Lon Babby, Lance Blanks and the Phoenix Suns need a stellar 2011 NBA Draft

Babby and Blanks need to turn around their tenure as well as Phoenix's poor draft history.

The Phoenix Suns desperately need to hit a home run with the 13th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, not just for the team’s slowly dwindling future, but for its oft-criticized front office as well.

Ever since Lon Babby and Lance Blanks joined forces to replace Steve Kerr, there have been very few victories in terms of personnel.

Yes, the front office was able to acquire cornerstone center Marcin Gortat, but that was barely enough of a Band-Aid to cover up the trio he replaced Amare Stoudemire with — Hedo Turkoglu, Hakim Warrick and Josh Childress.

And then there’s the Goran Dragic-Aaron Brooks trade, when the Babby/Blanks duo was sold that Dragic was not point-guard-of-the-future material. They thought Brooks and his streaky offense and no-defense game would lift the Suns into the playoffs.

A few months later, the Suns have no potential point guard of the future, one less first-round draft pick at their disposal and must mull Brooks’ worth as he’s a restricted free agent looking for a sizable check. Needless to say, Babby and Blanks have struggled to make a positive impact in Phoenix.

Robert Sarver is already regarded as one of the league’s lesser owners, and Babby and Blanks certainly haven’t helped his case. But if there’s ever a time to rebuild their reputation it’s this Thursday.

The Suns are notoriously poor on draft day. They’ve traded five first-round draft picks since 2004 and the three they kept were Earl Clark (Orlando Magic), Alando Tucker (out of the NBA) and Robin Lopez (barely functioning).

With that said, Babby and Blanks need to land a young, potential cornerstone to not only erase Phoenix’s poor draft history, but also to start a track record of positive personnel moves. Since Blanks is supposed to be the heralded talent evaluator, it’s up to him to decide whether Tristan Thompson, Markieff Morris or Bismack Biyombo has a brighter future.

If the Suns decide to go with a guard or wing player, he needs to be able to decipher if Jimmer Fredette can carry his NCAA success to the pros at the point guard position, or if guys like Klay Thompson or Alec Burks will pan out in the NBA.

He’s supposed to be the player personnel figurehead, and there’s no better time for that to shine through than Thursday’s draft.

Babby, on the other hand, is the so-called negotiation master. Yes, his presence is supposedly going to be most felt once the new CBA is in place, but it’s time for that ‘window into every organization’ that he talked about having because of his career as an agent to finally pay off.

The Suns could use a power forward AND a scoring two-guard with go-to-guy potential, so it’s up to Babby to swing a deal. That’s obviously the best-case scenario, and priority No. 1 should be selecting the right guy at 13. But according to The Republic, it sounds like Babby is doing everything in his power to see what’s on the trade market.

“We are in constant conversation all day, every day with virtually every team in the league, trying to see if there’s anything we need to get an additional pick or if there are other ways to improve our team,” Babby said.

With the draft on the horizon, it’s make or break time for the Suns front office. While it’s going to be tough for Sarver to turn around his reputation, Babby and Blanks still have time to prove themselves and take the first step in turning Phoenix into an annual winner on draft day.

Tags: Lance Blanks Lon Babby

  • Tony

    Great article Mike. There’s no question Sarver has been the principal component in the Suns decline and yet, he continues to avoid taking any responsibility.

    We have to remember that when Kerr was chased out of town by Sarver, there wasn’t any established and proven GMs interested in working for the Suns because of Sarver. Furthermore, the structure Sarver created with Babby basically running things and turning the GM into a glorified scout wasn’t going to entice and established GMs to want to be the Suns GM. Thus, the result we have are two guys who don’t have a clue what they are doing.

    There’s no way the Suns are not going to avoid the lottery again next year, but I do expect them to land a top 10 pick in next year’s draft. There’s no question as of now, this team is probably the worst in the western conference and it’s not likely they are able to draft a potential superstar player because of their late pick and they have only Nash and Gortat as tradeable assets. Nash is still the cornerstone of the franchise, so I doubt they trade him just because of the further erosion in local support for the Suns if they do. As far as Gortat is concerned, the team should not trade him because that would mean depending on Lopez to be a productive starting center, something he clearly didn’t show last season.

