Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan McDonough shines in his first year on the job



Coming in second place in the 2014 NBA Executive of the Year voting, Suns general manager Ryan McDonough did everything and more than expected.

Old Guard again trumps New Guard in NBA awards, but why?

By Dave Dulberg

There’s no greater coach-general manager combination in the NBA than the San Antonio Spurs’ dynamic duo of Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford. The two have won four titles together from 1997-2007, with Buford serving as team president for the first five years of that decade-long championship run.

On top of that, they have both found inventive ways to not only keep their organization relevant but elite, even as their core three — Manu Ginoboli, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker — face a continued, uphill battle against father time.

And this season, Popovich more than earned his Coach of the Year award, even if it came at first-year Phoenix Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek’s expense.

In spite of his team’s monumental collapse over the final 27 seconds in Game Six of last year’s NBA Finals, the future Hall of Famer managed to keep his players from an 82-game hangover.

And that’s putting it mildly, since the Spurs won 62 games and claimed the No. 1 seed in one of the most competitive campaigns the Western Conference has ever witnessed.

It’s hard to make a case for anyone but Popovich actually, even though Hornacek managed to guide Phoenix to an astounding 23-game turnaround.

In all honesty, though, it’s the young architect of that turnaround that got short-changed.

Suns general manager Ryan McDonough, who was hired a year ago Wednesday, finished second to Buford in the NBA Executive of the Year award voting, receiving only five out of a possible 30 first-place votes.

Apparently, building from the ground up as a rookie isn’t as sexy as a veteran of trade keeping a title contender afloat.

One could argue, however, that the latter task was more a product of Popovich’s coaching, seeing that Buford and the reigning Western Conference Champions only brought in three new faces during the offseason – Austin Daye, Jeff Ayres and Marco Belinelli.

McDonough on the other hand, turned over Phoenix’s roster completely acquiring young assets (Eric Bledsoe and Miles Plumlee), future assets (2014 first-round picks from the Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards) and complementary, short-term assets (Gerald Green and Ish Smith).

Not to mention, he also pulled the plug on Michael Beasley’s tumultuous tenure in the Valley, shipped off less-than-satisfied veterans like Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat and hired a former player that looks like a natural at the head of the bench.

Essentially, an executive in his mid-30s was able to pull off an organizational 180 in less than 365 days, and yet that only merited 15 total tallies (five first, six second and four third place).

Buford is the crème de la crème when it comes to his profession, but was 2013-14 really his finest hour?

No.

It seems the Old Guard once again swept the New Guard, and Ryan McDonough sadly was the victim of his peers’ narrow-mindedness.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The value of teamwork in the front office

By Kevin Zimmerman

Ask the Golden State Warriors how personalities matter. For as many NBA media types who will question why Mark Jackson didn’t last more than three seasons after an impressive rebuild in the Bay, there are a number of sane people who will realize what’s obvious — relationships matter.

Jackson didn’t have good ones with ownership or even general manager Bob Myers, it seems, and he certainly failed on other accounts, being a good face of the franchise being one of them.

It’s why the Indiana Pacers and coach Frank Vogel are staring down the same dark path as Golden State. Larry Bird has expressed some worry about Vogel’s approach.

It’s why the Clippers, with a detached owner in Donald Sterling, handed everything over to Doc Rivers. A coach who can operate his own front office won’t have relationship troubles.

And this is why Ryan McDonough’s hire of Jeff Hornacek said it all about what teamwork means in a front office. He got what he wanted, and the two couldn’t have worked better together.

Need some shooters and athletes? McDonough churned them out for Hornacek via trade, all while adding assets for himself. Want personalities that mesh? McDonough did that too, though it seemingly was as easy as bringing in high-effort guys with something to prove.

McDonough made sure his coaching hire would embrace analytics, be in tune to the obvious rebuilding situation and be able to teach a roster filled with youngsters that haven’t been taught thus far.

So for those who say Mark Jackson should have kept his job because the Warriors were winning games, I say “nonsense.” Relationships are everything important toward reaching the pinnacle of success in the NBA.

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports


Dealing vets the key to McDonough’s success

By Jeff Sanders

Ryan McDonough transformed a team that was boring and dull into an exciting and up-tempo team in just one offseason.

McDonough, like all of us, did not foresee the Miles Plumlee and Gerald Green deal working out the way it did. The rarely talked about Ish Smith deal was huge to the team in the chemistry department, and also played a role on the court as well. The way those deals played out was a bit on the luck side.

A trade that was not as much on the luck side was McDonough trading Jared Dudley and a second-round pick for Eric Bledsoe. We all knew about the potential Bledsoe brought to the court, the only question was if he could fulfill it in a starting role.

The key factor to all those trades was that McDonough moved veteran players that did not want to be in Phoenix. Dudley may not fall into the disgruntled veteran category as Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat might have, but nonetheless, he was a player that did not fit the mold of the Suns’ future. Same could go for Caron Butler, who like the other three players has helped his new team advance to the second round of the 2014 playoffs.

McDonough wanted a young team with players that were not going to ruin the locker room and he made deals accordingly. Even players such as Channing Frye saw it as a relief to get those disgruntled veterans out of the locker room.

“I saw it,” Frye said, “and this is no knock on the guys that got traded – after they got traded

“I saw that everything opened up for everybody. You know, it was kind of like a breath of fresh air. I saw what had come out of Miles and Markieff, I seen Gerald kind of flourish a little bit.”

  • Milich Kosanovich

    Without question Ryan McDonough was Executive of the Year but to claim the other team executives were “narrow-minded” in awarding R.C. Buford his first EOY award really is an attempt to diminish what Buford has accomplished during his tenure in San Antonio.

    Was it wrong in the strictest interpretation of the “spirit” of the award? Sure. But so was the NBA suspending Amare and Diaw in ’07 while not suspending Paul George. Ironic how the Suns and Spurs are continually being intertwined in some sort of controversy.

    The Suns Jerry Colangleo opened the door for Buford to become the master at finding talent world-wide and in small schools here in the States. J.C. brought in Bulgarian Georgi Glouchkov in ’85 when Buford was an assistant coach but nine years before he would become the Head Scout for the Spurs.

    Buford and Pops have set the bar for professionalism and success at their respective positions with their interns such as Sam Presti and Mike Budenholzer finding their own success. Another cruel twist in the Suns – Spurs dynamics, the Suns tapped into that reservoir of talent and were burned badly with the Lance Blanks hiring.

    If there was an award for owner of the year I’d give the Spurs the trifecta by awarding it to Peter Holt, the antithesis of the early Robert Sarver. Is it simply coincidence that the Suns revival began with Sarver abandoning his Sterlingesque style of running a franchise and following a more Holt-friendly model?

    I’d suggest Suns fans take the same view as they did with Hornacek losing COY to Popovich. If McDonough’s fellow executives find it necessary to award him a “make-up” EOY award ten-fifteen years from now and four titles later, I for one would take that slight any year leading up to the Suns first title. Buford has been a victim of his own fantastic talent evaluation skills. The majority of his moves don’t prove themselves at the time he made them.

    Tiaglo Splitter was drafted in ’07 and hasn’t really proved his worth until this season. Whereas the Rockets with two of the best defensive centers in the league couldn’t contain Aldridge, the Spurs are going with a 37 year-old Duncan and three International players, Splitter, Diaw and Baynes. In fact the 2014 Spurs have ten International players.

    Ten International players who finished the season with a league best 62 wins That alone provides enough credence to Buford being worthy of the award. The road to the Finals out West still goes through San Antonio.