The Phoenix Suns are changing GMs, but things won’t really change in the organization as long as they have the same owner.
Let’s start by getting this out of the way: Former Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough was not a particularly good one. He drafted Devin Booker, which was good, and Deandre Ayton looks good so far too. However, his record has a lot more misses than hits, both in the draft and beyond.
Still, being fired nine days before the start of the 2018-19 NBA season is a baffling turn of events. The timing is strange, and it seems like McDonough has been pretty perfectly executing owner Robert Sarver’s “win now” plan, misguided though it may be.
The only thing he hasn’t been able to do is find a starting point guard, but if ESPN‘s Adrian Wojnarowski was correct in reporting that other teams wanted an unprotected first round pick in return, McDonough was wise to hold off.
Unfortunately, that’s the point. McDonough, though flawed, was doing what Sarver wanted. He seemingly only stopped when forced to make a decision that would obviously harm the franchise.
It looks like that’s not good enough for Sarver. This firing screams “If you don’t do what I want, when I want, no matter the costs, you’re not good enough.”
That’s a pretty frightening proposition, and one that might scare away some of the better candidates for the position. It might just result in Sarver appointing a “yes man” who’ll do his bidding, and Sarver clearly doesn’t know what’s actually best for an NBA team.
James Jones could end up being that yes man. Elton Brand became the Philadelphia 76ers‘ GM in large part due to his ability to defer to Brett Brown and the GM-by-committee approach the Sixers have going. At the very least though, Sixers managing owner Joshua Harris didn’t hire Elton Brand just to report directly to himself.
At its core, the issue with Sarver is one of pride, and it used to be more prevalent than it is nowadays among owners. Most owners know their limitations and don’t try to take over an industry they know little about. Many are relatively young business folks who see an NBA team primarily as an investment, and as such, they wouldn’t dream of doing anything that would hurt the franchise (and therefore their investment) in the long-term.
Sarver, however, is cut from that old cloth. He is one of the most heavy-handed owners in the league, and is possibly the owner most involved in their team’s operations this side of Glen Taylor. At some point, he has to realize that it’s his shortsighted views, impractical mandates and rapidly shifting demands that are causing the organizational dysfunction in Phoenix.
There are several quality candidates to replace McDonough as the next Phoenix Suns GM. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t matter that much; as long as Sarver is meddling, any GM will have a hard time performing well, no matter who he is.