The Phoenix Suns gave up on Goran Dragic too soon


All the Suns had to do was wait, and Dragic would have developed into a nice heir to Steve Nash.

Few NBA teams struggle developing young talent more than the Phoenix Suns.

Aside from Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion, not many players come to Phoenix as a rookie and grow into an All-Star.

It’s not that the Suns don’t find the right talent, but when they do draft that diamond in the rough, they sell him off before he comes into his own as a pro.

Goran Dragic is Phoenix’s latest botched project.

There’s no question Dragic was regressing in his third season after exploding in last year’s playoffs.

But this is a guy that fans were comfortable labeling as the heir to Nash’s throne. And rightfully so.

After battling confidence demons early on, Dragic showed the skill-set to run the Suns’ offense effectively, while showcasing the playmaking ability that made him a fan favorite.

Between his 23-point fourth quarter in Game 3 against the Spurs and his Slovenian showdown with Sasha Vujacic in the Western Conference Finals, Dragic answered all of the questions about his ability to take over when Nash calls it quits.

But after 48 regular season games — he also missed seven with a foot laceration — Lon Babby and Lance Blanks decided he wasn’t “point guard of the future” material?

Sure he lacked consistency, turned the ball over too often and struggled getting the Suns into their offense at times, but those 48 games were enough to make the front office forget about his playoff heroics? Enough to disregard how far he’d come since arriving in Phoenix as a timid, scrawny 22-year-old kid?

For a team lacking a young nucleus to build around, trading one of its cornerstones was undoubtedly a step in the wrong direction. He’s still 24 years old and it clearly wasn’t time to give up on him — especially for a slightly better player with nowhere near the ceiling.

And it’s not like Dragic’s skills diminished this season. In one of his two starts on the year he went for 17 and 10 against the Bobcats. In the four games that he played 30 minutes or more this season, Dragic averaged 14.8 points and 7.5 assists, which aren’t bad numbers for your point guard of the future in his third year.

He simply struggled with consistency, which is clearly a problem that comes with lack of experience and usually works itself out with age. Babby and Blanks explained that they dealt Dragic for Brooks so that they could make a late-season push toward the playoffs. But a backup point guard isn’t the difference in making the playoffs or not, especially for a team lacking interior scoring.

The Suns simply gave up on another young before he had a chance to hit his prime, while handing over a draft pick to boot. But this isn’t the first time Phoenix has done this.

Everyone remembers handing out guys like Rajon Rondo and Luol Deng. And most recently, the Suns gave up on Earl Clark and his massive potential. He clearly wasn’t cutting it in Phoenix, but when the Suns drafted him they knew he was going to be a long-term project, but for whatever reason they couldn’t wait.

After Phoenix shipped Clark off to Orlando, I wanted to write a post about how the Suns gave up on the multi-talented big man a little too soon, but I never did. Clark’s currently writing that story for me with his play, as he’s a regular rotation player with the Magic, showing flashes of what he could have been in Phoenix.

He’s playing just over 12 minutes a game while averaging 4.9 points per contest, and Stan Van Gundy recently said that Clark has “unlimited” potential defensively. The Suns had — and always have had — the young pieces to build a team around, they just lack the patience to do so.

Sarver seemingly thinks the Suns are his fantasy team, and trades like it’s the stock market. Only five players — Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Channing Frye, Robin Lopez and Jared Dudley — remain from the Suns’ 2009-10 Western Conference Finals team.

Some players simply had to go, but dealing the youth of your organization as you watch the face of your franchise get older and older isn’t the best way to build a team. Although Aaron Brooks could go off for the occasional 20 points, the Suns once again shot themselves in the foot, bailing on a young prospect before he has his chance to shine.

Tags: Goran Dragic

  • Sean

    This is a sound post. I suspect time may prove you right. The more I think about the Brooks trade, the less I like it.

  • Rgreyslak

    100% agree, right on the money in my opinion. New mngmt is already only planning for today and never tomorrow. Stupid move.

