Nothing Lon Babby and Lance Blanks could do would make losing Steve Nash any less painful for the Phoenix Suns and their fans. Nash had been the beloved face of the franchise for the better part of a decade and there would be backlash. But once the 2011-2012 season ended, everyone knew Nash would not be back. Everyone.
So yeah, now that we all understand that, let's take a (sort of) objective step back and applaud Babby and Blanks for stemming the bleeding of a potentially fatal wound.
The duo's aggression this offeason was unexpected. The Suns fanbase has been jaded over years of front office missteps, particularly given the last time a franchise cornerstone left. When Amare Stoudemire departed a couple years back, the Sarver-led, GM-less brass moved swiftly to fill the sudden talent vacuum with ... Hakim Warrick, Josh Childress, and Hedo Turkoglu. With Nash gone, there was fear that cap space would be wasted once again. But then it wasn't.
In the absence of Steve Nash, the front office snapped up mercurial but talented Michael Beasley and prodigal sun Goran Dragic, and signed star-in-the-making Eric Gordon to an offer sheet. The overtures for Gordon were the most surprising. He was widely considered to be this free agency's second-best catch, behind Deron Williams. Of course the Suns needed to go for him; they had to show some effort to their fans, no matter how feeble. But then a funny thing happened: their red carpet presentation won him over. A top-notch free agent wanted to sign in Phoenix. Gordon even went so far as to make a public spectacle of his desire to play in Phoenix, saying it was where his heart belonged. That doesn't matter, of course; the New Orleans Hornets are likely to match and steal him back. But that's beside the point.
Not everyone was happy signing Beasley, but ever since Amare's days on the trading block, I've felt that Beasley would be a great fit for the Suns. He's an immensely talented scorer who, while marred by immaturity, seemed a good guy who had perhaps lost his way. The Suns had/have a rock-solid locker room and need a go-to scorer. They have a good chance to keep Beasley's head on straight. He was snatched up on a reasonable contract. No much risk, but plenty chance for reward.
Everyone probably realizes now that the Goran Dragic/Aaron Brooks trade was a mistake. But, it ultimately led to the Dragon taking a step forward in his development. He excelled as a starter in Houston. While the Suns had soured on the idea of Goran as heir-apparent to Nash, they learned from their mistake and aggressively lured him back home to the team that drafted him. Again, on a reasonable deal. Two free agent signings, two well-constructed deals. Hmm.
And now back to Gordon. Ok, it's very unlikely he will ever be a Phoenix Sun. But the effort to sign him was appreciated and has been missing since a Suns entourage swept in to court Steve Nash so many years ago. Word on the street is that the Suns will pursue O.J. Mayo with fervor once New Orleans decides to keep Gordon. Mayo fits a Suns need perfectly, perhaps even better than Gordon (though with less swagger and proven production).
Mayo is arguably the best free agent left on the market, and he's been suspiciously quiet. Some have speculated that it's because he's been waiting in the wings for the Suns to move past Gordon, knowing the match is ideal. Phoenix has some money to burn and Mayo's got some serious talent to offer a team starving for it. Should Mayo and Phoenix decide to make things work, it could be another solid "get," depending on the contract.
In the course of an offseason, the Phoenix Suns have shed age (Steve Nash, maybe Grant Hill), mediocrity (Ronnie Price, Aaron Brooks), and a bad contract (Josh Childress, likely amnestied) and potentially picked up some serious young upside. Of course, the bad part of upside is the excess of potential and the lack of production. It could be a hot mess on the court. It could be an awesome ride. A potential starting five of Dragic, Mayo, Beasley, Markieff Morris, and Marcin Gortat could be a lot of fun to watch. Certainly better than watching the Suns hand the keys to rookie Kendall Marshall, passing to Shannon Brown and his questionable shot selection.
The Suns aren't instant playoff contenders, but Lon Babby and Lance Blanks have done a remarkable job reloading the team in a short timeframe and giving the fanbase some sort of hope for the future. Hope can be an effective substitute for results, particularly when facing the certain doom left in the wake of a parting superstar. Hell, Babby-Blanks even managed to turn a potential void into four not-great-but-still-better-than-nothing draft picks. Suns fans can cling to the remote fantasy that the 2015 first round pick could pan out, given that Kobe Bryant, Nash, and Pau Gasol could all be on the verge of retirement by then.
So, credit where credit's due. The Suns have been critically panned for their moves so far, and I'm not sure why. This is a team that could have lost Nash for nothing and wasted its cap space on the likes of Jamal Crawford, Ray Allen, Jordan Hill, etc., continually hoping it could lure or trade for a superstar that never materialized in the course of perpetual also-ran recruiting efforts. But, they had a plan -- and a reasonable one at that -- and they went after it, putting forth necessary effort and appropriate cash. It's sort of refreshing for this franchise.