John Lennon once wrote “Give Peace a Chance.” That was in 1969. Now, 42 years later, I write give Babby and Blanks a chance.
I’m not sure how the lyrics would go if I turned it into a song. Maybe something like ‘Everybody’s talking about Gortat, Dowdell, Dudley, Orlando’s first-round pick and all we are saying is give Babby and Blanks a chance’.
OK, maybe I’m no song writer and I am clearly stealing lines from the Beatles. In all honesty not many people are talking about those guys but the message should still get through. Lon Babby is the Suns President of Basketball Operations and Lance Blanks is the General Manager. The duo came to the Suns organization after the Suns let Amare Stoudemire walk, signed Josh Childress, Hakim Warrick and pulled off a trade for Hedo Turkoglu. So whatever issues anyone has with those moves don’t take it up with Babby and Blanks. They had nothing to do with them.
The moves that they did orchestrate were the re-signing of the do everything small forward Jared Dudley to a cost effective 5-year, $22.5 million dollar deal. That move locked up the popular Suns role player at a very reasonable price. They also pulled off the trade that sent Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Earl Clark to Orlando for Marcin Gortat, Mikael Pietrus, Vince Carter and Orlando’s first-round pick, which right now would be the 22nd pick in the draft. That move is proving to be a very good trade as Gortat is a quality young center who is only 27-years-old and is signed through 2013-14 at a very reasonable salary that averages around $7 million a season. The Suns also saved some money long term as Gortat is making roughly $4 million less per season than Turkoglu is making giving the Suns some financial flexibility moving forward.
Zabian Dowdell was signed for the rest of this season and has done a nice job filling in for the injured Goran Dragic at the backup point guard spot. Dowdell has impressed the Suns thus far and very well could be the backup point guard next season pushing Dragic for the job.
There have been three moves made thus far by Babby and Blanks and all three have been solid. The duo is expected to resist any temptation of getting 50-cents on the dollar for Steve Nash and Grant Hill and will likely do very little at the trade deadline in two weeks. The Suns have two first-round picks this year and after next season, barring doing something stupid, will have only $28 million committed for the 2012-13 season making them a player in free agency and trades.
After the February 24th trade deadline passes the next big test for Babby and Blanks will be the draft. This year’s draft is not considered a great one, with no one player considered a lock to be a star. But it is deep at point guard and power forward, two areas the Suns expect to address. Unlike the last two years, Phoenix absolutely must come out with something to show for in this draft.
What Babby and Blanks have is a game plan. What they need is time to execute it. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will a championship team in Phoenix.
The Suns era of ‘7-seconds or less’ is over. The Suns run of success over the last six years is finished. They are no longer a contender for an NBA championship. What they are is a good team that will battle for a seven or eight playoff seed and talented enough to make a deep run if they do get in. The transition period is under way and what the two LB’s should be judged on is what they do over the next 2 to 3 years to get Phoenix back to contending for a title.
Blanks is determined to build a more conventional team with a true center, Gortat, and power forward. He knows the end is near for Nash and Hill and how the Suns transition from their two stars will ultimately decide the success or failure of the Suns new men in charge. Ultimately what the goal needs to be is to somehow, someway, get a star player in his prime to Phoenix.
Without a star player there will be no championship. Gortat and Dudley are nice complimentary pieces but unless there is a star here to follow Nash, mediocrity is likely.
The three ways to get a star are No.1 hit the jackpot in the draft. No.2 clear enough salary cap space and convince one to sign here. No.3 pull off a trade for a disgruntled star who wants out of his current situation. It’s not easy to find superstars in this league. They don’t grow on trees and it’s not easy to find them in the draft. To some extent first-round picks are overrated. See last year’s NBA draft.
While the Suns have given the fans a ton of enjoyment over these last 6 years, the reality is that there could be, and I expect there to be, a few lean years ahead. The Suns could find themselves in the draft lottery the next couple of years, including this one, as they rebuild. What Babby and Blanks don’t want to do is mortgage the future to try and stay competitive now. If they can stay competitive over the next few years while rebuilding great, but don’t sacrifice any part of the future to settle for mediocrity.
It’s no fun being the 7th or 8th seed. They can’t panic to appease the fan base that is used to winning and contending. That includes the Suns owner who wants to win very badly and hates to lose.
Robert Sarver is not cheap. You can certainly question how he spends his money but you can not question the fact that he spends it. So getting him to buy into a 2-3 year plan may be difficult to do, but it is necessary.
Babby and Blanks will ultimately be judged by what they do over the next few years. Can they rebuild the roster and turn it back into a contender? Only time will tell. But they need the time to do it and they may have to take a step backwards before taking two steps forward.
So far you have to like the moves they have made, while not earth shattering, they are good moves. What they accomplish more than anything is proving to the owner, the organization and its fan base that they have an eye for talent and the ability to change over the roster.
Now all they need is for everyone to give them a chance.