  • Brad

    I completely agree… This is a will written and insightful article on one of the biggest downfalls of the Suns. They are unwilling to be patient and develop talent. Dragic was not starter quality when they sent him to Houston, but with more playing time and a chance to succeed, he may become a well above average guard in this league. I for one wish he would have had that chance in Phoenix, but unfortunately Lon Babby decided we were better off with a guy who lacks the potential of Goran, is more expensive, and is statistically worse (and much worse defensively). This trade was terrible. Goran was having a bad couple months, but that’s not a reason to give up on him so soon. Bad decision.

  • Jackson

    Totally agree with this post. It’s hard for a team to get younger and build for the future if all the front office wants to do is keep the older players

  • Steve

    I’m glad there are some sane people in Arizona. Even still, the poll results on this site indicate there are quite a few people here who are out of their minds.

  • gary

    well written, great post. i have to agree i would have love to goran dragic develop as a suns player and a heir to nash, trading him was almost if not just as much of a shock as trading williams. gorans a great player, his playoff performance was truly amazing, and plus hes european fancy footwork going. dragic will be missed.

  • Cloverpie

    This is Steve Nash all over again. Trade him away, realize it later, go through pains in bringing him back. I like the Suns team how it is but seriously the management is so narrow-minded and short-sighted. Dragic will be missed. This was a stupid last minute regrettable trade.

  • Morgan McCoy

    I have to agree with your post. At first glance at this trade I loved it, however I was in the win now mindset at the time. Over time I’ve grown to dislike this trade just because Dragic had great potential as starting pg. I’m not saying Brooks can’t be the future at pg for us, but his potential might not be as high as Dragic.

    Buttt, the suns cannot keeping on retooling and plugging holes every year to stay competitive. The Suns never really think of the future and have always been in the win now mode. As fan it’s great to have a competitive team every year, but we want a championship.

    Suns need to read the writing on the walls and start rebuilding. They should have probably kept Dragic, but who knows Brooks could explode into a good starting pg for us in the future. Suns need to start keeping their picks and draft some young guys to develop for the future. The only players I believe the suns should keep our Brooks (If he shows he can be the future at pg), Dudley (because he gets better every year and because he’s a glue guy), Gortat (because he is already one of the better centers in the game), and everyone is expendable. I’m not saying I don’t want us to keep Nash, Hill, and Frye. I would love to keep all of them because their great, but if the Suns get a good package of draft picks, young players, and expiring contracts the have to pull that trigger. Denver and Utah both came away with great bounties that give their team a lot of flexibilty for the future. I would rather see the suns struggle a couple years but eventually develop a future powerhouse like the Thunder.

    The Suns have a lot of tough decisions to make this offseason that can greatly change the Suns futures.

  • Anfernee

    If you compare Steve Nash’s & Goran Dragic’s first 3 seasons, they’re almost Identicle, well..except the 3rd season.. The only difference is Nash played more minutes..

    I was saddened to hear the news of Dragic being traded. And for who? Brooks? what About Dowdell? I bet you forgot Childress is in the team right Sarver.?

    I hate he trade.. Dragic has potential. The only thing the keeps Dragic from reaching the skyis because he’s shy and really that express team chemistry that much, and I can understand that because he doesn’t speak english very well..

    I agree with Cloverpie, ths is Steve Nash all over again. F%&k Sarver!

  • Anfernee

    Oh And Sarver, don’t think about trading Nash next season.. He hasn’t showed signs of slowing down. He worked his ass off to have the rights to go or stay where he pleases. He wants to retire as a Sun, Give him that respect.

  • Anfernee

    Look at the spurs, they kept their nucleus.. That’s why they’re great because of the chemistry and the experience of playing with each other.

    Brooks shots too many bricks. He’s just another Carter. I can’t believe people are content with Brooks you know Dowdell is a much better pg than Brooks. Brooks is just another Leandro Barbosa! Remember him!

  • http://nash.com steve

    We don’t have twelve years to develop players. This is his third year and one playoff game won’t sell me on keeping him for years to come.