    The mess Sarver created is going to take years to undo, but it begins with him taking responsibility for really screwing up. So far he has refused to do so and thus, I don’t expect much to change in terms of player personnel moves.

  • http://www.brightsideofthesun.com/ Spit_Fire

    The Suns should rebuild. Trying to acquire player/s from this draft and chasing a 7th or 8th seed is not good enough especially when the 2 best player the Suns have is 36 and 38 years old. The Suns can start by trading Nash and acquiring players that can create their own shot. If trading Nash and/or Dudley will net us another couple of lottery picks in this draft then so be it. The only guy that needs to be retained is Gortat other than him, everyone should be included in any trades.

  • shazam

    fantastic article mike…i needed it…lately ive been reduced to reading the bleacher report

  • Brandon

    Long time Suns fan, I won’t get on my soap box about Robert Sarver and POOR business decision. I will say that Phoenix has had mutliple title potential and its been thrown away threw the years…

    I say trade Nash (it hurts to say that but why waste a guy who’s given so much on a mediocre team) and get something back for him or give it another shot.

    The Lakers are in decline, Mavs will remain the same, Thunder are potentially the most dangerous team in the West. Spurs are just as old as we are.

    Why not go for B. Roy? He’s not the future in Portland anymore I’d say and he’s skilled player. I know his injury history but Phoenix medical staff can work wonders, we’ve seen that. What about David West? If Amare can be brought back from micro, he can come back from an ACL.


    Nash – Jimmer
    Roy – ?????
    Hill – Dudley
    West – Channing
    Gortat – Lopez

    Look at moving J. Chill, Warrick, and Brooks.

  • http://espn.com Rob

    Brandon for GM! I like the idea of buying low that you propose. I wonder what we could get if we tried trading the Suns training staff. A couple first round picks for each member?

    Maybe we can just trade Sarver for a couple new basketballs and maybe a few cases of beer.

    I just hope we don’t continue drafting at 10-14 every year….

  • Abe

    Brandon, how do you expect we can get Brandon Roy and David West?

  • http://www.brightsideofthesun.com/ Spit_Fire

    @Brandon, Not even Jesus can return Brandon Roy to All-Star Caliber.

  • ChrisL

    Yeah! He don’t have no knees!

  • Steve

    Ugh, so much facepalm all over the place. Where to start? Should I even start? Nah, I’ll just let you guys take care of this one on your own. Down with Sarver, let’s trade for Dwight and CP3, and once a guy has knee problems, he can never be a good player again… this conversation is heading to a flamewar and fast

  • Brandon

    LOL, sorry for my typo’s, i was rambling. Its just so frustrating being a Suns fan all these years. Watching JJ, Marion (who didn’t deserve a max deal but was a good player), Amare (who didn’t deserve a max deal either, his defense and lack of boards made me irate but helped us get to the WCF), and other’s be traded away.

    Perhaps we can trade VC’s expiring contract? We all know that Sarver won’t go for D12 or CP3 next year. Use him to go after a proven scorer. Bottom line, we need someone to take the pressure off Nash. Give him help or set him free.

    I’d wouldn’t even mind him going to the Heat to get his ring. He would have 13apg, well; close.

    Back to the Suns, i suppose its wishful thinking and we need to face facts. We will struggle for the 8 seed next year and them ultimately have to rebuild. Hopefully Sarver will sell to an owner who is willing to spend what it takes to win, and not sell picks. Like………………………MARK CUBAN.

  • Lloyd I. Cadle

    Great article. Good observation on what the Suns need. Tell it like it is!

  • Evan

    childress, peitress, Lopez, and a future draft pick for Derick Williams! Its not that far-fetched i could see Minnesota going for it, Lopez would do much better if he was next to Love, the other 2 have value especially next to a young new point guard. Derick Williams would be the perfect sun, 3 or 4, supper athletic with range!!! Either do that or trade Nash he deserves better.

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    Wolves would never pull the trigger on that deal.

    J Chil would be behind Bees so not much use with that crushing contract. They’re not essentially trading… No. I’m done.

