What the Aaron Brooks trade means for the future of Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns point guard spot


[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWZVGjlnnlc&fs=1&hl=en_US]

PHOENIX — As much as Phoenix Suns fans don’t want to believe it, there will come a day without Steve Nash.

It may occur next season with an offseason trade, it may be the year after when his contract expires or it may not happen for another two or three years after that if he really does retire a Sun.

Utah GM Kevin O’Connor recently told Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby that his franchise needs to “savor” every moment it has left with Nash, and GM Lance Blanks called Nash a talent that only come around “once in a half or full generation.”

Yet on a day when the Suns shuffled out one Nash caddy (Goran Dragic) for another (Aaron Brooks), Phoenix’s most recent trade feels like a prelude to a Nash deal as much as Babby and Blanks danced around questions of Brooks as Two Time’s heir apparent.

Not that I blame them, of course they have to say that in this situation, but it seems clear Babby/Blanks is more comfortable rolling with Aaron Brooks as the point guard of the future than a struggling Goran Dragic.

Blanks feels this is a situation where both Brooks and Dragic needed a fresh start, but really the Suns felt they needed a fresh point guard of the future.

Brooks has been so frustrated with his backup point guard role this season that he recently earned a one-game suspension for walking off the court early in a win over Memphis.

Babby spoke highly of Brooks’ character and suggested that one incident in which he slipped on a banana peel does not color who he is.

That’s well and fine and I truly believe Brooks is a stand-up guy, but the reason he was so frustrated this year is because he’s not starting, which he won’t be in Phoenix as long as No. 13 is around, although he intimated to The Houston Chronicle that backing up Nash will sit better with him than playing behind Kyle Lowry.

“I’ll wait in line,” Brooks said. “That dude is a legend, MVP and a Hall of Famer. I’m ready to go be behind him and learn from him, just come in and help the team. It offers me a fresh start. I’m ready to go. I had some good years in Houston. Time to move on.”

Dragic idolized Nash to the extent I doubt he would have had a problem backing him up for another year after this one. He was “shocked” by the trade, according to Paul Coro, and truly loved learning from the master.

I expect Brooks to maintain that attitude the rest of this season, but this summer he wants to be paid as a restricted free agent and he wants an opportunity to play significant minutes. Brooks will only get that in Phoenix if Nash is shipped off to a contender elsewhere.

The next question to ask is whether it makes sense for Brooks to be the point guard of the future.

Whereas Dragic was a Nash clone (a seriously less talented clone, but someone who emulated his style nonetheless), Brooks is his own player altogether.

Assist ratio calculates what percentage of a player’s possessions ends in an assist. Last season when Brooks won the Most Improved Player award Nash ranked third among point guards and Brooks 59th, just ahead of some noted distributors like Daniel Gibson, Eddie House and Shannon Brown.

Brooks is one of the most gifted scoring guards in the league who can be unguardable in pick-and-roll situations at times and cam bring a team back from a large deficit in a matter of minutes. He thrives in the up-tempo style the Suns play, and last season he made and attempted more three-pointers than any player in the league, knocking them down at a 40 percent clip.

He’s lightning in a 6-foot frame, but I’d be hesitant to give the keys to my basketball team to him.

Purely for this season I love this move. Brooks should invigorate the second unit and help them play at that helter-skelter pace they played so well in last season.

At times the bench has struggled to score because it lacks that one go-to scorer it had last year in Leandro Barbosa, and Brooks will now take over that role. Double-digit scoring quarters could become the norm for Brooks, and I expect him to do much better than the 16 points Dragic lost every 100 possessions, which gave him an adjusted +/- of -12.04.

In our midseason predictions, I wrote that Dragic was the Sun that most needed to step up, and now the Suns will get that added production in the form of Brooks, a player Phoenix didn’t expect would become available in such a deal.

However, Brooks is suffering through a miserable year. His true shooting percentage of .465 ranks fifth worst among point guards (Nash leads in this department at .636), and his PER is down from 16.04 a year ago to 11.86. For those that prefer conventional stats he’s shooting 34.6 percent from the field and 28.4 percent from three after hitting 43.2 percent from the field and 39.8 percent from three last year when he averaged almost 20 a game.