  • http://audreyandchuck.com audreyandchuck

    Behind the scenes I guess Goran was immature, maybe moody, perhaps rogue, therefore undependable as far as connecting with teammates. That broken glass was the last thing he’d remember of the Suns.

    Through this season, I would post that Goran was nearly the only one playing at NBA speed; that he WAS consistent when most others weren’t; that he was getting squeezed out and berated inexplicably; that his handling was a mystery to me; that since his team was playing so irresponsibly, he could do better “just playing basketball” elsewhere.

    But our season has turned, just as mysteriously to me, while everyone is firing on all their cylinders. That’s a turn-around I have to respect, and probably brought on by Nash in more ways than I know. Therefore, if he thinks Goran didn’t have a future here, then I must agree he would know better.

    Moving forward, who needs more of a point guard than Dowdell is playing now? I’ll take Brooks anyway, MIP last year to boot. He may have a chemistry with the team that Goran did not (like Lou didn’t either last year; I’m sure Robin is looked at as moody and expendable too.)

  • http://www.facebook.com J.J

    the sun’s biggest weakness is the fact that they want to stay competitive every year and never think about the future. After all the great runs the suns had in the past with nash and stoudamire, i think they really want to keep making themselves stay competitive to keep chasing the championship. Well ever since stoudamire went, that window closed. all the suns want to do now is stack their roster with players that are currently better than the ones they have now. They should really start rebuilding this franchise as i don’t see many more runs to the playoffs in the future. Develop young talent and use those draft picks wisely

  • Tom

    Great article. This has all the markings of an 11th hour deal where the Suns got taken to the cleaners. I mean the trade is one thing, but adding a 1st round draft choice? Come on! Sarver really got caught with his pants down on this one. Oh well, we screwed up and just have to keep pressing forward to make the playoffs!

  • tedidog

    Yet another screwup in $arv’s never ending revolving door of roster churning. Does he have some kind of compulsive-obsessive disorder that makes him unable to stop this continual ignorant tinkering??? I like the idea someone else had of putting a shock collar on his phone so he can stop before he kills (the Suns) again.

  • http://espn.go.com Ryan

    I don’t think Brooks is looked at as the pg of the future. He’s just instant offense off the bench. That’s his place in the NBA. (he just didn’t want to accept that role behind Lowery). Something Dragic was not, and something the second team needs. As far as pg for the future, the Suns can find that in free agency just like they did with Nash. Let’s also not forget that Nash is still playing at a very high level( still will be better than Dragic till he probably retires), and Dragic was a late second round pick….it’s not like the Suns can’t find the pg of the future with just as high if not higher a ceiling than Dragic in the next two drafts.

  • LWFH

    We had ourselves set up for a POTENTIALLY nice young nucleus post Nash:

    Lopez
    Clark
    Dudley
    TBD
    Dragic

    There isn’t a superstar there, but we HAD guys with talent who we could look forward to developing.

    One thing that is overlooked here is the lack of a developmental coaching staff. I just find it hard to believe that the team chronically picks people with poor work ethic, bad attitudes, etc. Everyone agrees our training staff may be responsible for 5-10 wins per year just by keeping people on the floor, but we really destroy young players who do end up here for brief periods of time. Leandro, now Lopez, Dragic somewhat, Clark from the minute he arrived.

    Many of you probably don’t remember David Griffin, our longtime assistant GM, but I’m glad that he was able to move on. That stretch of no draft picks years must have driven him BSC.

    I’ve avidly followed the team since 92-93 (I’m only 25 give me a break) but like Mike said, other than Stoudemire, Marion, Nash, & Finley we really aren’t good at player development.

    That might not be the end of the world, since we are a pretty competitive team, but we do sell low more than we do high. Could have gotten Garnett, some much nicer packages for Marion, much nicer packages than what we will get for Nash. I don’t care about the draft pick because we weren’t going to develop that player anyway. I doubt people would have been so upset by the inclusion of Dragic + 3million and that is all these picks are worth to the current ownership.

    Let’s go get a win against the pacers this morning!

