds to the Suns’ cupboard, though the increased flexibility doesn’t guarantee that the team is any closer to competing for a playoff seed in the West. McDonough’s talk of an improved timeline may be legit or it could simply be him masking a one-sided trade.

Do you buy what McDonough is selling? Let us know your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below and let us know how you would proceed if you were sitting in the GM’s chair. We look forward to what you have to say!