In 2013-14, Ryan McDonough made many great moves as GM of the Phoenix Suns. In the final Suns Report Card, we review the 34-year old's fantastic first year on the job.

The most integral piece in a line of dominos is the first. Only if the leading piece falls do the rest follow, and this forced metaphor serves to demonstrate a truth that holds credence in the NBA as well.

TRANSITION!

The first domino to set off a year of change and turnaround in the Phoenix Suns organization was the firing of Lance Blanks on April 22, 2013. Blanks had a dismally unsuccessful run as the team's General Manager and his time was marked by decisions such as trading Goran Dragic AND a 1st round pick for Aaron Brooks, drafting Kendall Marshall in the lottery, signing Michael Beasley to a six year, $18 million contract, proclaiming the long-lost Zeller brother as "one of the best shooters in the world," and deciding to have a terribly uncharismatic personality.

Lance Blanks was not well liked in Phoenix. To put it bluntly in a neatly wrapped (and also forced) pun, the dude repeatedly fired blanks in almost all of his moves.

Exactly 15 days after the dismissal of Blanks, the Suns hired Ryan McDonough, who had been part of Danny Ainge's front office with the Boston Celtics for several years, most recently as his Assistant GM. McDonough was only 33 at the time, the newest member of the young, analytically-driven minds more and more franchises were hiring to run their teams.

On May 26, 2013, 19 days after agreeing to become the new GM in Phoenix, Ryan McDonough made his first official move, his first domino: hiring Jeff Hornacek as the Suns' new Head Coach. At the time, this was viewed by most as a great decision. In hindsight, it was a phenomenal one. In fact, let's take a look at all the movies McDonough made in his first year in Phoenix:

Hindsight Grades

1.     Hired Jeff Hornacek: A+

With Hornacek, the team had an intelligent, charismatic and respected leader to give the squad an identity and orchestrate a Cinderella run that surprised roughly 99% of NBA fans.

2.     Drafted Alex Len and traded for Archie Goodwin on draft night: I (Incomplete)

I refuse to evaluate McDonough one year after selecting two project players in one of the weakest drafts in recent memory.

3.     Traded Jared Dudley and a 2014 2nd round pick to the LA Clippers for Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler: A+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

In his first trade, Ryan McDonough pulled a rabbit out of the hat. Said rabbit went on to average 17.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists in 43 games, while said hat ended up benching Jared Dudley in the later parts of the season after he inexplicably forgot how to play basketball. Unless that second rounder (which went to Milwaukee) ends up being used to draft the next Michael Jordan, this trade was an absolute steal for the Suns.

4.     Traded Luis Scola to the Indiana Pacers for Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee and a top-14 protected 2014 1st round pick: A+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

When this deal occurred, it was viewed by most as a win-win for teams. In hindsight, hahahahaha. With this trade, Ryan McDonough effectively snuck into Larry Bird's house like a stealthy ninja, ate his food, enjoyed his massage chair, deleted his DVR'd recordings of Game of Thrones and stole Miles Plumlee and Gerald Green on his way out. Complete Robbery.

5.     Traded Caron Butler to the Milwaukee Bucks for Ish Smith and Viacheslav Kravtsov: B

The Phoenix Suns were entering a youth movement and McDonough propelled it by trading veterans for youth. Caron Butler had a glorious run in Phoenix as a jersey model but despite McDonough's  "man-crush" for him, he was always part of a means to acquire Eric Bledsoe and wasn't part of the long-term vision. Therefore, the Suns decided to trade him away for Ish Smith and The Great Slava, and also to shed payroll to help with the team's very next move last summer...

6.     Waived Michael Beasley: A

Let's not talk about Michael Beasley here.

7.     Signed Dionte Christmas: A+

If you disagree with my grade for this move, you hate the spirit Christmas and you are a terrible person.