    Nash doesn’t want to move or… Ugh. Can’t do it.

  • basketball straight jacket

    I’m a long time suns fan and amateur NBA analyst and blogger. First things first, there is no way the Suns should be trading Nash and I would be shocked if they did. Just from a business perspective it would be suicide – there is no way you trade the one and only thing fans pay to see, including renewing season ticket holders. He is the only thing making them money – put it this way if you own a business and someone says I will pay you $80 million to KEEP Nash you would take that deal right? With season tickets and merchandise along with single ticket buyers that’s likely AT LEAST minimum what you lose by trading that guy. Now on top of this from a basketball perspective Nash will play at a high level despite his age so the output is extremely good, but what you will get in return is nothing, no teams are offering anything close to Nash’ level of impact on a court. I could talk about this all day there is lots of factors but let’s stick to the main ones, and the final one is this: Rebuilding, from both a business and basketball standpoint, is COMPLETELY overrated. It isn’t easy to do and some teams never manage to do it for many years, Toronto never has, New Jersey has been for a decade as has the Wolves, its hit and miss and when your time comes maybe it’s a horrible draft and you have to wait another couple years or there are no free agents etc. Throughout this whole rebuilding process there is no guarantee your team will make the playoffs, no guarantee free agents want to play there (certainly not without Nash) and as a owner you lose millions and millions of dollars. Think of teams that have gone into “rebuilding” mode and tell me which ones have contended within a 5 year period? And I’m not talking about 7th or 8th seed 1st round fodder. There’s not many. The Suns showed only a season ago that if you have a good enough team to make the playoffs you do what you can on the run and you can piece together a winning run, they were close to going into the finals if not for that fluke of an Artest shot. Realistically is Dallas and Phoenix THAT different in this respect? One or 2 pieces to the Suns and I would argue they are fairly similarly built teams.

    Now for what the Suns SHOULD be looking at, if they aren’t trading Nash they are entering each season to contend. And contend straight away. So it really pains me not to read rumours of the Suns making offers when guys are rumoured to be on the block. There’s a couple of glaring examples. The first is Anthony Randolph, the guy was given away and the Suns threw a future 1st round pick at the Rockets for Brooks expiring deal when realistically that would have been MORE than enough to get Randolph who despite his attitude has the rebounding, defence and athletic ability to absolutely blossom in the Suns rotation at both PF and C and would be a great foil for an athletic frontcourt line-up next to Frye. I still think Randolph could be had at a low price and if I was the Suns discussing the Gortat for #2 I would be insisting on Randolph. Perhaps something along the lines of Gortat/Lopez/#13 for Pekovic/Randolph/#2. It seems the markets dead low for Randolph and the Wolves have said outright Gortat and #13 for Pekovic and #2 is their best offer so there is a chance this could work.

    The other trade I wish the Suns explored last season was for Danny Granger when he was reportedly on the block, and I think he can still be had. Pacers are clearly accruing cap space to make runs at marquee free agents so the Carter expiring contract could have and still may appeal, they have also been searching for a backup to Collision at PG so adding in Brooks there would have been something else to put together a decent package even if the Suns must take on TJ Ford (who NO team will take by the way) and also avoid the Suns having to pay Brooks. Robin Lopez at the time during the season also still held some value but even if he didn’t now, the Suns could have conceivably offered the huge expiring deal of Vince Carter, Aaron Brooks, #13 in this draft and possibly a future 1st rounder. I think the Pacers consider that for Granger. I’m not sure they do now, but all reports are they are getting no trades of substance for Granger whose market is low. They could have a line-up of Nash/Hill/Granger/Frye/Gortat with a 6th man of Dudley and rotation minutes to Childress, Warrick and Lopez as well as Pietrus with TJ Ford likely there with this deal. They could even swing to include the Pacers later round pick which could give them a PG in Schumpert whom they covet. Either way Granger is a go to scorer who can defend and play 3 positions and would fit extremely well with the Suns and help them immediately. Maybe if they pull off the Gortat to wolves deal as was reported they could even offer Williams who they would draft #2 to get Granger and someone like Josh McRoberts (with other suns players included to make the deal work such as Carters expiring)? There’s a lot of deals that could be made.

