Lon Babby: Phoenix Suns will be active in trade market prior to deadline
Feb 12, 2015, 9:21 PM | Updated: 9:21 pm
The Phoenix Suns are sputtering into the All-Star break, having lost five of their last six games and holding onto a slim lead for the final Western Conference playoff spot.
General manager Ryan McDonough told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM‘s Burns and Gambo on Wednesday that the team’s roster balance “is a little off,” and president of basketball operations Lon Babby joined Bickley and Marotta on Thursday and said a move might be in store.
Babby wouldn’t comment on Goran Dragic trade rumors, but he said Phoenix will be active in the trade market up until the Feb. 19 deadline.
“We’re not going to just sit here and wait for the phones to ring,” Babby said. “We’ll be initiating calls to every team and just taking the temperature of what’s out there and what’s available. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if we do something between now and next Thursday.”
Despite the Suns (29-25) being behind the pace of their 48-win group from a season ago, Babby explained what he likes about the team as it stands.
“I think we’ve proven that (last year’s success) wasn’t a fluke,” he said. “We’ve consolidated the gains that we made, but we have to continue to grow. And we have a core of guys I think we can move forward with over the next couple of years to get to where we want to be, which is in the upper echelons — and that may coincide with other teams in the West getting older and falling off. So we have to keep our eye on all of that and continue to move forward.”
The Suns executive also emphasized patience when it comes to looking for the team to make large strides from its success last season.
“I think we’re in the sunshine now,” he said. “I don’t think we’re going to go through bad times. I think we’re going to continue to get better: It’s never at the pace that people want, but I think we’re also putting an incredible product on the floor. I mean I think we’re one of the most enjoyable and exciting teams to watch.”
Although this season might feel like a letdown coming off last year’s near-run to the playoffs, the Suns still are five games above .500, and they’re a far cry from the group that only won 25 games in 2012-13.
“I don’t think we’re headed into a long period of transition,” Babby said. “I think we’ve already gone through that. Now, it’s just taking the steps we need to get to the level we want to get to.”
So, what exactly will the team’s strategy be when it comes to looking for a deal over the next week?
“We’re not going to do anything that helps us in the short run if it hurts us in the long run,” Babby said. “Our goal is (to) continue to put together a group that can grow together and mature together and go through a process together — as painful as it may be — on any given night to get us an elite core that we can win a championship with.
“So to try to delude ourselves into thinking some move that will help us fight off Oklahoma City this year at the expense of that bigger picture I think would be a catastrophic mistake.”
For as solidly as Phoenix has played over the last couple of years, the team still lacks a superstar that can take over the final minutes of close games — a player like Houston’s James Harden, who has scored a total of 73 points in two games at US Airways Center this season, including a game-winning buzzer-beater on Jan. 23.
Babby said the Suns tried to make a deal for Harden before he landed with the Rockets in 2012, but Phoenix lacked the trade assets at the time.
That doesn’t mean that the front office has given up hope of acquiring a big-name player down the road.
“Going through that experience led me to believe that we need to do exactly what we’re doing now — which is to garner the assets, garner the players that would be attractive to others, so when that next opportunity like that comes along we could make a compelling case and a compelling package,” the Suns president said. “And that’s kind of where we’re headed. I think we’re at the point now where we’ve got tremendous talent from 1-15 on our team, and we’ve got a lot of assets; we still have the (Los Angeles) Lakers’ (future first-round draft) pick and our own picks, and sooner or later, we’re going to be able to consolidate some of that and get a high-level player.
“Do I think that’s going to happen in the next week? Probably not, but we’ll be poised to do it. And that’s what we’ve been working at over the last, really, since I’ve been here. (It’s) taken us a long time to put ourselves in that position.”