He’s near the bottom of the Rockets in adjusted +/- (-7.20) after putting up a -0.28 last season (he’s far from a good defender), and he’s second to last in the entire league in Wins Produced at -2.2 wins and a -0.129 WP48 during his terribly inefficient 2010-11 after producing a below average 2.4 wins on a 0.040 WP48 during his breakout season last year.

Of course Dork Elvis Daryl Morey is aware of all those numbers and probably plenty more advanced stats that are proprietary to the Rockets. When Blanks says, “We are ecstatic to have someone of Aaron’s talents come to a situation like this,” and he’s dealing with Morey, I’m certainly a bit quizzical.

Of course style and fit matter so much in this league, and just like the Suns plucked a gem from Orlando in Marcin Gortat the way his talents fit the situation, they may have just acquired the ideal backup point guard to Steve Nash in that he is so different and can be a devastatingly effect of chance of pace gunslinger.

With Brooks and Dragic so similar in age we won’t be able to truly evaluate this deal until both guys are running their own teams, but the Suns are taking a major risk as The Dragon could certainly harness the talent he has so often flashed in his two-plus seasons in Phoenix and become an excellent NBA player.

Brooks should spark the Suns’ second unit in a way Dragic didn’t, and today I feel the Suns are closer to the playoffs than they were before the final minutes leading up to Thursday’s trade deadline.

But this deal wasn’t about whatever minimal improvement Brooks should provide this season, it’s about whether the Suns just found a successor to Nash they feel comfortable handing over the keys to.

“I think it provides an opportunity now for us to get better and hopefully in the future as well,” Babby said.

If Babby/Blanks had soured on The Dragon and saw this as an opportunity to pounce on a talented player suffering through an awful year, I understand pulling the trigger.

But as great of a fit as I feel Brooks will be as the bench’s new go-to scorer, I question whether he’s the kind of distributor that should be next in line to the Phoenix point guard throne.

Tags: Aaron Brooks Goran Dragic Steve Nash

  • Phil

    I hate this trade – its kind of understandable for this year, highly questionable for the future. Brooks can score, but only by dominating the ball (he is a career 41% shooter and last years 43% is his best ever) and he can’t run an offense (again, never bettered last years 5 assists a game).

    Dragic has regressed too, but the decision to throw in a 1st rounder is baffling. If they are thinking about a post Nash world, why trade a pick?

    I know the pick ios lottery protected this year, but can someone clarify if this means we could be giving up a lottery pick in 2012? If so, this move is ridiculous

  • Phil

    Just read the pick becomes the Orlando pick if the Suns don’t make the playoffs. Still hate the trade though!

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  • Taylor

    Everyone in my family and my friends jumped the band wagon when amare left. I didn’t but I think it’s time for me to stop pulling the wagon by myself. This trade sucks!

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    None of you hate this trade more than me! I hope you will hold me down as you read my rant in the actual trade article!

    At least Vince Carter is happy right now! All the sniper scopes that were on him have quickly shifted to Brooks and people fill FIRE IMMEDIATELY if he doesn’t bang out 16PPG off the bench!

  • Jon

    Whoa there, did that Suns front office guy just say brooks was “very good out of pick and roll”?

    Worst starting point guard at running the pick and roll last season according to Synergy.

    Also Adelman tried having Brooks run the pick and roll but he couldn’t. They eventually let him iso, which was what he was comfortable with, is successful with.

    Over-dribbles and his turnovers can be hands in face moments but overall they’re minor blemishes.

    That said I think the Suns are tailor made for Brooks where he can drive and kick out to their shooters all day. He likes his transistion three attempts too.

  • Andy

    The FO doesn’t view Brooks as our PG of the future; they just think he’s a better option than Dragic, especially for the remainder of this year.

  • Phil

    @Andy – in which case, why give up a first rounder for a minor upgrade at best to your bench. Straight up, I am lukewarm on this deal, with a first thrown in I hate it.

    If the Suns wanted to make a move for this season it had to be for a 4 – I wouldn’t have minded giving up a 1 for Paul Millsap, but a low efficiency, non defending PG makes no sense when you are giving away future assets as well

  • Phil

    LOL Rich – just read your post. Think you need to get off the fence as I’m not sure if you like the trade or not??

  • Kenton

    What does this mean for Zabian (did I spell his name right?) I know he hasn’t played as much in the two games that Dragic played since he heeled (spelling intended), but I liked what I saw and want more. Is he really just third fiddle to Nash and now Brooks?

