The good, the bad and the ugly — Part II

After looking at the few good developments from the Phoenix Suns’ 2010-11 season, we move on to the bad that came with a 40-42 record and 10th place finish in the West. Here’s the bad that came from Phoenix’s season:

Goran Dragic trade

Heading into the 2010-11 season, there was a strong belief if the Suns didn’t make the playoffs, at least they had a young nucleus in Goran Dragic and Robin Lopez to build around.

Goran Dragic

But with Lopez’s gigantic regression and Dragic now wearing Houston Rocket red, that excitement for the future is gone.

As I wrote after Phoenix sent Dragic and a first-round pick to Houston for Aaron Brooks, the Suns’ front office gave up on Dragic far too soon.

Sure he battled some inconsistency and struggled to adjust to the new blood in Phoenix, but who didn’t underperform this season?

Dragic was supposed to be the heir to Steve Nash’s throne but instead Lon Babby and Lance Blanks shipped a 24-year-old with a world of upside for a hot and cold, undersized combo guard who’s searching for big bucks in the offseason.

Then add in that Phoenix threw in a first-round draft pick and that makes the trade and the Suns’ future that much worse.

Even if the Suns bring back Brooks, they still need a point guard of the future type, which Dragic had the potential to become.

He didn’t blow away anyone in the Rockets organization, but he closed out the season putting up ridiculous numbers. Over the final four games Dragic averaged 14.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 6.75 assists and 1.25 steals while shooting 45.6 percent from the field and 50.0 percent from three.

During that stretch he posted three double-doubles and one triple double of the 11-11-11 variety. If Babby and Blanks would have held on to Dragic and their draft pick, they would have their point guard of the future and two picks in the 2011 draft (one in the lottery) all without having to worry about giving Brooks (a restricted free agent) a big payday.

Missing the playoffs

In hindsight it’s easy to look at what the Grizzlies and Hornets are doing and say the Phoenix Suns simply didn’t deserve a playoff spot. While that may very well be true, they certainly had their chances. Despite all of the roster turnover and lack of chemistry, this team had the makeup of a playoff squad.

Steve Nash

With Nash as the facilitator, Grant Hill as the lockdown defender, Jared Dudley the shooter and dirt worker, Marcin Gortat the low post presence on offense and defense and Channing Frye the floor spacing big man this team had enough pieces to sneak into the playoffs.

But the 2010-11 Suns shot themselves in the foot far too many times, and shouldn’t be remembered as a team that wasn’t talented enough, rather a group that underachieved in crunch time.

Phoenix quickly proved capable of letting each and every lead slip away, and more often than not the Suns crumbled in crunch time.

They finished the season 11-13 in games decided by five points or less, and six of those losses came in the final two months of the season.

While many will believe this year’s team just didn’t have enough to sneak into the playoffs, the fact that the Suns couldn’t crack the postseason with a talented roster will remain one of the biggest disappointments of the year.

Wing-man experiment

Whoever thought employing over a handful of wings and figuring out rotations from there was a good idea couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s one thing to have depth, but it’s a completely different world when that leads to a lack of defined roles and confusion on a nightly basis.

Josh Childress

The Suns overloaded on wings in the offseason and before it was all said and done employed Grant Hill, Jared Dudley, Jason Richardson, Vince Carter, Josh Childress and Mickael Pietrus.

Every game the Suns had five players for two spots, and most of the five made a decent chunk of change.

The glut of wings also left players without a defined role. Childress, who really came on at the end of the season, spent the majority of the season riding the pine, leaving the Suns with little productivity out of the man they paid over $30 million in the offseason.

Pietrus would play 20 minutes one night, and zero the next. The same went for Carter and Dudley. Carter was given a chance to be the guy, leaving Dudley with around 15-20 minutes per game.

But as the season winded down, Carter became the pine-rider and Dudley thrived as a starter.

Phoenix simply never got comfortable with its wing rotation due to the abundance of wings, which made up one of the most negative aspects of the 2010-11 season.

Check back tomorrow for the “ugly” edition of the good, the bad and the ugly.

Tags: Aaron Brooks Goran Dragic

  • Abe

    Man, I’m so hating the Suns Management. They keep making stupid decisions. And I hate how every year, for the past several years, we just gave away our draft picks. So depressing when you think of the future for the Suns. Is there anyway to get Robert Sarver to sell the team to someone who actually wants to win?

  • JohnVancouver

    The Dragic trade is eventually going to be looked at as on par with the Kurt Thomas deal …. tears and anger, the story of the Phoenix Suns fan

  • JohnVancouver

    and regret …. always regret

  • Tony

    The Dragic trade made no sense, even when the trade was originally announced I thought it was ridiculous. Then, with Brooks inconsistent play and Dragic thriving in Houston, the jury’s not out Babby, the trade was an awful one. There’s even a good chance the Suns don’t resign Brooks and hence, they will have given away Dragic plus a 1st round pick for nothing.

    Mike, I don’t know how you think this Suns team was talented enough to make the playoffs in the west. Frye really improved his game but he’s not a starter on a good team and his backup Warrick, shouldn’t play unless it’s garbage time. Carter was just not the same player anymore he used to be and while Dudley played well, he’s not a starter on a good team. He’s too slow to guard most starting sgs and more importantly, he can’t create his own shots and is a terrible finisher.
    I’m not even going to get started on Lopez. The Suns lost close games mainly because they had no second player to go to offensively when Nash would get tired and hounded by defenses. That is an example of a lack of talent right there.

  • Steve

    I think it’s obvious this team was talented enough to make the playoffs. We played fairly well against good competition and lost a handful of games that we had in the bag. Close out 5 games we were winning in 5th, and we’re a 45-win team in the playoff hunt till the very end. Even as it was, with those close losses, we still weren’t eliminated from the playoffs until there were just about two weeks left in the season. All that is just to say, this team could have made the playoffs, and probably should have. On paper, the Suns are better or as good as the Grizzlies and Hornets, and I think they’re on par (on paper) with the Blazers and Nuggets. They underperformed, and you highlighted a couple of reasons why they did and also why they didn’t mesh well.

    As for the Dragic trade, I think it was an awful trade, but I’d just like to say I’m not nearly as disappointed in not having Dragic as most people seem to be. He still hasn’t proven much (and I know he hasn’t been given the chance in games, but there’s also the point to make that most people who don’t play aren’t good enough to play).

  • Zak

    I can understand the reasoning behind the Dragic/Brooks trade although it was a reach and a bust. They were hoping Brooks would become the Suns’ second unit scoring “spark plug” but…

    My biggest reason for a lack of optimism in the Suns’ future is simply because I have little faith in management to make good personnel decisions during the off season. That’s the ugliest part of the Suns organization.

  • David

    Dragic hardly thrived for the Rockets. He was awful until the final four games of the season, when good teams rest their starters and bad teams give up playing hard. Let’s not forget Earl Barron did the same thing the year before, averaging a double-double to end the season. That was preciously because it was the end of the season.

    That’s not to say that I like Brooks, or that the frontoffice isn’t tremendously awful, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Also, at least they were able to keep their lottery pick. The old Suns frontoffice would have sent our pick in the deal and sold Orlando’s pick to Portland for $2 million.