  • B. Vesic

    The Suns have always made dumb trades and this is no exception. Goran is by far one of the brighest stars this team has had in years. Phoenix will continue to be average at best with aging players and the current ownership in place. The Suns had a very good player in Gordan Giricek but they let him slip through the cracks in typical Suns fashion.

    Dragic was going to run this team whenever Nash retired or was traded but after this crazy move Phoenix is in big trouble. I have always loved this team but I question the owners and management. Anyway kudos to Gentry and his fine coaching staff for keeping this team in the thick of things.

  • Rainman

    “Sure he lacked consistency, turned the ball over too often and struggled getting the Suns into their offense at times”

    EXACTLY the point. this dude is 24-25, its not liek he came into the league at 20 years old and is not a mere 22 , by now he should have really been contributing well, which he hasnt been. Brooks is a much better player for our system, i applaud this trade.

  • Rainman

    btw Slightly better?

    Brooks was a 19.6 point scorer on a rockets team which played well, a team which our Suns will probably finish with a very similar record(42 wins)

    and was the MIP. he’s a proven player, i dont think Dragic will ever get to be a 20 point 6 assist guy in this LEague.

  • Rainman

    again, 20 points for a SEASON is not the “ocassional 20 points”….

    He has not fit in for whatever reason this year with the Rocket,s but he’s still hit 23 points three times .

    Dragic? his high is just 17 points, 3 times.

    all im trying to point out is that ur downplaying the talent with brooks.

  • http://www.valleyofthesuns.com Mike Schmitz

    @Rainman I understand that Brooks is a very talented scorer, but those stats also came playing 35.6 minutes per game as one of the team’s top options. He was brought in to be the backup in Phoenix, not to play 35.6 minutes per game. He’s a volume shooter that needs minutes to put up numbers.

    But this isn’t as much about Brooks as it is about Dragic. Brooks will be an upgrade for this season, but the Suns shouldn’t have given up on Goran so quickly.

  • MrJcol3

    Wow I just noticed that most people that we draft don’t turn out so good. We hardly give them a chance, we just let them go.

  • BigB12

    I agree with Rainman, how much babying of a player do you have to do when your paying him millions. These guys are paid as professionals. If you’re given the floor as the backup night in and night out what more is needed to help foster your confidence, let alone the millions you are being paid. It’s not like he was a Dowdell…a guy that battled his way into the league and still doesn’t know how sure his future is; Yet, he comes in and plays with confidence and does a good job running the second unit. He was cheap and one of the better moves the front office has made in a while. At this point they had to make a tough decision with Goran. I think they made the right one buy trying something different. I don’t know if Brooks is the complete answer but the patience had worn thin on Goran. I would like to see what Dowdell would do with a more consist on-court role. He seems to be getting an offensive rhythm. Brooks might be interesting as well.

    Overall, I think the Suns are playing some excitingly and surprisingly good basketball. Good look to Goran and the rest of these kids. Go Suns!!!

  • AZ_kevin

    The Dragic trade was lousy for various reasons:

    - While Dragic has not performed consistewntly this season, he proved himself in the playoffs. SO he has the ability and great potential. And all the fault is not his, the team has changed the lineup so many times and he did not have the bevy of shooters around him (or if ther were, they had tired legs like Frye after playing almost 40 minutes a game).
    - Brooks has higher numbers and average because he played a lot more minutes. But he has regressed qually and is a backup to Kyle Lowery. So what does that say?
    - Brooks has proven he has very bad attititude as he walked away and is not content being a backup player. Plus he can walk away after this season. What will the SUNS have?
    - Like someone else has said, Dragic reminds me of Steve Nash. He was drafted and then traded and then SUNS realized his potential AND were lucky to get him back. Nash was very similar where Dragic is now.

    And to add insult to injury: SUNS had to give a draft pick away!! SUNS have been very bad in developing players. Or the SUSN management should admit they have done a VERY bad job in selecting players and they should be fired enmass. This includes the ownership.

