Suns’ resurrection comes with major overhaul
by Paul Coro, USA TODAY Sports
There is not a professional sports organization without its issues, but an internal and external feeling that the club is headed in the wrong direction can be devastating.
The Phoenix Suns restored a sense of the right direction in recent months, starting with the hiring of General Manager Ryan McDonough in April.
No move inspired confidence in the new Suns front-office model (the intended look of the previous front office) more than the trade for Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler to start July.
Suns President Lon Babby, assistant general manager Trevor Bukstein and director of player personnel John Treloar had been aboard in recent years, but their intended roles all wound up blurred — and expanded — because of the shortcomings of the previous general manager, Lance Blanks.
This time around, a deal came together, with every front-office vehicle in its proper lane.
Bukstein and McDonough’s new assistant GM hire, Pat Connelly, work on presenting trade and free-agency options in a “marketplace of ideas” constantly. But when Chris Paul committed to re-signing with the Clippers on the morning of July 1, their wheels started spinning faster than a drill bit.
The Suns had pursued ways to acquire Bledsoe for the past year, as had McDonough in his previous job with Boston. What made this scenario different was Bukstein included the Clippers’ desire to sign J.J. Redick for more than they could offer independently while preserving their mid-level exception.
The Suns and Clippers each sent a second-round pick to Milwaukee, which was happy to receive picks rather than watch Redick walk for nothing. The Clippers landed the much-needed shooting of Redick and retain the mid-level exception, which they later used to sign Matt Barnes and Darren Collison. The Suns hit their target, Bledsoe, and added Butler.
In the deal’s infancy, Babby evaluated the salary-cap impact, and McDonough, Connelly and Treloar worked on player evaluation before the idea turned to talks.
Simultaneously, McDonough called his former Celtics colleague, Clippers executive and coach Doc Rivers, and Babby called Arn Tellem, Redick’s agent, with the proposal. Tellem said he was five minutes away from closing a deal for Redick with another team.