One year later the jury’s still out on the Suns’ revamped front office, which could make its mark after the lockout

The jury is still out on the Suns' front office structure featuring Lon Babby (left) and Lance Blanks. (Photo by Michael Schwartz/ValleyoftheSuns)

The jury is still out on the Suns' front office structure featuring Lon Babby (left) and Lance Blanks. (Photo by Michael Schwartz/ValleyoftheSuns)

About a year ago at this time Suns owner Robert Sarver laid out a plan to change the structure of the Phoenix Suns’ front office to put specialists in a position of strength.

Sarver sees four main duties for a basketball operations department: evaluation, contract negotiation, understanding the collective bargaining agreement and communicating with players.

Instead of hiring one general manager who is at least adequate in all four of those departments, Sarver chose to hire multiple executives in president of basketball operations Lon Babby and general manager Lance Blanks who together check off all those boxes.

“They’re kind of different skill sets, and sometimes they take different personalities,” Sarver said when announcing the changes a year ago. “What maybe made most sense was to put together a team and rather than bring someone in who can be a generalist in all those areas, have two people who could be specialists who really could give us the best so we’re really good at all four.”

Of course, this move was made after most of the dust had cleared on the 2010 free agency chase, a crucial time the Suns went through without a GM, so the jury is largely still out on this arrangement after the Babby/Blanks duo made two trades (one very successful, one not so much) and a safe but solid draft pick in Markieff Morris.

Even with a true first season on the job in the books, it would likely to be too early to judge their success since many long-term moves (particularly draft picks) take time to develop, but that’s especially true for this front office crew without a free agency period to their name just yet.

Plus, I always felt the aftermath of the lockout would be the best time for this structure to prove its merit. The thinking was that Babby is a lawyer who has been poring over contracts all his working life. If anybody can find a loophole in what figures to be a very complicated collective bargaining agreement, it would be someone like him.

As things are Babby said the restructured from office is working together very well during his end of the season press conference.

“I think Lance and I are working hand and glove just the way we hoped we would work,” Babby said. “I think we each work with great respect for each other’s abilities, staying within our lanes of expertise, and on a personal level I couldn’t be happier to be here living in this community, working with the people I’m working with, and I think the third member of kind of our front office John Treloar has been a great voice of reason and experience.

“I have no reservation about the quality of character and the quality of talent we have in the front office and how it’s working.

“But the proof is going to be in the pudding, and the pudding is still cooking.”

Once the lockout ends, the pressure will be on the Suns’ unorthodox front office to improve in the present with Steve Nash or start building a team that can be competitive in the future.

Babby on his first season

At his end of the year press conference, Babby discussed what he’s learned personally during his first year on the job:

“I think about that a lot, and I think the thing I’ve learned most is try to learn to deal with the rollercoaster of the season a little bit better. I think when we win we’re never going to lose again and I think when we lose we’re never going to win again, and in my position I have to make sure I’m staying on an even keel in terms of my emotional reaction to the team, and I think I’ve learned to do that as the year’s gone on. It’s an invigorating job, it’s an invigorating experience, and it’s fun because of that. But I think you all have to make sure you’re making judgments based on sound reasoning and careful analysis.”

Yep, sounds like a former lawyer all right.

Tags: Lance Blanks Lon Babby

  • Bill

    So we find out ex post facto that the Dragon’s gone because of Babby’s bipolar view of the game. I feel better…not.

  • Steve

    When Dragic is an all star or makes an all NBA team, I’ll really bash them for that. Yes, the trade was awful, but I wouldn’t cast them aside for just that blunder.

  • Jacob

    Dragic was having an off year.. the trade wasn’t horrible. Give Aaron Brooks a full training camp before we make a decision on whether the trade was good or bad.

  • B. Cray Z.

    Suns have long been trying to force an off the ball 2 guard to develop into a successor for Nash.

  • B. Cray Z.

    Must have hit the wrong key. Will now continue. Does AB, Gogi or LB have what it takes to replace Nash? But if we allow them to be in a position to be our “go to guy”, a scoring threat in the 4th quarter WITH Nash, they would take the pressure of a collapsing defense off Nash, since they can score, pass, penetrate & handle the rock.

