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.
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.
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.
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.
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.