Knowing what we know, the Phoenix Suns should not have traded Josh Jackson for Kyrie Irving

Devin Booker Kyrie Irving Phoenix Suns Boston Celtics (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Devin Booker Kyrie Irving Phoenix Suns Boston Celtics (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

The Phoenix Suns made a mistake by not trading Josh Jackson for Kyrie Irving. However, even that mistake would have paled in comparison to the biggest mistake of Ryan McDonough’s tenure as General Manager.

The Valley of the Suns twitter account suddenly blew up following the trade of Josh Jackson to Memphis (similarly, so did John Gambadoro’s), with people retweeting and sarcastically commenting about a poll I ran over one year ago asking if fans were happy that Phoenix hadn’t traded Josh Jackson for Kyrie Irving (Jackson was coming off of a phenomenal second half of his rookie season and Irving had just had knee surgery for the third time).

Of course to online trolls, context is never taken into consideration and therefore the dozens upon dozens of people who somehow stumbled onto that poll (or had it favorited for some reason), brought that tweet back to life like a mad scientist reviving a dead loved one.

The modern argument was often that the Phoenix Suns should  have traded the fourth overall pick (which would become Josh Jackson) in a package to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Kyrie Irving.

The truth though, is no they shouldn’t have.

Yes, Kyrie Irving is a very good point guard, and at the time, just 25-years-old.

However, he is still a cancer in every locker room he has been in, and there is the over-whelming likelihood that he would have jumped the Suns’ ship this offseason leaving Phoenix on dry land without a captain, just as it did in Boston.

Thus, the Suns would have entered the summer of 2019 the way Danny Ainge and the Celtics did, totally aware that they had wasted a number of young assets to acquire Kyrie in 2017 and neither a championship nor a superstar player for the future to make up for the loss (yes, Boston did sign Kemba Walker, but that was a flukish stroke of luck).

That was the reason the Suns balked at the offer then, and why (even though Josh Jackson most certainly did not work out) they were right in that assessment.

And yet he was still wrong.

The 2017 draft was overflowing with top-flight talent, some that is already even bordering on transcendent, and almost all of whom were selected after  Phoenix drafted at four.

Wasn’t Ryan McDonough supposed to be a very good scout of college and international talent? Wasn’t his drafting ability supposed to be so good that the team actually could  rebuild with a long-term vision and not go after major trades such as Kyrie or anchor down cap space with large free agent contracts?

Isn’t that exactly what the fan-base was sold on when he was hired: that the plan was to go young and there was no better judge of talent than McDonough available to the franchise (he had, after all, been a protege of Ainge in Boston where their drafting of players was well above average)?

In the summer of 2017, Ryan McDonough had targeted Josh Jackson, a one-year starter at Kansas, but someone who had been suspended for the Big-12 quarterfinal because of an “accumulation of incidents,” and who had also subsequently been “charged with misdemeanor criminal damage” in another incident in which he tracked his ex-girlfriend to her car screaming and threatening her while banging on a car she had been safely locked in.

Was none  of that enough of a red flag to pass on him??

To make Jackson’s draft selection even worse,  McDonough had targeted Jackson so closely, calling him the best player in the draft,  that he admittedly used shenanigans to prevent Boston from even seeing Jackson in person prior to the draft (who was selecting one pick before Phoenix), forcing them to pick Jayson Tatum instead.

McDonough’s narrow-minded and entirely inaccurate vision of who Josh Jackson could become in the NBA prevented him from seeing the number of other athletes coming out of that draft each  of whom would have not only made the Phoenix Suns a much better team right away, but ultimately may have saved McDonough his job.

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De’Aaron Fox was selected fifth,  one pick after Phoenix.

Lauri Markkanen was selected seventh  (and would be the perfect  stretch-four for the Phoenix Suns right now).

Donovan Mitchell was taken at 13 (imagine Mitchell and Devin Booker running the Suns’ backcourt together?)

McDonough even missed out on Kyle Kuzma who was taken 27th overall, when he had the 32nd overall pick (which he used to take Davon Reed) and a number of assets to have at least traded up  to take the star power forward that the Los Angeles Lakers think so highly of, they refused to offer him in a trade for Anthony Davis.

Imagine that.

Imagine any one of those players on the Phoenix Suns now with Josh Jackson elsewhere in the league (who cares! He’s their problem).

Imagine if the rebuilding from scratch strategy had worked because McDonough had actually targeted and drafted the best available talent, rather than the least prepared and most immature person (who also now has the worst Win Share of his entire draft class)  who continues to screw the franchise even in departure because new General Manager James Jones was forced to attach two  second round picks just to get rid of him.

We’ll never know what could have happened had Ryan McDonough traded Josh Jackson for Kyrie Irving (we have to presume that the GM would have not only sought out – and attracted – better free agents than he did, arguably making the Suns a playoff team at least one in the last two seasons.

(Then again, they never would have had the first overall pick and the right to draft Deandre Ayton).

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Josh Jackson and Ryan McDonough were an absolute match made in, well, not Heaven. McDonough was probably entirely right in not trading for Kyrie Irving, but he was 100% and inexcusably wrong in who he drafted that day in 2017.