Jared Dudley was the only player drafted out of the top ten of the 2007 NBA draft class to get a contract extension and the five-year deal certainly raised some eyebrows around the league from those who feel it's a mistake to sign a role player to such a long deal. Many teams were also looking at an uncertain future with the current CBA set to expire and decided to hold tight with players like Houston Rockets starting point guard Aaron Brooks, who was not extended.
But the Phoenix Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby took a different approach when faced with the decision, his first major negotiation since taking over in July, and gambled in the other direction. Babby explained his thinking on how Dudley's contract might impact the team's financial flexibility under the new CBA.
"All of that is unknown and that's what made this puzzle so hard to solve. We'll find out whether we solved it or not," Babby said.
"You just make judgments based on what you think might happen and the quality of the people you're talking about and try and keep an eye on the long-term implications of what you're doing, but you're really dealing in the unknown, so you have to use your best judgment and hope you're right."
Dudley now joins Suns players Channing Frye, Josh Childress, Hakim Warrick and Hedo Turkoglu, who also have long-term, mid-level type deals on the Suns roster. Phoenix also has a decision to make regarding Jason Richardson, whose contract expires on July 1st, and, in another year, will be faced with extending 2008 draft class members Goran Dragic and Robin Lopez.
As we suggested earlier, adding these types of players seems to be consistent with Managing Partner Robert Sarver's vision for building the team. This summer, he outlined a vision of a roster with "good contracts at reasonable prices" that gives the team flexibility to go after a free agent superstar should one become available, but also leaves the Suns competitive in the mean time. It's Sarver's alternative to the "blow it up" approach that other teams like the Detroit Pistons took when their window as a title contender closed.
Babby, however, was not interested in talking about Dudley's contract as an asset for future moves the team might or might not make.
"It would be disrespectful to him to suggest either in the negotiations, or in our own thinking, or even now, that the reason we do a deal like this is because we want to have the ability to move him. If we wanted to have the ability to move him, we wouldn't have signed him in the first place. We signed him to be a part of this franchise," Babby replied before also leaving that door just a bit ajar.
"That's not to say circumstances aren't going to change, of course. You never know."
Asked specifically about a common theme in signing similar players to similar deals, Babby again deflected.
"You're giving us more credit than we deserve. I don't know that we have a theme. We just try and make good decisions everyday, (and) figure out how to get better and do things that in the long term and short term are in the best interest of the franchise. Time will tell how many of those we get right and how many we get wrong. But if I had a brilliant, long-term plan, I wouldn't share it with you anyway."
Jared Dudley was excited about his deal. He's a happy man today after coming to agreement with the Phoenix Suns.
The deal itself came right down to the wire, with Jared speeding in to the Suns offices from his home to get the deal signed in time to meet the league's deadline. Jared said he signed the agreement at 8:52 p.m., leaving just eight minutes to spare.
The Suns forward was excited about the process, saying he hadn't eaten last night and didn't get much sleep. He was grateful to the Suns and his coach, Alvin Gentry, for giving him the opportunity to play and vowed that he would continue to work on improving his skills.
"It's just the beginning. This deal's a long time, but I can still get better. I just turned 25. I know, kind of get a sense of how to play in this league -- offensively, defensively, knowing the refs, knowing players' tendencies -- and you're going to see the growth of me these next three or four years," Dudley said.
While signing the deal, he said he was thinking back to his first practice as a high school freshman when he had to run 10 laps and got lapped three times and came in last place.
"Everybody was watching me as I did three laps and I was thinking, 'Yo, is this basketball thing for me.' When I was signing my deal, that's what I was thinking. Obviously, it's for me."
As recently as this weekend, the Suns were offering a two- or three-year deal, but Jared insisted he wanted something longer term and wasn't optimistic about the chances of deal getting down. After practice yesterday, however, the offer was closer to what he was looking for and he began to think it might happen.
"It was very hard to find the right deal. It was never a question at all about whether we wanted him (Dudley) here. It was just a question of whether we could figure out the uncertainties given the labor situation," Lon Babby said about the extension.
"The challenge of the negotiation had nothing to do with the value of Jared as a player or as a person. That was a given. The challenge was trying to figure out how we can maintain the flexibility under a system where we don't know what the rules are going to be."
Jared said he would consider buying a home and would make sure to take care of his mother and save money for his daughter. Mostly, Jared just seemed to want to make sure his fans knew that the long-term contract wouldn't change what made him successful, despite not being gifted with top-flight physical skills.
"For me, it's easy. For me, it's hard work and effort. For me, it's who I've been my whole life, so it's not going to stop here. It's not going to stop when I turn 29, 30, 31. It's how I was raised. It's how I've been playing this game -- smart with a lot of energy. If I don't play hard, I won't be successful in this league, because that's one thing I have an advantage on some players. I don't have too much other advantage.
"I haven't arrived. It's a nice payout, but I see me becoming a better basketball player these next four or five years of this contract."