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Phoenix Suns Front Office, From NBA Conference Finals To Lottery Team

Speak no evil, Mr. Sarver and perhaps no trades either.(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Speak no evil, Mr. Sarver and perhaps no trades either.(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Welcome to the Front Office Edition of the 2010-11 Phoenix Suns Player Evaluations. We here at Bright Side of the Sun have assembled a cast of writers to put together alternative views and biased views and amazing views on the players, front office, and head coach. Your favorite and least favorite Suns will no doubt get plenty of attention, and the compliments or criticism they deserve.

It's not easy building a championship team or even a team that finds itself in the NBA Playoffs 19 out of the last 23 years as the Suns have done. It is, apparently, easier to take a team that's two games away from the NBA Finals and make their big May event be the NBA Draft Lottery instead of a must-win playoff game.

The front office of the Phoenix Suns organization (for the purposes of this evaluation) consists of Robert Sarver, Lon Babby and Lance Blanks. But much of what happened between Game 6 of the 2010 Western Conference Finals and the 2011 NBA Draft Lottery falls on the head of Sarver. 

From the time Steve Kerr shockingly announced that he would be leaving the team, there's very few moves the front office made that can be considered successful by the normal definition of the word. Of course, it's easy to say that now with the benefit of hindsight.

At the time they were made, many of us were on board with the decisions. 

Can we blame Sarver and his people for screwing up when we didn't disagree at the time the deals were made? Yes.

Is that fair? No.

But the buck stops with him and the bottom line is the bottom line and the bottom line is the 2011 NBA Draft Lottery.

Here's a refresher on what went down.

Kerr leaves

Just two weeks after giving every indication he would be coming back, it was announced that Steve Kerr would be leaving the organization. There was a lot of back and forth about the reasons (money, Amare, money) and to this date I don't think we have a definitive answer.

What matters is that the team lost a guy who'd taken his lumps on the Shaq deal and Terry Porter hiring but bounced back by assembling a coaching staff and roster that was pretty damn good and was executing on a plan for the future.

Almost a full year ago I wrote about Kerr's departure, "[...]it is a sad day to be a Suns fan. There is nothing positive in my mind that comes from this. Nothing."

With time to reflect back on that statement, I still feel the same way. Nothing good has come from Kerr's departure except his return to TV which surely is an easier job for him and boon for our viewing pleasure.

It's only been one year and Kerr wasn't exactly brilliant in his first year either. It's far too soon to write off Blanks and Babby. This offseason is when they will make their bones.

Amare leaves, the race to replace him follows

July 1, 2010 was a pretty wacky day. Right in the middle of the Amare free agency rumors, the Suns were also negotiating a new deal with Channing Frye and it's the first day we heard Hakim Warrick's name linked to the Suns.

If you want to relive the madness, check out this rumor thread for that fateful day. Fun stuff.

We quickly found out that Amare was going to New York and that the Suns offered him a five year partially guaranteed contract and he took the fully guaranteed money from the KnicksHere's a fun chart Trevor put together that explained the entire Amare saga.

Since that time and having seen just how much the Suns fell back with the loss of Amare, many people (in retrospect) blame Sarver for not paying Amare. At the time however, 71% of you (us) agreed with Robert's decision.

On the same day Amare was leaving, Channing Frye was staying for a five-year, $30m deal. On the next day Hakim Warrick was signed. That didn't turn out so well, but at the time...

my recollection of (Warrick) is of an athletic power forward with a decent mid-range game. Not known as a defender or rebounder, one could imagine a platoon of guys getting minutes on the Suns front line as opposed to one guy who can both score, defend and rebound.

The Suns, wisely, won't try and replace Amare with one guy but will have a group approach and seek a longer term "star" solution down the road. Given the options at power forward in this market, that's the best approach.

Gut reaction, I like the deal. It was decisive and fills a roster need without making a long or large commitment that will limit flexibility to go after better players should those opportunities arise.

There are people who say the Suns should have gone after David Lee as the Amare replacement. Two things to remember. 1) David Lee picked the Warriors because the wanted to play there. 2) David Lee got a six year, $80m deal which IMHO is too much.

If you are keeping score at home (and you are), over the course of about 48 hours the Suns let Amare go, resigned Channing Frye and picked up Hakim Warrick in a deal that cost them a 2nd round draft pick and a 3yr/$12m contract.

Not horrible although you could certainly imagine the Suns being worse without Amare. Still, 76% of you (us) thought the Suns would be a playoff team at this point.

Then the other shoe fell and it came from Toronto...and Greece.