8.     Traded Marcin Gortat, Kendall Marshall and Shannon Brown for Emeka Okafor and a top-12 protected 2014 1st round pick: A-

This was another example of trading for the future. After the Suns selected a center with the #5 overall pick in the draft and Miles Plumlee exceeded expectations over the summer, it was clear that their marriage with Gortat would not last much longer. The Suns ended things with him and he moved to Washington, taking unwanted children Kendall Marshall and Shannon Brown with him for a day or two, until they were disowned again by the Wizards. Gortat went on to have a great season for a Wizards team that went to the Eastern Conference Semifinals but his fit on this Suns team would have been a bit more questionable. Besides, we would have never gotten to witness Emeka Okafor in a Suns jersey if it weren't for this trade. Oh wait.

9.     Signed Leandro Barbosa: B

Needing some additional backcourt depth after Bledsoe's injury, the Suns brought back the Brazilian Blur in January by way of a couple 10-day contracts before ultimately signing him for the remainder of the season. Barbosa had a mostly uneventful couple months before a left hand fracture sidelined him in early March for the rest of the season. However, he did contribute to keeping the ship afloat during Bledsoe's absence and fans loved seeing the Blur back in Phoenix. Also, he was great at engaging with fans, even rude ones such as our own Scott Howard.

10. Waived Viacheslav Kravtsov: F-

The biggest mistake of Ryan McDonough's career thus far and an ill-advised move that could prove to be the undoing of the Phoenix Suns' bright future. Miss you, Slava.

11. Signed Shavlik Randolph: C+

Randolph is a solid big man to have at the end of the bench and he helped the squad in his limited minutes. But in the end, he will never be an adequate replacement for Slava on or off the court or in or outside of my heart.

Final Grade: A+

McMiracle, McStunna, McWinna, McWordthatrhymeswithDonough...Ryan McDonough has already earned himself many nicknames after just one year in the desert. After taking over a team that finished last in the conference and had a seemingly cloudy future, he steered the ship to a brighter future faster than anyone expected-faster than you can say "I miss Viacheslav Kravtsov and I will never get over it."

All the tremendous work Ryan McDonough has made has not gone unnoticed around the league-he finished second in Executive of the Year voting behind the Spurs' R.C. Buford, who was essentially given the honor by his peers as a lifetime achievement award.

Ryan McDonough has built the foundation for tremendous growth for the Phoenix Suns and in just one year, he has given fans many reasons for optimism and hope, which is in stark contrast to the general vibes around the franchise before his arrival. And for that, he gets an A+ (yes, even despite his poor decision to waive The Great Slava).

McDonough has a difficult task ahead of him-building on the success by cashing in assets to field a legitimate contender-but there are many reasons to believe the team is in good hands with him and Lon Babby at the helm, and Jeff Hornacek in the locker room. Suns fans LOVE McDonough and that LOVE will only new levels if he can acquire a superstar player the city can also LOVE.

In McDonough We Trust.

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PHOENIX — NBA journeymen are common. NBA journeymen with major flaws but dynamic and refined skill sets are more rare. Those usually turn into role players, and Ish Smith may have become just...

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After a second round that was much less captivating than the first chalk prevailed, meaning that those of us who lacked the intrepidness to pick upsets vaulted to the top of the standings.

Miami Heat over Brooklyn Nets 4-1

This was kind of a weird series in that the pace stalled to the point of absolute zero (82.2), but the scoring efficiency was still white hot (ORtg of 118.9 for victor Miami). The last two games ultimately came down to late game execution and Miami took care of business.

The unceremonious dispatching of Brooklyn adumbrates favorably for fans of teams who can't afford monopoly money rosters. Despite spending themselves into oblivion and mortgaging their future the Nets' simpleton strategy of botched bufoonery barely saw them advance past the first round in an awful Eastern Conference. The Nets join the New York Knicks and LA Lakers as proof that money and market are still secondary to having a well managed franchise.

Indiana Pacers over Washington Wizards 4-2

It must be frustrating to be a fan of the Indiana Pacers. Not Sacramento Kings frustrating, but vexing nonetheless. After getting taken to the brink in seven games by an Atlanta Hawks team that stumbled into the playoffs, they appeared to have gained traction in the second round before being boat raced on their own floor in a close out game five against the Wizards. The Pacers then woke up to close out the series in game six at Washington and beat the Heat in very convincing fashion in game one of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The mercurial Pacers would have likely been eliminated in the first round if they played in the Western Conference, but might end up making the NBA Finals out of the East just based on a favorable matchup against the Heat. If they do I'll have to rack my brain to remember another team that managed that feat while playing through such embarrassingly bad stretches of poor play and effort.

