GM Ryan McDonough is a Man With a Plan
Grading a trade hours or days after it is consummated is like handing out Oscars based on movie trailers. You’ll be lucky if you get anywhere near 50 percent of your predictions right.
That’s why it is so difficult to say who is a winner and a loser in a deal like the Suns and Wizards completed on Friday. Arguments can be made that, in the short term, Washington was victorious, but in the long run your very own hometown team will come out ahead. Truly though, the only way to grade a trade is to do something that comes about as natural to sports fans as being understated and reserved comes to Johnny Knoxville while filming a movie - waiting.
Although assigning an appropriate letter grade to a deal won’t come for years, there is one thing you can assess in the present and that is the man behind the deal and his thought process.
Having sat down with Ryan McDonough just minutes after completing the trade call with the league, one thing is clear, he is a man with a well-thought-out plan. A plan he was ready to begin executing when he walked in through the doors of US Airways Center on his first day of work.
He has the precision of an architect. His ever present iPad with it pliable grey cover containing the blueprint he’s meticulously crafted over his decade in the league. A plan that combines what he learned in Boston with the knowledge he gathered through his trips watching basketball around the globe.
Is it an elaborate facade? When you make your living working in online media like I have for the last seven years, you know a thing or two about people pretending to be big shots when they’re not. (Just look at half the fake “tough guys” who populate Twitter, comment sections and even some blogs.) McDonough isn’t one of them. He lacks bravado but isn’t short on confidence. His demeanor is both one of power and politeness. His youth doesn’t shine through, except in the moments when he gets an ‘80s or ‘90s pop culture reference. It’s almost like talking with one of your friends about the game, that is if he had what amounted to a PHD in the basketball operations side of things working his way from the stands, to the film room to the front office.
He exudes it all in a reserved manner. That’s exactly what he did as we sat on the leather couch in his humble office across from his desk and magnetic wall covered with the names of every player in the NBA and talked about the trade.
“I feel like we’re off to a good start,” he said about his vision for the team. “Having potentially four picks in the first round of this upcoming draft is huge for us. Whether we keep the picks and draft six first-rounders over the next two years or whether we package some of them for a great player, we have a lot of flexibility and valuable currency.”
The team has the flexibility of a youthful yoga instructor thanks to the Bostonian brains they imported during the offseason. The strategy to collect assets and financial wiggle room has paid off for many teams in many sports looking to turn around a franchise that has bottomed out. As a matter of fact, McDonough was instrumental in how the same strategy played out for the Celtics. If memory serves me correctly, it worked out about as well as the iPhone did for Apple around the same timeframe.
Sure, after the last few years have been a rough ride for Suns fans and buying into the hype can be difficult. The thing is, McDonough isn’t hype. He’s all effort and hard work. Hype doesn’t get you from the basement (the film room) to the penthouse (general manager). It also doesn’t get you from the bottom of the league back to the top.
“The night is darkest just before the dawn. And I promise you, the dawn is coming.”
No, it wasn't said by McDonough, but it should have been. It fits his quiet confidence in the team and the franchise who is looking to "ignite the future."
So hold your letter grades for now, they might be even better in the not too distant future thanks to a man and his plan.