    This leads me to what I think Suns’ management (including Alvin) will need to do to restructure this team for success. Z Man will not replace Nash. But he can be VERY effective on a defensive oriented 2nd unit with the right guys. In college and again this past year Z has done a heck if a job in defending Chris Paul. Frye & Dud need to go back to being a part of a lethal bench unit that can be relied upon in crunch time. Join with them a 3rd (and possibly even a 4th) member of that unit. Reunited, this unit will get us LOTS of wins. Team chemistry will soar!

    Here is what I see a contending Suns team to look like: starting at the 1, we have Z back up Nash. When it comes to our #2 guard, we get AB or VC healthy & get whichever of them is healthy & realistic enough to agree to a reasonable deal (no more than we pay Grant Hill.) Then, for the back up #2, we bring back through trade either LB or Gogi. Rockets need size. Ming is gone. Let them have the lesser Lopez twin. Make it even sweeter with a wing thrown into the deal. With Bosh gone, Raptors also need size. We make them the same deal so that whichever team will deal, we get back either LB or Gogi. Z will make sure to get the ball to either of them. Hill will need to be resigned to start at the 3 plus they’ve got to recognize his commitment by at least giving a token raise to Grant Hill. More natural at the 3 than the 2, Dud can sub for Hill. Give the new twin a real shot. Make our new lottery pick unto our starting #4. He will thrive on a unit with Nash & Hill. Louis needs to come back. He never wanted to leave the Suns. What he lacks in skills, he MUCH more than makes up for in energy. Send Warrick to the Warriors & we may even get a draft pick. But it won’t be as easy to take advantage of the Dubs. They now have Jerry West. Suns fans can now all agree in our Polish Hammer as the starting five. Frye will fit in well with Louis on & off the court. Let’s take a look: Nash (Z Man); healthy AB/ healthy VC/ or trade a wing & more if needed for a go-to scorer, possibly James Harden or a healthy Redd, ( LB or Gogi); Hill (Dud); Morris (Louis); Gortat (Frye). THIS would be a heck of a team. Suns would regain their chemistry & swagger. Let’s go SUNS!!!!

  • Roger

    Sarver sold the 1st round pick under the guise of Dragic trade. Everyone knew Rockets were desperate to move Brooks so figure out why we had to even entertain the idea of including a 1st round pick, go figure who’s the boss in Suns FO!

    Jury is still out on the FO’s decentralized structure but I do like Sarver’s innovative thinking – specialists versus generalists. But the personalities brought in are kind of boring non-charismatic people. I don’t see any passion in their voice and action. Bottom line is who cares about FO, just put together a winning team to excite the fans base again. I hope Babby and Lance deliver the goods for 2011-12 season otherwise Sarver may lose patience and start tinkering again.

  • PHS Suns Fan In LA

    @ b Cray Z are you serious …to have aaron brooks or a “healthy vince carter” as out 2 guard? lollll brooks is too small and vince just doesnt care… but i love the idea of bring goran dragic back. also we need gani lawal to get some pt

  • Tony

    Michael, instead of titling this article the “Jury’s still out,” a more apt title would have been something along the lines of “The Three Stooges.” Just because Babby is a smart lawyer does not make him in any way qualified to be president of Suns operations. We have to remember, when Kerr was forced out by Sarver because he did not want his staff nor him to take a pay cut after a tremendous season, every established and available GM refused to work for Sarver. Besides him being a laughing stock in the league, Sarver’s structure of the front office is horrible. Blanks is relegated to a glorified NBA scout and has little authority in financial matters concerning player salary. Babby is the one with the real power and he knows nothing about building a winning team. Thus, the very structure of limiting the authority of the GM position while elevating Babby to personnel matters concerning the roster, has severely reduced any interest in qualified GMs would have in joining the Suns organization.
    So far, Babby and Blanks one big move in trading Dragic was a disaster. It is too early to make any prediction on Morris, although from what the scouts have said, he does not appear to be the young star player the Suns desperately need. What the Three Stooges do with Arron Brooks is their next test.

  • Steve

    “The Three Stooges” – I like it

    Btw, they HAVE only made one big move, but it was for Gortat, and that was a huge success.

    They made the SMALL move that you’re talking about, and that was a horrible failure. Getting rid of Dragic (a guy who has done a grand total of nothing in his NBA career outside of one big quarter) is hardly a big move. I know people are going to say, “Dragic just didn’t get a chance to prove himself. He would have been great!” I have one thing to say to that. I’ll eat crow when he’s an all-star or all-NBA, but until then it’s pointless to argue about the future.