San Antonio Spurs over Portland Trail Blazers 4-1

The Spurs absolutely steamrolled the Blazers in a 4-1 series that wasn't even that close. In their four wins the margins of victory were 24, 17, 15 and 22. Not too much to write about here except that the Spurs are really, really good.

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your rooting interests, Serge Ibaka will be sidelined for the upcoming Western Conference Finals series. That's great news if you're cheering for the Spurs... but not so much if you're a fan of watching the best possible basketball.

Oklahoma City Thunder over Los Angeles Clippers 4-2

The ugliness of Donald Sterling and controversial officiating overshadowed the most entertaining/competitive second round series. New commissioner Adam Silver definitely needs to work on the league's officiating image, as fans of the NBA might have a bigger chip on their collective shoulder about the referees than the other three major sports combined.

The closing moments of game five will likely be something that is still alluded to years down the line as a prime example of referees unjustly influencing the outcomes of games. Ironically, though, Clippers fans were outraged that they got screwed because they didn't reap the rewards of the officials missing the call in the first place. Is it fair that the Clippers get the ball there when it is just as obvious that Jackson was fouled as that the ball went out of bounds off of him? Interesting that the issue of what's fair and what's right are murky under the current rules... The replay system in that situation is terribly flawed and needs to be corrected. I could write a lot more about this, but that's not what this article is about.

Incidentally, Chris Paul (he of the late game five heroics) is now 29 years old and has never advanced to the Conference Finals.

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Fight Club is now in a tie for the lead with our staff's very own Kris Habbas. Everyone at the bottlenecked top of the standings still has their Finals contestants in the mix, so this promises to be a very competitive race to the finish.

Even if the rest of the playoffs isn't.

After calling out the people who didn't perform so well in the last update I decided not to draw attention to anyone this time around... except for Lionel Mandrake, who is dead last.

Welcome to the Madhouse! Bright Side of the Sun is an amazing and diverse community and it deserves a place where the tyranny of topicality does not rule. And that's what The Madhouse is. It's Bright Side of the Sun's place to talk about whatever you want, whenever you want: favorite TV shows, news from around the league or how much Godzilla sucked or ruled KEVIN LOVE ROSTERBATION, KEVIN LOVE ROSTERBATION, AND KEVIN LOVE ROSTERBATION. It's all fair game KEVIN LOVE ROSTERBATION here.

After coming up short on a lot of awards, it is refreshing to see the Suns stalwart group of trainers get someone recognized for their work.

The Phoenix Suns finally won something!

We all know that the Suns trainers are the envy of the league, and now they have an award to show for it this season. After coming up short in the Executive of the Year, Coach of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year, the Suns Head Strength & Conditioning Coach/Athletic Trainer Mike Elliott has been named NBA Strength & Conditioning Coach of the Year by the National Basketball Strength & Conditioning Association (NBSCA), the NBSCA announced Friday.

"We are delighted to congratulate Mike Elliott on this very prestigious award," said Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby in a prepared statement from the Suns. "Mike is an integral part of our world class training staff. His approach to the care and well-being of our players is innovative and highly effective. This is a well-deserved honor."

Elliott is responsible for all aspects of player strength and conditioning and assists VP of Athletic Care/Head Trainer Aaron Nelson with daily recognition, care and treatment of team-related medical issues.

"Mike is an integral piece of our sports medicine team," said Nelson. "His hard work, dedication and knowledge to help keep our players on the floor make him very deserving of this honor. I'm very proud of him."

Nelson previously won a 'Trainer of the Year' Award in 2009 from the NBA Trainers Association. Now his protege Mike Elliot has won his own award.

Elliot has been with the Suns for 11 years, and been in his current role as Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for the last five of those years.

So now the Suns have won two postseason awards after going 48-34 in a season they were supposed to be scraping the bottom of the barrel of the West.

Previous results (see the 'Storystream' on the margin for details):

Nelson and Elliot were re-signed to multiyear deals last summer, one of the underrated positive moves Lon Babby made last summer as the Suns tried bring themselves out of the muck of the West.

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