Originally written July 25, 2012 on WeAreSuns:
Names like Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley and Wesley Johnson weren’t going to grab the majority of the headlines. Not with “Steve Nash is a Laker” demanding all the attention. Take a closer look from the Suns’ point of view, however, and you’ll find something nearly as shocking as L.A.’s new No. 10. Phoenix’s management is playing it smart in the offseason. Gone is the big-name, worse-contract spending frenzy. Instead Suns brass is nipping here, tucking there, and ultimately doing what they said they wanted to do in the first place: staying competitive while remaining financially flexible. Wednesday’s word of the three-way trade to send Robin Lopez and Hakim Warrick to New Orleans — and getting Wesley Johnson and a first-round pick in return — was yet another feather in Lon Babby’s cap. The pending trade rids Phoenix of what seemed to permeate the roster over the last four years: bloated contracts for role players. Outside of layup lines, Hakim Warrick was never going to see the court this season. Not behind a rotation including amnesty robbery Luis Scola, second-year prospect Markieff Morris and Channing Frye. Babby knew this, especially after the acquisition of Scola. He also came to realize what every contender already knows. You don’t pay through the nose for role players. Hence the departure of Lopez, a backup-quality center who wanted starter’s money. As mentioned earlier on WeAreSuns, other teams have been quick to bid adieu to bench/role players, knowing they are easily had and even more easily paid. If Phoenix truly needs a simple “rim protector,” it shouldn’t be hard to find one on the cheap. And as for the returns, it’s apparent Phoenix is stockpiling — nay, hoarding — draft picks. The strategy goes hand-in-hand with the kind of players the Suns have pursued this offseason. Young. Unproven. Intriguing. Most importantly, cheap. Nothing piques other teams’ interest quite like those assets. Make no mistake, the Suns will need those assets if they want to land the true superstar they will eventually need. Dragic can be a borderline All-Star. He proved it last season. Beasley can do likewise if he plays like it’s 2010-11. But it’s hard to picture anyone on the current roster becoming an unquestioned alpha dog. Without one of those, all of the Suns’ nice pieces will be just that. Babby swung for one in Eric Gordon and missed, the only downer in an otherwise encouraging offseason. It’s a shame, because Gordon would have changed the tone of the last two weeks from mildly intriguing/encouraging to downright exciting. Plan B was O.J. Mayo, a less-talented option who wanted more money than he was worth. Breaking all tradition, Phoenix passed. Instead, the Suns will wait until next summer…or until they can directly benefit in a trade. Ironically, Phoenix is well positioned to play the part that seemingly every other team played on the Suns in years past. You have to applaud Babby if he continues to be smart until that moment comes. Matt Petersen can be reached at wearesunsblog@gmail.com. You can follow WeAreSuns on Twitter at @WeAreSuns.
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