    There was many ways for the Suns this past season to be competitive again and there still is, but my biggest disappointment is there lack of attitude in exploring these deals. In itself I think the Gortat trade is a step in the right direction as even though I love him I think Williams could either give us a great player immediately or alternatively be fantastic trade bait for someone like Granger – but the main thing is its at least a sign we are now looking!!!

    If the Golden State trade has any substance it should have been done immediately, Suns murder Warriors on that trade.

    I could write about the Suns trade avenues all day but the bottom line is by offering Gortat for number 2 and exploring some other deals they have shown their hand – Nash is staying and they are now realising they can actively be better by making some calls.

    Let’s hope they make the right ones.

  • Steve

    @basketball straight jacket

    1. The Suns wouldn’t lose $80M by losing Nash. You overvalue him greatly, and you undervalue the franchise. This franchise has thrived for over forty years, not all of which have included Nash, and not all of which have included great teams with high-profile guys to watch. The franchise would survive just fine, Phoenicians would still love them their Suns, and everyone would go on living life just as they had before. I won’t try to claim it wouldn’t have ANY negative impact, but saying the Suns would lose $80M is ludicrous. The Suns weren’t even filling the seats last year with Nash there. Superstars don’t always put butts in the seats.

    2. Rebuilding is what Boston, LA, OKC, Orlando, Chicago, Cleveland (up until they lost LeBron), etc have done, and it worked out just fine in all of those cases. “Rebuilding” is not synonymous with “tank so we can get the first pick in the draft.” Btw, NJ was in the Finals two times in the past decade. How have they been rebuilding for a decade?

    3. The Suns wouldn’t have beat LA if it weren’t for the Artest “fluke.” They would have been in a better position to force game 7. Did you forget we got our butts handed to us on our own home court the next game? LA was better. Facts are facts.

    4. I agree with you that the Suns should be exploring trades, but we have just two trade chips worth anything at all: Nash and Gortat. At this point, I would rather have Gortat. Nash has proven himself to be fun to watch and a brilliant artist, but I’m sick and tired of watching BAD basketball on the defensive end of the court. I don’t know if it’s coaching or the way Nash manages the game, but I really don’t think that any team with Steve Nash on the floor is capable of being a great defensive team. Nash isn’t a winner. He’s a great player, a great Sun, and I appreciate everything he has done for the Valley, but he is not a winner. The Suns reportedly had Nash for the No 2 on the table and immediately shut the door. That’s a trade they should have gone for, or at least TALKED about. If I could have Kyrie Irving or Derrick Williams for 38-year-old Steve Nash who doesn’t seem happy in Phoenix, I’d take the youngsters with 15 years ahead of them and a ton of promise.

  • basketball straight jacket


    Appreciate the time you took with your thoughtful responses. Let me elaborate on your points:

