Lon Babby received a two-year contract extension on Tuesday as Suns owner Robert Sarver gave the go-ahead for Babby and front-office mate Lance Blanks to see their rebuilding process through. While the unscientific analysis of fan reaction to the move appears to be hedging aggressively toward the negative side, I hosted a three-on-three of VotS writers Michael Schwartz, Dave Dulberg and Ryan Weisert to understand their opinions on the decision.
What was your initial reaction to the news of Lon Babby’s extension?
Dave Dulberg: I wasn’t terribly surprised. That’s not to say I liked the move, but Robert Sarver has never really shied way from supporting Babby’s decisions. Also this is not an organization that loves to admit the err of its ways. Letting Babby’s contract run out would basically imply that Sarver thought his three-year tenure was a failure. Whether it has or hasn’t been can be debated, but Sarver is never going to indict himself.
Michael Schwartz: In essence all sports executives work on one-day contracts due to the impatient nature of the business, but to me this extension signaled that Sarver is willing to stay the course and let Babby build the Suns brick by brick rather than feeling the need to make panic trades for veterans to win immediately (cough, cough, Dayton Moore of the Royals). I also feel this was a case of Sarver favoring process over results as although the Suns’ record isn’t where they want it, clearly the owner is on board with Babby’s overall rebuilding plan.
Ryan Weisert: The contract was a year too long. The Suns were right to keep Babby on, but he hasn’t earned a two-year deal. Babby has struggled in his two offseasons. In 2011, he displayed patience and self-restraint by not giving out any bad contracts, but he didn’t build toward the future at all. And 2012 was a mixed bag. Dragic was a quality signing. Scola was a great bargain. But Babby struck out with Michael Beasley and Wes Johnson. Babby may be the man to get Phoenix back on track, but he hasn’t proven that yet.
Do you believe that allowing the front office to see the rebuilding process through is more important than scrapping a front office duo whose decisions — from our perspective — haven’t gone as planned?
Dulberg: From the organization’s perspective I get it. Sports is often a reactionary industry, and the Suns are opting to instead go with a patient approach. From an outsider’s perspective, I’m not convinced Babby or Lance Blanks deserves any more blind faith. This year’s team was theirs. They believed in it. They thought there were pieces to compete for a playoff spot. Suddenly when things went downhill it became a “rebuilding” year. The league is cyclical, sure. However, this rebuilding process is in part because of poor personnel decisions.
Schwartz: Well, not all of them have gone as planned, but did anybody think the Suns would be good immediately post-Nash? I think Babby has pushed the Suns to finally depart the treadmill of mediocrity and rebuild the right way. Babby’s tenure has been building toward this offseason or the next to make that signature move, so I’d rather see the Suns continue on that path than start anew before a critical offseason like they did in 2010.
Weisert: Of course. Dumping the front office now would be a huge mistake. Don’t get me wrong, at this moment the Suns are very bad at winning basketball games. Their record and the general malaise hanging over the franchise are hardly reasons to reward the front office. But the Suns are not destitute. They have tradable assets, draft picks, and most importantly cap room. Babby and Blanks, despite their missteps, did accumulate these assets. Sarver is betting that if they were smart enough to acquire these pieces, they’ll be smart enough to use them properly and return the Suns to their former glory.
What specifically is Lon Babby’s legacy hinging upon as we look to this offseason and beyond?
Dulberg: Now that the Suns are supposedly starting the rebuilding process, he and Lance Blanks need to prove that they have an eye for talent. Those 10 picks over the next three years will define his legacy. The team still isn’t quite sure what it has in its last two first-round picks, but at some point that’s just not good enough. He’s getting a second chance in my mind — those 10 picks are his opportunity not to blow it.
Schwartz: Whether he can land this franchise’s next star. There have been mistakes made along the way, sure, but I feel Babby has done his job in clearing the deck and getting the Suns to ground zero, as painful of a place as that is. Now the question centers around whether he can acquire the kind of frontline talent it takes to be competitive in the NBA. If he does, whether it’s through the draft or a trade, he will leave behind a positive legacy.
Weisert: The draft. Every GM save for Sam Presti has signed or traded for a bad contract. Even R.C. Buford once acquired Richard Jefferson. Babby can be forgiven for some of the terrible contracts he’s given out. But he’s struck out in the two drafts he’s overseen. The list of potential future All-Stars picked after the Morris twins in 2011 is quite long. And Kendall Marshall seems like a wasted pick considering the Suns inked Goran Dragic a month later. The top-five pick the Suns will likely have this June is Babby’s chance to redeem himself and the end the Suns’ decade of draft impotence.