Hedo and Childress, what a mess 

The Suns weren't done with Frye and Warrick. Oh no, they certainly were not...but if only they had been.

I was in my hotel room in Las Vegas after a day of summer league fun when word came down that Leandro Barbosa would be heading north and Hedo Turkoglu was coming south. At the same time, Josh Childress would join the list of wings that was getting mighty long and despite protestations to the contrary, would prove to be problematic.

Again, here's the contemporary record from that fateful night:

Breaking Down Suns Acquisitions Of Hedo Turkoglu And Josh Childress - Bright Side Of The Sun
The Josh Childress deal is fantastic. He's a dynamic player who's been coveted by many teams and at 27 years old is coming into his prime. To get him for only a second round pick is a steal. He provides depth at two positions that both happen to be occupied by guys (Hill and Richardson) who have only one year left on their contracts.

 A + for pulling off this deal.  

Hedo Turkuglo is going to take some more convincing. He's a very unique player, but as stated above, will likely struggle defensively at the power forward and create even more problems on the defensive glass. If he eventually moves back to small forward when Hill retires and the Suns find a better option to start at the four, then that will probably make more sense.

The jury is still out on Childress but on balance it's hard not to view his contract as more liability than asset.

He was in a difficult position this season in part because of the roster situation. The other part, however, was his diminished (or overrated) defensive abilities and his inability to fit in the Suns system that wanted him to be a spot up shooter when his strength is moving without the ball and slashing to the rim. 

Hopefully, the Suns will figure out how to use Josh and get more out of the $6m/yr he's getting paid.

Hedo...well that story has been written a few thousands times over. Asking him to play the four was a mistake. Not giving him the ball enough to maximize his play-making abilities and move Nash off the ball as promised didn't help his attitude either. 

Could Hedo have worked out as a Sun given more time or did his lack of production with the Magic prove that this was one salary that had to be dumped no matter the cost?

We'll never know.

Vinsanity arrives

In the first deal that can be attributed to Lon Babby's regime with no lingering questions about possible behind the scenes involvement on behalf of former clients (Hedo and Josh), Babby quickly pulled the trigger on the trade with Orlando.

The Magic got Jason Richardson and Earl Clark and the right to pay Hedo $39m and the Suns got Vince, Mickael Pietrus and the one true center to save them all, Marcin Gortat.

At the time I didn't like the trade and looking back on my thoughts, I tend to agree with my thenself still:

Phoenix Suns Massive Trade Thoughts, Reaction And Analysis - Bright Side Of The Sun
Personally, my reaction yesterday was not positive, but has softened throughout the day from "HATE IT" to "Skeptical." Mid-season trades rarely work out for the teams involved and I have a hard time believing this deal will make the Suns better this season.

Long-term, the addition of Gortat should be a plus, but it is highly unlikely Vince is part of the team's future plans and Pietrus has a player option for next season, which might well be lost to the lockout anyway.

So in short, it feels like the Suns gave up on Hedo and this season too soon, but didn't go all the way towards rebuilding by moving Nash. Limbo.

I suppose I should soften that a bit and lean a tad more towards this deal helping the Suns by dumping Hedo who likely would have been an albatross around the team's neck for many years to come. It's still hard to praise a team for successfully dumping the salary of a player they traded for just a few months prior.

Side note: Sucks to be Orlando stuck with both Hedo's and Gilbert's contract. Yikes.

Dragic killed it, Brooks not so much

The most recent and final deal of the Babby era was the trade deadline move that sent triple-double machine Goran Dragic to the Rockets along with a first round pick for the right to see Aaron Brooks get suspended for throwing a ball at an official.

Ugh is all I am going to say here and I challenge you to say it better.

Where now brown cow

It is very difficult to assess where this team goes from here. That past 12 months was such a crazy mix of deals and decisions.

Do you blame Lon Babby for working behind the curtain to bring in Hedo or do you praise him for dumping the contract on Otis Smith's Magic? Will Josh Childress turn into the player we all thought he could be or did the fast-acting Robert Sarver jump too fast in his temporary role as GM? What does the Brooks deal tell us about Lance Blanks ability to evaluate talent?

There are far more questions than answers at this point. It seems like Nash and Hill will both be back next season but we already know that there's a limit to how far those two aging warriors can carrier a team. Perhaps Sarver's grand plan of assembling attractive and movable contracts will pay off once the new CBA is in place and the Suns will be able to land a big fish. Or maybe limbo is how we are going to look back on the final years of Steve's career.

It's really only blind faith in Sarver and Babby that can produce optimism. Then again, blind faith is what being a sports fan is all about. Faith on, brothers and sisters. Get your faith on here.

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