    1. Suns fans will still support their team and its a decent franchise I agree, but I would definitely say they are losing significant money. I really think we can agree that the Phoenix suns will not be very good for a couple seasons without Nash there assuming they are getting a young pick like Derrick Williams. If I am a season ticket holder I am coming to see my team, but there’s no way I’m renewing season tickets to come to THAT many games. If I purchase single tickets I am certainly buying less, maybe a percentage (25%? ) of diehards will still come as much but overall you have a reduction in people coming to watch that team for at least next season when they certainly will be pretty bad and not entertaining comparatively. Another point – Nash merchandise such as jersey sales, are so far ahead of any other Suns player the others are insignificant revenue comparatively. Your talking non Suns fans who will still buy this merchandise (friends of mine included). You lose this and I doubt anyone on the Suns is good enough to pick up the slack – do you think we will have a huge jump in Gortat and Frye jersey sales to compensate for ALL of Nash lost merchandise revenue? I highly doubt it. What I would also point out is there is huge NBA driven revenue internationally and that is where big money can be made that ordinary fans don’t conceive of. Outside of the USA fans aren’t paying to see games, so instead they pay for their teams merchandise, often at exorbitant prices. To an international audience (this includes myself) you are ONLY making revenue off this merchandise and there is a much smaller chance they will invest in a non star (Frye,Gortat etc), so you almost automatically lose a large majority of your international merchandise money that is player driven such as jersey sales. There are a lot of people in the world and a decent enough percentage are basketball fans. Looking at an example of $60,000,000 in sales, at a generous price tag that is 460,000 jerseys. Not that far fetched when you consider how big the international community is following both the NBA generally who would love Nash as well as Phoenix specifically. I don’t even need to look at ticket sales or other merchandise to get to a $60 million figure. I’m not undervaluing the franchise I certainly know they will survive, but my point was as an owner why would I lose even $20 million in my revenue for a guy that can get my team more wins and make me money and maintain popularity of my franchise avoiding a fan backlash? As an owner it makes sense to keep Nash financially.
    2. I completely disagree with your rebuilding teams that are successful and here is why:
    L.A – The Lakers have been competitive forever, I don’t even know when you are referring to them rebuilding. A decade ago they were winning championships with Shaq and Kobe, sure they retooled but they never got rid of players (Shaq) because they weren’t successful, they did it and got new talent in because Shaq and Kobe could not coexist. Unless you are looking at the Lakers 15 years ago I wouldn’t classify anything recent by them that i would consider rebuilding at all. Some other caveats – If you’re a big market team (say the top 4) like the Lakers are, rebuilding doesn’t even happen, you have a conveyer belt of stars that want to play there, I would say all the Lakers have had to do is “Re-tool” their roster, not rebuild, and since they will always make money and therefore can always spend money it further removes them from true rebuilding like the Suns or more importantly the bad teams now trying to rebuild (Twolves).
    CLEVELAND – Luckiest franchise in 50 years and an aberration to the rule. They struck gold because Lebron was in the draft the year they had the first pick, that’s all. As I said every now and then you can have unbelievable luck, but luck is all it is. Would you hang your franchise and its profitability and success on “lucking” into lebron 2.0 in the lottery? If the Cavs draft a year earlier they get Yao Ming or Jay Williams. A year later they get Dwight or Emeka Okafor, and at the time they probably take Okafor. The year after that they choose between Bogut and Marvin Williams. Think about that 4 year span….how does Cleveland go with their rebuilding if they DONT draft the year they did? I would argue they are actually one of the worst examples of rebuilding because despite the success of a couple of years they really failed, the players they tried to rebuild with Lebron were terrible fits and terrible attempts at rebuilding such as : Larry Hughes, Antwan Jamison, Shaq (old and useless version), Mo Williams, Big Z and this is just a few, these were their attempts at rebuilding which is why the process is overvalued, it messes with your chemistry and more often than not is wildly unsuccessful. The Cavs don’t draft that year they would never have been out of the lottery this decade and would be contender for bottom 3 records every year. They rebuilt badly and had a bailout good looking record because they lucked into a draft pick that happens about once every 20 years. I’m not taking a 1 in 20 chance at number 1 picks that will happen to my franchise because if I fail I’m probably bad for another 5 years minimum.
    OKC – not a rebuilding team at all as they have hardly been in the league a decade, they are an expansion team, completely different set of rules and scenarios. They weren’t a bad team that had to turn it around they were an expansion team given a silver platter, a Picasso given a blank canvas and some paint.
