Over the next four years, Suns fans, local media, national media and opponents will have plenty of chances to write about the job that GM Ryan McDonough is doing for the Phoenix Suns. We will pick apart every move, analyze every non-move to death and make up imaginary conspiracy theories at every turn.
New Phoenix Suns GM Ryan McDonough can't possibly do everything right. But in his first 12 months on the job, all he has to do is perform better than his predecessor in
purple black and orange. All he has to do is refrain from signing another underachiever for too much money. All he has to do is draft a sure-fire NBA starting-caliber talent each summer (which should be easy this year with a top pick). All he has to do is be nice to fans, the media, players and team employees and make himself available to any and all at the drop of a hat.
"We have to nail it," Lon Babby said in April about this upcoming summer, right after the most dismal season in Suns history ended with a thud.
Decision #1: part ways with incumbent GM Lance Blanks. There's no way you can return the entire management structure that put together such a terrible team. So Babby made the tough decision and let Lance Blanks fade into sunset (from the shadows).
Decision #2: Hit a home run with the GM hire. Bring in the next up-and-coming GM in the mold of Sam Presti, Masai Ujiri, Rob Hennigan and Rich Cho.
"I haven't heard my name and 'wildly praised' in the same sentence in a long time," Babby quipped at the beginning of his radio interview on KTAR following the announcement.
"He's got the three components you like," Lon Babby said on ArizonaSports KTAR yesterday about Ryan McDonough. "He started in the video room, so he's well-versed on tapes. He traveled the world to see players with boots on the ground to develop relationships with teams and coaches. He's got the analytics that is critical to our future."
Ryan McDonough is the epitome of the new mold of GM. He will be introduced to the media tomorrow, Thursday, at 11:30am. From that point on, the honeymoon starts.
Today's article is simply a list of quotes about the Suns hire. It's been a long, long time since such universal praise has been heaped on a Suns decision.
Why would such a coveted guy go to such a fumbling franchise? Well, in the end the Suns franchise may just have been a perfect opportunity.
"At the end of the day, there were three terrific candidates," Babby said of the hiring process. "This is a great franchise, a great city and this was a coveted position. No one we contacted didn't want to participate."
"It's a very inspired hire by Lon Babby and (Managing Partner) Robert Sarver," said Memphis GM Chris Wallace, who was Boston's GM when McDonough joined the Celtics. "He's been an up-and-comer for some time. He always loved the game and loved the job. You could tell the job was in his DNA."
"You'll see the Suns use every tool imaginable to know what players bring to the organization," Wallace said. "He and his people will look under rocks to find them. He'll be on the phone to make trades and see what's out there to help that team win."
"Whether it's your visual observations, statistical analysis, information you gather on background and personality, if you're not using all that information you're at a disadvantage," McDonough says. "The trick is how do you weigh all of that? More importantly, where is that information coming from? Over time you figure out individually what's most important to you as an evaluator and everybody does that differently."
McDonough isn't a "basketball guy." He didn't play beyond high school and he's never coached. Instead, he was raised in the video room where he pored over hours of tape back when it was actually tape. He understands advanced metrics and he's been on the road for close to a decade scouting players from Ruston, La., to Belgrade, Serbia, and everywhere in-between.
He's part of a new breed of talent evaluators who have been making inroads into the highest level of the NBA in recent years.
He's part of a new breed of talent evaluators who have been making inroads into the highest level of the NBA in recent years. His peers include men like Sam Presti in Oklahoma City, Masai Ujiri in Denver and Rob Hennigan in Orlando -- men who have already made the jump to running their own franchises.
"Ryan has earned the right to do things his way, just because he's a hard worker," says [Boston Celtics President and GM Danny] Ainge. "He doesn't take shortcuts. At the end of the day, his evaluations have been really good and I trust him. We all look at players differently and we all do it differently. Ryan's been amazing. He's been huge for the success of our franchise."
"I thought he was a basketball junkie," says Wallace. "He loved this stuff. Totally immersed in it, which I think is one of the prerequisites for working in the NBA. Second, he had been around big-time sports at so many levels and association because of his father and his brothers. Third, he was very diligent, hard, hard worker who would do whatever it takes to get the job done and succeed."
"He's very good at what he does," Celtics coach Doc Rivers says. "He'll be a GM. There's no doubt about that."
"He's well rounded in the skills that he brings to the front office," Hennigan said. "He's got a bright future and he's really well-respected."
"My thing was I tried to know all the players," McDonough says. "I wanted to know everything about them: all their tendencies, all their strengths and weakness, all the background, biographical information. The stats weren't as advanced as they are now, but I'd study the raw stats. This isn't a trivia contest. You're studying the information."
"The best thing that happened to my career is working with Danny because he's so open," says McDonough. "He'll go to interns and say, ‘So what do you think?'"
"I'm very excited for Ryan," Ainge said. "He's reliable and competent and I'm going to miss him. At the same time, I'm very excited about this opportunity for him. This is what his dream is."
"Ryan has been an important part of our basketball operations and will be missed," said Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck. "I personally hired him following a conversation with his late dad Will and Red Auerbach and expected that he would pursue a career in our media department.
"But he requested a role as junior scout and excelled immediately, working his way to assistant GM and now a full GM job in the league. I couldn't be happier for him and I am sure his late dad as well as Red are very proud right now."
"I think it is a tremendous, tremendous hire by Robert Sarver and Lon Babby," Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports told Brad Cesmat on ‘Big Guy on Sports' Tuesday. "I think it's really the best move in this Babby-era."
"He was the driving force behind doing the deal to get Rajon Rondo," Wojnarowski explained. "The mold that I think Ryan will use there is what they did in Oklahoma City, what they are trying to do in Orlando: which is build through the draft and tear the thing down and then build it back up with young players and stop chasing the eighth seed, stop chasing the seventh seed and build a real foundation. That's what the Suns desperately need."
"He's one of those guys that knows basketball," said Eddie House, former Sun and Celtic. "He's been around it and has had great tutelage being under (Celtics GM) Danny Ainge and just being around that whole championship feel -- it's a great hire for the Phoenix Suns. I don't see them going wrong with that at all."
So far, so good.