They say when you begin to spin out on an icy road that you’re supposed to fight all your instincts and, rather than turn out of the curve, turn straight into it. The last 7 years have been that icy road for the Phoenix Suns and just days ago they decided to fully turn into the curve.
When they struck out with Blake Griffin and decided to end their pursuit of a 32-year-old Paul Milsap the Suns front office led by Ryan McDonough fully committed to #TheTimeline. Deciding that building around their young core rather than pursuing big named veterans was a watershed moment for this team. By realizing they couldn’t compete in the the arms race in the west that was created by the Warriors they’ve set course on building a contender when their core of Devin Booker, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender and Josh Jackson enter their prime. At an event with season ticket holders earlier in the year, owner Robert Sarver reportedly told fans that the Suns would like to compete for a title around 2020 which coincides with the aforementioned prime of a majority of the Suns roster.
The strategy makes sense. While Booker is on the verge of being something truly special in the league, it’s unrealistic to think, regardless of who the team added outside of a handful of superstars, that they could legitimately compete with the defending champion Warriors or any of the newly developed super powers in the conference. The league is top heavy and until some of those teams either age or flame out, Phoenix has little chance to compete for the Larry O’Brien trophy. There are two ways the Suns could go about digging themselves out of the hole they’ve been in the last 7 seasons. They could either acquire a superstar or grow their own.
Some of the sins and mismanagement of the past prior to McDonough’s arrival, and a few things on his watch, made that route difficult. Attracting a star is tough to do if you don’t already have one on the roster and in the current league climate, the players hold all the cards. Which leaves the option of turning your own young talent of today into the stars of tomorrow.
The Suns are well on their way to accomplishing just that. With Booker, Chriss, Bender, Josh Jackson, T.J. Warren and Tyler Ulis all between the age of 19-23 the Suns have the pieces they can grow with on the roster and that’s before you even consider the 1st round picks they have coming up. There’s one problem, the architect of #TheTimeline is the one piece that isn’t locked up long term.
McDonough enters the season as a lame duck. He has one more year left on his contract and, in sports, more often than not that’s a kiss of death. If the franchise has truly committed to the long term view, it’s time to extend McDonough’s contract and let him finish what he started.
The worst thing you can do is put a general manager in a position to fight for his job. It leads to panic moves and shortcuts that undermine a true rebuilding process. Even worse is when they inevitably get fired because of it. When a new GM comes in they bring with them their own plan and thoughts. It resets the entire plan and adds years to the process of it all.
Since letting Bryan Colangelo go the Suns have lacked front office stability with it all bottoming out with Lance Blanks. The team finally has a true course. A path to reclaiming their place as one of the league’s winningest franchises. After years of quick fixes and misguided rebuilds behind the likes of Michael Beasley, Sarver has committed to the slow build through youth. Now it’s time to commit to the mind behind it all.
Extend Ryan McDonough. Let him do what he does best and stay out of the way. #TheTimeline has begun and 2020 is right around the corner. Let’s not lose the guy behind the wheel before we’ve gotten out of the skid.