    MAGIC – they had a 11 year run of never getting above 45 wins and averaging 38. 38 wins a year isn’t good. If you said to your fan base we are going to be bad for 11 years and then have a 3 year window to be good enough to contend at some point your fans won’t think thats a very successful rebuilding project. They did well for 2-3 years after sucking for 11 years and now they have the potential to be very bad very suddenly again when Dwight walks and they have Gilbert Arenas sitting there dribbling. To confirm my point of view for a rebuilding project to be successful it needs to be done in a reasonable timeframe to contend (5 years?) and it needs to last AT LEAST 5 years although I would expect a decade to be a really successful rebuild. Orland didn’t do this. They didn’t rebuild this team they BUILT this team.
    CHICAGO – don’t let last season’s record fool you, prior to that year for this past decade they were a low 40’s winning team. They have had 1 successful season being the most recent one but it took them 13 years to get there, which is too long if I’m going to classify rebuilding as successful. They have I will concede put together a decent team and are the best example available of a team’s rebuilding at least over the past few years. Whilst its is purely a subjective opinion I 100% believe Chicago will be nowhere near as good in coming season without significant moves. Boozer is a bad contract that won’t get better, teams will have adjusted to Rose who is their only big offensive threat (he shot under 40% last 3 months of season including playoffs) and their bench is overrated with good players like Kurt Thomas and Kyle Korver no longer being able to contribute as much with their age. They have done ok, but is it a really successful rebuilding project? I don’t think so but I can be proven wrong if they continue to run off seasons like the last, but they need a few.
    BOSTON – Hard to argue with this one as I agree they turned their franchise around and made themselves very successful with great moves so I agree to a point. My issue here is they changed their team into a contender overnight with a perfect storm scenario rarely seen before: Suns sell/dump them a 1st round pick thats a top 5 point guard (Rondo), the Twolves GIVE them the best player in the league for Al Jefferson which NO ONE thought should’ve happened, they Pilfered Ray Allen from a folding franchise (Seattle) and somehow got rid of Antoine Walker (masterstroke). Any of those things don’t happen and I’m not sure where that team goes….all of those things happening at once? WOW. I think they did a sterling job and will concede Boston rebuilt, but is making a heap of moves in 1 week that probably 99.9999% wouldn’t happen again really successfully rebuilding? I tend to think rebuilding is something normally done over time.
    3. I watched that whole series, LA were beaten down by the end of that game and it was clear they lose in OT to me. I think that changes the whole momentum of that entire series. Instead LA got of jail feeling rejuvenated knowing they had 2 more games and not as much pressure, where as the Suns were completely deflated. So you have a Suns team going in completely down to a game 6 v a LA team that has a weight lifted off their shoulders and renewed vigour. Swing things around I really believe the Suns win, especially with the offence they can run when they are confident and firing, of course that’s just my opinion, but let’s say they lose, is it still not a very successful season and suns team there which was my point anyway?
    4. Agree on the trade chip front, but I would counter the Nash trade by saying Gortat is at an all time high value wise, and Nash is at an all time low. The reality is especially with Nash having only 1 year left and needing to go to a contender, the options of a trade for Gortat will yield far more than what the Suns would get for Nash. I would also contend that Gortat is no spring chicken, he will be 28 by mid season. He may very well have played his best season but whose to say he doesn’t have a steep decline in the next 3 years like many other big men his age? There is also the “playing with Nash” factor, is Gortat as effective without Nash? Again, it points to Gortat almost being overvalued at the moment where as Nash only has limited trade possibilities and is on a 1 year deal and 38. Devalues nash but gortat remains highly valued considering his career. Nash’ basketball is way better than Gortat’s and he will likely contribute at a high level for a few years still and he makes other people better. Gortat needs other people to make him better on the other hand. I’m trading high on Gortat no question and completely disagree we are better off keeping Gortat over Nash. Which of these teams wins more games TEAM 1: Nash, Dudley, Hill, Derrick Williams, Frye or Dudley, Hill, Derrick Williams, Fry and Gortat (and yes your playing with no point guard with team 2). Team 1 monsters team 2 on the win column and Derrick Williams is substantially better, whilst in team 2 Frye and Gortat play substantially worse which can be statistically proven without Nash, and Derrick Williams develops slower. I think Nash is very happy in Phoenix or he would have been traded, and nothing on or off the court says he wants out of there or is even upset. I don’t get that vibe form him at all. In every way we are significantly better trading Gortat and significantly worse trading Nash and in both cases we get at least the same in return, probably more if Gortats involved. I understand your view on no defence with Nash but it has been reasonably successful and I find it good basketball to watch (although I like offence and couldn’t stand say, Detroit Pistons circa 2004), and the Suns have been successful for a while with this style. I would also contend that Williams can help defensively and having someone like Anthony Randolph thrown into a trade as I suggested would help to. Dudley and Hill both showed they can defend well also.