When the Phoenix Suns fired general manager Lance Blanks on Monday, it perhaps wasn’t a shock considering president of basketball ops Lon Babby had signed a contract extension that didn’t line up with the end of his front office-mate’s deal. It was, however, surprising because Blanks and Babby’s futures were always seemingly intertwined.
Now they’re not. The last three years under Blanks were poor to the -nth degree. They are also hard to analyze, simply because the Suns were in a tough position in dealing with an aging Steve Nash and a new-look front office structure. Because of the Blanks-Babby duo, it’s hard to put a finger on exactly what Blanks was and should be responsible for since he took the job on Aug. 5, 2010.
But here goes nothin’.
Trading Jason Richardson*: Just a few years later, this one already looks like a decent enough move. The Suns received a still-tradable piece in Marcin Gortat for a now-aged shooting guard while his value was still high. They also shed Hedo Turkoglu’s contract — remember, it was Robert Sarver who traded for Turkoglu before Blanks and Babby were hired. The one negative in this one was giving up on Earl Clark.
*How much Blanks had to do with this one is a question mark, but might as well lump him in there for this big-time deal.
Bringing P.J. Tucker back to the NBA: If anything, Blanks follows his Texas Longhorns. There’s no doubt Tucker is a legitimate diamond in the rough and can only get better in the NBA as an elite and versatile defender. This move is the one thing we’re certain Blanks and Dan Majerle can agree upon.
[RELATED: Lance Blanks leaves Phoenix Suns | Funniest quotes by Blanks]Analytics and development: The Suns under Blanks and Babby have built up an analytics staff with the full support of Sarver, and as Paul Coro reports, that should continue for the time being under director of player personnel John Treloar. Blanks also hired a deep player development staff; although it’s been depleted because of the coaching change, the idea in theory was a good one. The Suns even have evaluations from a psychological performance level.
Gentry’s firing, the handling of Dan Majerle and Elston Turner, and the Lindsey Hunter experiment: Arguably, these can earn their separate paragraphs. But they’re all related, and collectively, they’re the worst of Blanks’ unsavvy ways. Maybe Gentry had to go, but it wasn’t all that pretty in how he did so. Maybe the Suns didn’t want to hire Majerle or Turner, but Blanks wasn’t open and honest with them, according to Coro. And maybe Hunter wasn’t a bad coach, but to put someone so inexperienced in such a poor situation is simply too big a risk.
Trading Goran Dragic for Aaron Brooks: As of now, Dragic and Brooks are on the Suns and Rockets, respectively. Dragic put up stellar numbers toward the end of this year whereas Brooks was relegated to the bench; unless the Rockets were blowing out the Suns, of course. So where did this trade get them? Pretty much nowhere. Though it might’ve been the opportunity for Dragic to grow into a starting point guard out from under Nash’s wings, it doesn’t look good when the move was apparently made for the future – the future being Brooks. Let’s just add that Blanks was there for the Brooks presser and not for the re-signing of Dragic (Sarver and Alvin Gentry pushed for it), as Babby pretty much called on luck being on their side.
The Steve Nash and Grant Hill departures: It’s been no secret both Steve Nash and Grant Hill weren’t treated all that well once the free agent signing period this summer hit. Both would have been open to returns, but how the front office handled their departures rubbed them the wrong way, even if Nash did finally get his trade to the Lakers.
Signing Michael Beasley as a star: You know how this one goes. Again, this hasn’t played out quite yet, and think of the contract value what you want. But playing up Beasley to be a star seemed like a bad move from at least a PR standpoint.
Acquiring Wes Johnson**: For a deal that got a protected first-round pick and Wes Johnson for Robin Lopez and Hakim Warrick, the Suns should be thankful. It saved money and gave Phoenix what turned out to be a young gunner who still has some upside. Whether the Suns let Johnson walk, sign him or eventually get something in return, the trade at the least gave them assets and shed Warrick’s contract.
**Blanks showed up to Wes Johnson’s press conference, so we imagine he had a say in this part of the deal. At the same time, give one of the most complicated trades in recent memory credit to Babby, who admitted it needed a bit of “lawyering” to get done.
Markieff and Marcus Morris: The twins could develop into fine NBA players, but considering all the very good players taken behind them in the 2011 draft, Blanks’ talent evaluation – his strongpoint – has to be questioned. And while the trade to acquire Marcus can’t really be criticized because it’s essentially collecting known players as assets, it doesn’t help that the Morris twins are duplicates and arguably un-tradable without being a package.
Drafting Kendall Marshall: Again, it’s much too early to deem Marshall a bust. While there were some decent choices behind him, the rookie point guard at least has some elite passing skills and basketball smarts. If he can get over his athletic limitations is another thing.