Phoenix Suns: 10 Takeaways From The 2014-15 Season (Part 2)

Feb 23, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (left) against Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe at US Airways Center. The Celtics defeats the Suns 115-110. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 23, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (left) against Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe at US Airways Center. The Celtics defeats the Suns 115-110. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /
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Phoenix Suns
Mar 2, 2015; Miami, FL, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Brandon Knight (3) dribbles the ball past Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (7) during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

4.  A Tale Of Two Seasons: Before And After The Trade Deadline

Looking back on the season, one image stands out that could represent the way things went down at the trade deadline. With Eric Bledsoe looking for his 10th rebound to secure a triple-double against the Dallas Mavericks, Goran Dragic also went for the ball, not knowing that Bledsoe was so close.

Bledsoe barreled over Dragic to get his rebound, the Dragon tumbled to the ground, the two hugged when they realized what happened and everyone laughed it off as a sign of the chemistry the “Slash Brothers” shared. It was a great moment, and one that made every Suns fan feel a little more optimistic that he wanted to stay in Phoenix for the long-term.

Looking back on that play now, it’s hard to see anything other than two point guards wanting the same thing and one knocking the other to the ground to get it.

The Suns’ playoff hopes were dwindling heading into the All-Star break, but they still technically held on to the eighth seed in the Western Conference. But then Goran Dragic spoke up, and everything changed.

Just two days before the deadline, Goran Dragic revealed he no longer trusted the front office and that he wouldn’t re-sign with the team as an unrestricted free agent this summer. Phoenix, realizing they were about to lose the face of the franchise for nothing, opted to move him to get as much value for him as possible.

They also panic-traded Isaiah Thomas, the underlying cause of Dragic’ pent-up frustrations. But the most bothersome departure might have been the Los Angeles Lakers’ top-five protected draft pick, a pick that could be extremely valuable in 2016 or 2017.

In return, the Suns got Brandon Knight from the Milwaukee Bucks, Marcus Thornton from the Boston Celtics, Danny Granger from the Miami Heat and a couple of future first round picks.

The fallout? Every Suns fan was busy making the Overwhelmed Jeff Hornacek face watching this team play for the rest of the season:

The unhappy mood in the locker room was bad enough, but Knight — the big prize of all of Phoenix’s trade activity — only played 11 games with the team because of that ankle injury. Meanwhile, the rest of the young roster attempted to adjust to new roles since one-third of the team had been shipped away at the deadline.

“I feel like it was kind of a tale of two seasons — before and after the trade deadline,” McDonough said. “Before the season, we probably had too much depth in the backcourt positions and it made it challenging for Jeff to allocate minutes and get everybody involved and keep everybody happy.

“After the deadline, especially after the injuries, I felt like we didn’t have enough depth and again that’s my fault, I take some responsibility for it. The injuries were obviously out of our control.”

Those injuries were the primary cause behind the Suns finishing the season on a 1-10 skid, but it all seemed representative of the level of optimism in Phoenix after the Dragon’s departure. Before the deadline, the Suns had a fan favorite and the closest thing to a face of the franchise. They had a Sixth Man of the Year candidate in I.T. Hell, even this guy was still logging minutes:

To clarify, the Suns did what they had to after Dragic voiced his displeasure. They got some value for a player who will get a max deal from somebody this summer, they avoided overpaying him and though trading I.T. was a panic move that didn’t net many assets in return, the Suns made the right call choosing Knight over Thomas to pair with Bledsoe.

As for Dragic, some despised him for the way he left. Others agreed with his perspective that bringing in I.T. and playing Dragic off the ball so much was a mistake. But whatever your view on the Dragon, the fact stands: after he left, the Suns’ offense dove off a cliff.

Here’s a look at how Phoenix’s potent offense suddenly became incompetent, with numbers from before and after All-Star Weekend:

  • Record:  29-25 —> 10-18
  • FG%:  46.1% (7th) —> 43.4% (26th)
  • 3P%:  35.9% (8th) —> 29.8% (30th)
  • FT%:  78.5% (2nd) —> 71.4% (25th)
  • PPG:  105.9 (4th) —> 95.6 (25th)
  • Point differential:  +1.2 —> -4.9
  • Offensive rating:  105.9 (7th) —> 97.1 (28th)
  • Fast break points:  19.6 (2nd) —> 15.5 (8th)

Now, to be fair, the Suns were without Knight for the majority of those games after the All-Star break. Young players were logging big minutes and trying to learn new roles on the fly and even the guys who had been playing regularly were forced to take on new roles.

With Knight’s injury, the Suns went big, inserting Marcus Morris into the starting lineup and moving P.J. Tucker to the wing. By doing so, Phoenix improved its defensive rating from 104.1 (17th) to 102.2 (15th) and moved from 19th in the league in rebounding before the break to seventh afterward.

But those marginal improvements on the defensive end weren’t enough to make up for the fiery death of the Suns’ offense. I mean, look at those numbers! Have you ever seen such a drastic midseason plummet?

Next: No. 3