  • Anfernee

    @Rainman
    The only reason why Brooks has more score than Dragic is because he shoots alot, and most of those shots are bricks. He is inefficient. Wastes alot of shots. Give Dragic that kind of a green light that Brooks get, and I bet you he’ll have a higher percentage.

    The Reason Why Dragic is passing more and shooting less is because he is pressured to get the 2nd unit started. And When he makes a single mistake he gets pulled out. It’s like having a gun in your head.

    This 2nd half of the season was supposed to be where Dragic becomes the old Dragon again..Sarver just couldn’t be patient.

    Check out Dowdell, he has more court vision and can get in offense easily, He’s more reliable and efficient than Brooks. F&*k Sarver!

  • Zak

    In a way this makes me think of the Suns getting Turkoglu. Management “hoped” he would revert to his old form. I think they made this trade hoping that Brooks will do what Hedo couldn’t with the Suns. I hope they’re right this time. We’ll see.

  • harvmel

    nice article..generally agreed and like the reference to Sarver treating this like his own personal fantasy team.

    Overall while it may not be that big a loss as Brooks clearly has some skills, that Goran may not have, I think its more like a wash (because of defence, chemistry. potential and the fact that Brooks is so undersized).

    So what that makes me wonder is why

    a) dump a guy you have invested in, for 3 years for an equal guy and

    b) though it is nominally for the playoff run, it will be disruptive as Brooks will now need 6-9 games to adjust/aclimitize and while his teammates are doing the same, which makes one wonder whether it is even a good short term move?

  • Freddy

    2 weeks and everyone forgets about Goran. His claim to fame was a game against the Spurs. The games he ran point while Nash was out the team looked horrible. I would rather see Brooks run the point on the second unit and if needed start for Nash if hes out. Only time will tell who got the better end of the deal but I really don’t think the Suns did bad like everyone plays it out.

    If Goran does good somewhere else good for him. I expect Brooks to do good for us.

  • Stew

    I’ve been a long time fan of Phoenix, but have never lived in Arizona. I grew up in Caifornia and became a fan of them when I was 12 years old and have never looked back. I don’t really get the inside opinions of local fans since I’ve never lived in in the Valley of the Suns, and it’s nice to receive some insight. I didn’t really like the trade either. I really liked Goran, and I don’t like the idea that we got rid of a draft pick.. I really wanted to get Jimmer Fredette and think he would be great in Phoenix. But if we don’t have a 1st round pick, he’s out of the question. What does everyone think about Jimmer in Phoenix?

  • Mrs Warboys

    Stew! This is what I’m pissed about too!

    After seeing a blog post about Fredette and that he would fit in at Phoenix and possibly filter down to our pick, I was very excited. Can’t believe we just gave it away.

  • Sean

    I have mixed feelings about the trade. But I think there are 2 points that posters above should consider:

    1. Dragic 2011 does not equal Nash of 1998-99. Nash has always been a guy that was connected to his teammates, plays hard, and has a good attitude. Dragic did that when things were rolling, but otherwise I’m not sure. I suspect that may be the driving factor in why he was traded: attitude and camraderie.

    2. Jimmer Fredette was not walking through the Suns’ door, unless either a) the Suns traded up to get a better 1st round pick, or (b) the Suns fell apart through the rest of the year. The pick we traded away is lottery-protected, so Houston will not get Jimmer with that pick either way.

    So if the Suns play well, Houston won’t get Jimmer (with our pick) and we wouldn’t have either. If the Suns fall apart, they could get Jimmer themselves.

  • http://hardwoodhype.blogspot.com Hardwood Hype

    Totally agree. Goran Dragic has shown the capacity (if not the consistency) to be a quality NBA PG, is a hard-nosed gamer and seemed to have a really good relationship with Nash- from whom he was learning the position the right way- and the rest of the team as well. I am really surprised that he was dealt. I’d thought it was a foregone conclusion that he’d take over once Nash was done.

    I’m not suggesting the Suns should have made him untouchable, but to deal him AND a #1 for another PG- one that’s inefficient and has an attitude problem- makes no sense at all.