The Phoenix Suns drafted point guard Goran Dragic to replace the legendary Steve Nash. At first, he showed signs of inconsistency, but he did show signs of star potential, such as when he scored 26 points in Game 2 of the 2010 Western Conference Semifinals against the San Antonio Spurs.
Phoenix was forced to rebuild after seeing many contributors from their 2010 Western Conference Finals team leave. Steve Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire, Louis Amundson, Robin Lopez and Jason Richardson all eventually left either by free agency or a trade.
The Suns ended up trading Dragic to the Houston Rockets, then after having a solid year-and-a-half with Houston, he re-signed with the Suns as a free agent to replace Nash.
Dragic, playing with a revamped roster and a new coach in Jeff Hornacek, elevated his status as a leader. He was a solid contributer and shot over 50 percent from the floor for the first times this year and last year.
In the first season with Hornacek and Dragic last season, Phoenix almost made the playoffs. The collapse down the stretch was partly due to injury problems with Dragic.
During this offseason, Phoenix re-signed young point guard Eric Bledsoe to a max deal and acquired another young point guard from the Sacramento Kings in Isaiah Thomas. Phoenix was experimenting with a three-guard lineup.
The Suns were rolling in the late part of December and January before the All-Star break and Dragic was playing fantastic ball.
In the long run the moves to bring in Bledsoe and Thomas hurt the team chemistry. Dragic was known as the leader of the Suns, but Bledsoe and Thomas played more minutes and demanded to have the ball more. Thomas was backing up Dragic, while Bledsoe moved to shooting guard.
Poor team chemistry and discomfort with the game plan caused Goran to inform the Suns he would not be re-signing. The revelations sparked a serious of trade deadline moves designed to rebuild the Suns for a playoff run.
The trade of Dragic to the Miami Heat, and Thomas to the Boston Celtics have hurt the Suns more than it helped them.
The max deal for Bledsoe showed that the Suns wanted to satisfy the demands from a young, selfish superstar, rather than initially committing to an unselfish leader who has earned teammates respect and elevated his game to a high-performing level.
Bledsoe would rather become a point guard and have the ball in his hands rather than playing a position that fits his game like shooting guard. As a point guard, Dragic is a crafty distributor who could have freed up space for Bledsoe playing the two spot.
Instead playing the point guard position has proven to be a massive struggle for Bledsoe, who has a huge urge to dribble and play iso-ball. The end result is a mediocre career assist-turnover ratio of 1.7.
In contrast, Dragic has an assist-turnover ratio of 2.14 for his career, which means that Dragic plays the point guard position right, which is being a distributor first than playing iso-ball, which works for Bledsoe if he’s a shooting guard.
This is another horrible trade gone wrong for Phoenix, who under the ownership of Robert Sarver, is known for being cheap, as described by ESPN’s Bill Simmons, which included trading draft picks Rajon Rondo & Luol Deng for cash, and not re-signing Joe Johnson.
Most likely, under Sarver, a banker who does run his professional sport franchise like a tight ship, used the Dragic trade as leverage that he doesn’t have value since Phoenix traded him initially in the first place.
What was even worse was that he alienated the best player in the franchise by coddling to the needs of a young superstar who has not earned the respect that Dragic has earned from his teammates.
Bledsoe still is shooting below 50 percent from the floor, and still needs development as a point guard. Dragic, on the other hand, is a better distributor and has good shot selection, which is why he’s shooting over 50 percent this year.
While the Suns did stockpile on draft picks and acquired Brandon Knight from the Milwaukee Bucks, ultimately the leadership of Dragic will be missed and the chemistry will falter without the leader of the team.
Knight is very talented, but is still developing in his fourth season, shooting 43.5 percent from the field this year, with a lifetime shooting percent of 41.9 percent.
The Suns will use a combo lineup featuring either Bledsoe or Knight as the point guard on the floor at all times.
While Markieff Morris has elevated his game and improved every season, he still is unproven as a leader, even though I notice a lot of fire in the guy. Knight is far from a finished product while Bledsoe has to prove that he can be a solid distributor, along with being solid at creating scoring attempts for himself.
This Suns fan right here is so fed up with management under Sarver for making the worst moves at the worst times, which included trading for Dragic but ending up re-signing him, not re-signing Johnson and Stoudemire, and trading draft picks for cash at the prime of a championship run under former coach Mike D’Antoni.
While the Nash trade did pay off for Phoenix, the draft picks and the point guard of the future Dragic were acquired, but ultimately, Phoenix gave up that point guard of the future to settle for an unproven point guard with chemistry issues and another guard.
What is even terrible is that the Suns traded Dragic initially to Houston and held it against him, because they felt that since he was dealt, that meant his value decreased, even though he showed that he is one of the top half starting point guards out West.
For fed up Suns fans like myself, it is time to demand Sarver to sell the team, since apparently he runs the Suns conservatively like a bank, and commits about 80 percent of his time to his banking corporation.
Phoenix fans like myself yearn for the days of Jerry Colangelo as owner and want the Suns to reward their players, similarly like the Arizona Cardinals did to face-of-the-franchise Larry Fitzgerald.
Instead, the Suns have called out and disrespected the leader of the franchise, even though he has been playing his best ball and was helping the Suns in the playoff chase for the eighth seed. Instead, Phoenix will linger with chemistry issues and second thoughts on this trade down the road.