PHOENIX – The Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury announced Monday that general manager James Jones was promoted to president of basketball operations. The position has been vacant since Lon Babby transitioned out of the role in 2015.
For now, Jones will now serve as the GM and the president of basketball operations.
Jones played 13 seasons in the NBA before returning to work for the league in the front office. This included two years in Phoenix from 2005-2007. Following his short introduction to the Valley, Jones was a part of three championship teams with the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers with LeBron James. The experience helped Jones understand the requirements to consistently win at the highest level.
Shortly after his retirement in 2017, Jones returned to the Suns as the vice president of basketball operations in his first major role in an organization’s management. He was then named interim general manager before the 2018-19 season following the firing of Ryan McDonough.
Since then, the Suns have completely turned around their organization, transforming a non-competitive team with no clear direction to a premier team in the Western Conference in a short period of time. This is truly a testament to Jones and his decision-making during the time.
“I didn’t come in with any notions of what I would become. I came in to help the team,” Jones said during his introductory press conference. “You don’t reach these places unless the people you work with or who work for you do exceptional jobs to elevate and push you upwards.”
His first major move was hiring coach Monty Williams before the 2019-2020 season. Williams has been a positive addition to the Suns, both on and off the court for the younger Suns roster. This was the first step for Jones in bringing the organization back to the forefront of the NBA.
He then made major moves for the team, pushing to build around young players assembled through the draft, including Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson. He also made a huge trade for future Hall of Famer Chris Paul to lead and organize the Suns’ young core.
Now in his fourth season, Jones and his staff’s list of accomplishments in their first three seasons include an undefeated NBA Bubble run (2020), consecutive playoff berths after a 10-year drought, back-to-back Pacific Division titles, a single-season franchise-record 64 regular-season wins (2021-22), a franchise-record 18-game win streak (2021-22), a Western Conference title and an NBA Finals trip, and the league’s best record since the start of the 2020-21 season. Jones was honored as NBA Executive of the Year in 2021.
Jones will still handle basketball decisions in addition to now overseeing the business side of the front office, which includes ticket pricing, handling partnerships and finding new ways to grow revenue.
“James has the unique ability to create and lead high-performing teams in basketball operations and his commitment to collaborating with our business side, including at the C-level with partners like PayPal and Verizon, is second to none,” stated Suns interim Governor Sam Garvin in the team’s press release. “We are fortunate for his contributions across the organization and this promotion recognizes his commitment to excellence.”
It’s fair to say that Jones is the perfect choice for a position like this. He has sped up the Suns’ rebuild quicker than most NBA fans had expected. He’s managed to keep the championship core together, extending the team’s championship window over the next couple of seasons. More importantly, he built a winning culture in the Valley and has a vision of where he can take this organization. Jones will now take on another challenge in helping the Suns organization grow.
“In this business, you’re usually very comfortable with doing the things you do well,” said Jones. “The only way to improve is to stretch yourself. This is another opportunity to stretch myself beyond just what happens on the floor with the Suns, but more about what happens across all channels of Suns and Mercury.”
Jones has some big decisions to make over the next few months. On the basketball side, this includes trading forward Jae Crowder and negotiations regarding another important young piece, Cameron Johnson. Jones also will be heavily involved in the hiring of a new owner after Robert Sarver announced his intentions to sell in September. How Jones balances his new hat with his old one will be interesting to watch.
But if there’s one thing Jones has proven, it’s his value to the Suns franchise.
For a position that hasn’t been filled in years, Jones proved that he was the only candidate for the job.
“It’s truly special and I don’t take it lightly,” said Jones on the promotion. “There’s only 30 of these positions in the NBA…I’m humbled by it and I just look forward to doing a great job so we can continue our progress.”