USA TODAY Sports
Debating "What If" scenarios are fun, but the whole picture is generally not known when it comes to the misses of a team. Talking about the "one that got away" is not very appealing for teams, but in this case there isn't someone that fits that description for the Suns this year.
Expectations are a funny thing depending on the person. At the beginning of the season a number of people looked at Michael Beasley as a franchise changer on the wing and that he would become an elite scoring punch for an offense that can be punch-less at times.
The difference in those people and the Phoenix Suns basketball operations team is that they knew what Beasley was when they got him.
When the team set out in free-agency to do the job they avoided during the season -- replacing an aging core with a future -- the plan was set to get a go-to scorer and place him firmly between Goran Dragic and Beasley. They went to bat for restricted free-agent Eric Gordon and when that fell through they had to scramble for a Plan B. The problem with going after a player like that is that you are not armed with a bat, but rather a blindfold and a wiffle bat. They had little to no chance in the end.
The team felt Gordon was that guy, but didn't get him. "We tried to solve that in the off-season," said President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby. "And we didn't get it accomplished." Beasley and Dragic were never meant to be cast in that role, but were thrust into it out of need.
Plan B quickly became O.J. Mayo. That deteriorated even quicker.
They brought in the talented guard and had a very productive meeting with him. In the end he left wanting to be here and the team seemed to have a mutual feeling. Instead of signing Mayo he went on to join the Dallas Mavericks.
To a person following the situation from a far that is disheartening, but that is not the whole story.
When the Suns went after Gordon the thought was to team up Dragic, Gordon, and Beasley with Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat to create a formittable five now and in the future out West. Losing out on Gordon was a blow the team did not expect and when Babby evaluated the team with Mayo inserted in for Gordon he didn't like the fit.
The team already had an offersheet out to Dragic and signed Beasley. How would Mayo look with that group? Mayo was not looked at as a go-to scorer long-term for the team.
The timing of it was such that we had the offer sheet out to Goran and we pursued Beasley at the same time and the goal was to get both of them. When we didn't get Eric we began to look at other alternatives at the two-guard position. We had a meeting with Mayo and I just didn't think it was the right fit for us or for him and so he went on to Dallas. It wasn't really a question about his talents it was really just a question about the fit, and the fit with what we had already done at that point.
In terms of logic that makes a lot of sense. Mayo and Beasley both have a history of immaturity so adding them to the same roster could have been a combustible situation.
Predicting Mayo would explode like this for a team that has hovered around .500 all season would have been far-fetched. In hindsight the Dallas made the right call through 22 games and Phoenix didn't, but that is not how the team feels.
"I don't second guess myself about anything." Lon Babby said candidly. "There is no point to it other than to review the process and how it came about."
As an executive you have to have a short memory of things, but also see the big picture. These 22 games have been rough, but the team is not trying to just add individuals, they are trying to build a team.
When the verdict comes out in three years on whether the 18 million spent was right, wrong, or a push Babby will be standing there with the sword ready to fall on it for the mistake, but until then he stands firmly behind his decisions to date.
If our experiment or efforts with Michael don't pay off then the criticism should come my way. You make decisions and you live with the decisions; most of the time we make good decisions, but we won't get them all right. I am not prepared to say we haven't gotten that one right yet.
This is a results business at the end of the day and in sports the clock moves a lot faster than in real life, like dog years, in only 22 games the world feels like they have the ammo to call the move a failure. In a vacuum it has been, but the team is being urgently patient with the process and will let it play out, trusting their decisions as they should.
Right now Mayo and the Mavericks are getting results while Beasley and the Suns are currently shuffling the chairs on what appears to be on a sinking ship.