Suns Create Alluring Home for Free Agents

The Suns literally rolled out the orange carpet for Dragic.
(Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)
By Stefan Swiat, Suns.com
Posted: August 1, 2012

This offseason was a critical one for the Suns’ front office.

Having the first opportunity to put its permanent imprint on the organization has proved to be trying, but a challenge its been awaiting.

In its first summer together, the Suns front office became fully staffed after most NBA business had concluded, which was then followed by a summer interrupted by the lockout.

Sensing that the moment had officially arrived this offseason, Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby said that he wanted his front office to be able to answer a series of questions about the way it conducted business.

In his first “normal” offseason as president of basketball ops, Babby wanted to prove that Phoenix was a highly-desirable place for free agents, which he believes his regime answered emphatically.

“Specifically, the one thing that has come out of this month of free agency is the tremendous enthusiasm of these players that we’re bringing in here to be here,” Babby noted.

Beginning with Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley and Eric Gordon, the Suns extended offers to all three of those players, receiving commitments from all three of their top prospects.

Unfortunately, because Gordon was a restricted free agent, the Hornets were able to match the Suns and retain his services.

Landing the other two free agents, however, tipped off a complete makeover process from where the team was a year ago.

Leaving the “Steve Nash Era” behind, the Suns have re-channeled their efforts into getting younger and more athletic.

Shortly after those moves, the Suns added P.J. Tucker and Wesley Johnson to the mix of new faces in the Valley, while re-signing Shannon Brown along the way.

“Having talked about it extensively,” Suns GM Lance Blanks said, “we wanted to get younger and we wanted to acquire talented players that can move us into the next era, and these guys fit right into the center into that.”

In addition to these signings, the Suns have also managed to remain financially flexible and acquire more draft picks.

The next two drafts will yield a minimum of six draft picks, but could include more depending on protections surrounding other picks.

While the future benefit of draft picks coming to the Valley has pleased the Suns front office personnel, the present willingness of free agents to want to come to Phoenix has them ecstatic.

Throughout the free agency process, the Suns front office has given examples of this elation shown by the players they’ve recruited. For example, Dragic was visibly touched by the Suns employees that greeted him upon his visit at US Airways Center.

Gordon was moved by the LEDs in and around the arena that welcomed him on a rolled out “orange carpet.” Although the matched offer by the Hornets caused him to return to New Orleans, he was quoted as saying, “My heart is in Phoenix.”

Beasley was incredibly impressed that he was texted by the Suns front office a minute after free agency opened. He was even more impressed that he had a meeting with the Suns scheduled the first possible morning of free agency.

From the minute the season ended, Brown lobbied the Suns to re-sign him, citing how much he wanted to be a part of the organization’s future. Meanwhile, Johnson has already traded his parka for a swimsuit and is elated about being in Phoenix.

“With Goran returning, Beasley coming here without looking anywhere else, Wes Johnson being almost speechless on the phone this morning and with Shannon Brown making a personal plea by coming upstairs to talk to us about how much he wanted to be back here,” Babby said. “(We believe) that is very significant to us and very, very gratifying. It really gives us confidence that we’re on the right track in terms of building a program and a culture here that’s going to be player-friendly.”

His GM couldn’t agree more.

“We believe with the environment that we are creating here,” Blanks said. “With the history of the organization and all of the wonderful things that we believe we have to offer, we’ll be able to help catapult guys’ careers to the next level.”

With this injection of youth and athleticism to the roster, Blanks has invested his time into creating a player development program to help improve the talent the organization already has in-house. But the key was first getting them in-house, a challenge that he and Babby and have felt they’ve met this offseason.

“If you’ve got people kicking and screaming you know you have a problem,” Babby said of attracting players to a destination. “But these are people that are rushing to the door to be let in.”

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