  • Jason

    “I wouldn’t classify the trade as upgrade.” -Blanks

    I watched the video and my jaw dropped when he said that. I was surprised at how unimpressed I was with Blanks. I hope he’s better behind closed doors because he comes across poorly at a press conference.

    I guess I like the trade and I’m prepared to give it a chance, but I have real concerns. Brooks better come in here with a clear head and a BURNING desire to excel here.

  • http://www.valleyofthesuns.com Michael Schwartz

    Yeah, that was one quote I just couldn’t find a place to fit in, largely because you’ve got to believe he didn’t mean it (unless he actually was against the deal), Why do you give up a pick to get a guy who isn’t an upgrade and will be paid more next season? Sadly he may indeed be right on in that statement, but let’s hope he didn’t mean it like that.

  • JD

    Jason, I noticed that comment by Blanks too. If Blanks believes it is not an upgrade, then why include the pick? It’s the old, “you give me a $20 and I’ll give you two $5s” trick and Blanks fell for it.

    When Blanks talks about the short-term benefits, I guess that means he doesn’t value the long term implications. That is not a good thing for the GM of the 10th seeded team that is coming off of a WCF appearance just last season.

    The key is that Morey/Rockets came calling to the Suns, not the other way around. There truly is a sucker born every minute. However, I hope I am proven wrong and Brooks succeeds as a Sun.

  • Jason

    Another thought I just had: how good would Brooks be as a PG with Hedo as a starting SF? Probably a great fit. Hey Orlando…

  • Jim

    Can you believe they pulled off this trade 5 min before the deadline? That means Morey was able to call with a lopsided deal (Hollinger gave Rockets A- and Suns C-) and trick this two-head FO nightmare into making it. It must be well-known that this front office can be fleeced whenever an overrated player is dangled in front of it.

    I was ok with the Orlando trade because it dumped Hedo, secured Gortat, and added a second first round pick. Now, they’ve surrendered that pick and obtained a PG that had a lower WP48 than Dragic this year and a well below average one last year in his “breakout” year.

    Lance Blanks went to high school in Houston, so I’m sure he was trying to throw his hometown a bone even if I can’t prove it.

    Plus/minus is such a horrible stat for individuals. It’s completely dependent on the teammates you have on the floor with you. Dudley and Gortat have very poor +/- with second units, but each plays significantly better with the starters.

    “Wages of Wins” by David Berri lays all of this out very accurately.

  • Steve

    These guys are full. of. it.

    I said it in the other thread, but I’ll say it here too. If there is no “bigger picture” that none of us could possibly foresee at this point, then I simply can’t begin to understand this move. I have trouble believing that two people this high up in the basketball world could be so boneheaded, so I’m assuming there has to be something there that we aren’t seeing.

    If you look at this trade by the numbers, we lost big time. What else is there to this?

  • Lloyd

    If the Suns can make the playoffs, this deal will work out better for this year. (Also, the added size up front, will be very helpful.)

    Next year, and the years to come; there will probably be a huge makeover of the entire roster. It will be interesting to see how G.M. Blanks puts it all together.

  • Evan

    The only thing about this trade that i hate is the fact that the suns gave up a 1st round draft pick, the fact is that Brooks is better than Dragic, heck Dowdell seams to be exactly the same as Dragic so we are not missing much, as much as i liked seeing Dragic go off against the spurs last year, he is too inconsistent. I wonder if the Rockets announcers will talk about his lack of confidence all the time the way the suns did, any guy who is always worrying about his confidence is a bit@h, plain and simple, and is not someone you wont on your team.

  • Fred Groenke

    Smacks of the Kurt Thomas deal. Sounds like the owner can’t afford two 1st round picks and he can dump Brooks at the end of the year and save 2 million on his contract. Is it possible that we have an owner who could only afford to buy an NBA team
    and not afford to run one??? Sounds like Sterling has moved to Arizona.

  • king fahd

    This is a good trade in an anyway you look at it. We got a go-to scorer, who can control the offense for the bench. Dragic was very inconsistent this year, and Barbosa’s presence was being missed as well. Brooks makes up for that in both forms. As for Brooks not being the potential successor to Nash, due to style of play, please remember that critics thought the same for Nash when he was backing up KJ and Kidd. But look now..

    Also, I hope the Suns can grab Rip Hamilton and a quality PF from this waiver deadline, in order to make a strong playoff push.

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