Somebody forget to tell the Phoenix Suns that the Fourth of July is a national holiday.
Along with being a day to celebrate this country’s independence with barbecues and fireworks, it will also be known as the day the Suns officially closed the book on the Steve Nash era and initiated a rebuilding process centered on talented young players that seemingly came together in the time it took John Hancock to sign the Declaration of Independence.
After trading Steve Nash to the Lakers and signing Michael Beasley to a three-year deal, the Suns finished their July 4 shopping spree by inking former and now current Nash heir apparent to a four-year deal worth $30 million, as The Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro reports, along with annual $1 million bonuses for making the All-Star team and a player option in the fourth year.
Although The Dragon returned in a quarter of the time, Dragic coming back to take over Nash’s point guard throne mirrors Two Time’s path in which he was traded from the Suns to the Mavericks after his second season and returned six years later via free agency.
Just as we thought two years ago after Dragic torched the Spurs in the playoffs and seemed to be the point guard of the future once Nash departed, that now will be exactly the case even after trading him away in a disastrous deal that netted Aaron Brooks for Dragic and a first-round pick.
Ironically enough, not only did The Dragon return hours after Nash officially became an ex-Sun, the move will likely require the Suns to take back their qualifying offer to Brooks to make him an unrestricted free agent.
Just as Steve Kerr was lauded for taking back his Shaq mistake after a season and a half, the Suns’ front office formally is acknowledging they messed up that Dragic trade by bringing him back.
Some thought they would not pursue Dragon this strongly because of how clear an admission of a mistake it would be to have dealt him in the first place, so it was great to see Suns management swallow their pride and bring Dragic home.
The Suns seemed to acquire their point guard of the future on draft day when they used the 13th overall selection to pick UNC point guard Kendall Marshall, yet by handing a four-year deal to the 26-year-old Dragic that may not be the case.
It was reported that Dragic would only consider destinations that promised him the starting job, and with the Suns wanting to bring Marshall along slowly that should be no problem this season. I speculated earlier this week that the Suns could start both Marshall and Dragic in the future were they to sign The Dragon, but that was before they inked Eric Gordon to the offer sheet. Presumably they did not draft Marshall to ride the bench for four seasons.
Of course, it could have just been a case of picking Marshall because he was best on their board and figuring the rest out later (as Blanks said they might do if they selected a big man), but now the Suns have a potential young asset to dangle to any team in need of a young point guard.
And wouldn’t you know, one such team is the New Orleans Hornets, a squad that reportedly considered Marshall at the No. 10 spot before settling on Austin Rivers. Based on what the Suns received for Joe Johnson in a sign-and-trade when he was a restricted free agent seven years ago (Diaw and two protected firsts), Marshall and two firsts (one from the Lakers trade) sounds fair.
The Suns very may well want both point guards, but now at least they have a position of strength to potentially deal from in an area of need for New Orleans (at least if you don’t consider Rivers a point guard).
The Suns may have been able to sign Dragic for cheaper than the $7.5-$8.5 million a year they ended up giving him because of his breakout finish to the 2011-12 season when Kyle Lowry got hurt had they never dealt him. Dragic averaged 18.5 points, 7.7 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game in April after putting up a 15.0-7.4-3.4 March just in time for his free agency money grab.
As many Suns fans know, he’s an able creator with a herky-jerky game and is adept both at hitting the three and driving inside for each hoops. Unlike the Suns’ former point guard, he’s also superb defensively and rather athletic. The Suns’ players and coaches largely loved Dragic and presumably are excited to get him back.
It will be impossible to truly analyze the Suns’ cap situations until we find out the exact dollars paid in the first year of each contract, but by committing $14.5 mil a year to Gordon, $7.5 to Dragic and $6 to Beasley, the Suns may need to amnesty Josh Childress and renounce all their current free agents just to make room under the cap for the signings. Depending on where those numbers end up, there should still be room for Robin Lopez, particularly if the Suns send a player to New Orleans for Gordon.
If Gordon isn’t matched and they do bring back Lopez, the Suns would be looking at a solid young lineup consisting of Dragic-Gordon-Beasley-Frye-Gortat and a bench of Marshall (or Telfair if Marshall is traded for Gordon)-Dudley-FA-Morris-Lopez. Dudley could probably cover the backup minutes at both the two and the three (where he is best suited) and Beasley could play some four, particularly before Frye retuns. Best of all, all of those players are in their 20s.
The Suns had four primary free-agent targets, and if they bring back Lopez they will have gone 4-for-4, so credit PBO Lon Babby for accurately assuaging our fears in May about nobody wanting to play for the Suns without Nash.
On a day filled with fireworks both in the sky and the transaction field for the Phoenix Suns, the organization at long last detached itself from the Nash era and entered a new age filled with exciting young players.
No longer will we wonder how many more years Nash will be the focal point of the franchise and when exactly this organization will start thinking about the future. That time is now, and I’m terribly intrigued by how all these pieces will fit together.
Babby has gone on record against tanking and rebuilds that start by stripping the franchise down to its bare bones.
The Suns are surely taking a chance that Gordon is healthy (and not matched), Beasley keeps his head on straight and plays to his potential one day and Dragic’s flurry to end the season was more than an outlier.
But after two years of trying to get younger while winning with Nash and Hill ended in mediocrity, today’s moves signal the start of a new generation of Phoenix Suns basketball chock full of talented young players.
Tags: Goran Dragic