At the Thursday trade deadline the Phoenix Suns traded reserve point guard Goran Dragic and a first round pick to Houston for point guard Aaron Brooks. Satan must be ice skating right now because the Suns actually made a good basketball decision! This is a great trade on a number of levels.
Dragic has been erratic at best. His performance on the court has gone down since last season’s playoffs. As Steve Nash’s heir apparent, he wasn’t improving at the level Suns management expected. When interviewed on the subject, coach Alvin Gentry credited the trade as being based on consistency. Dragic was very inconsistent and the Suns bench unit actually performed better with Zabian Dowdell running the reserves than with Dragic. The youngster may eventually blossom into a true NBA point guard but he’s all potential at this point and nothing more. In a wide open race among the final five teams challenging for a spot in the Western Conference playoffs, a strengthening of the second unit was just what the doctor ordered.
Brooks, unlike Dragic, has already shown he has NBA game. Brooks was a key component of Houston’s 2008-09 playoffs where he averaged 16 points per game. Last season, he won the NBA Most Improved Player award as he averaged 19.6 points and 5.3 assists. Brooks shot better than 40 percent from the three-point line and is lightning fast.
Brooks is in his fourth season, young (26) and fits the Suns mold perfectly. On top of that, Brooks is in the last year of his contract and will be auditioning for a big payday if not from the Suns, but from any other team in the NBA. Suns management will get to evaluate his performance at no cost to them and if Brooks is the gem they think he may be, then the Suns may have found their man to lead the offense when Nash is gone. Half a season learning from a two-time MVP is a lot better than being stuck on the bench going nowhere in Houston.
The inclusion of the draft pick is a bit of a head scratcher on the surface. This is an even trade with just the two players. I believe the Suns wanted to dump the pick for a couple of reasons. The Suns have two draft picks this season with the extra pick they got in the blockbuster deal with Orlando. The pick is lottery protected so the Suns will retain their lowest pick. With the Suns on the cusp of the playoffs, both picks are bound to be in the late teens and beyond. The upcoming draft class is dreadfully lackluster after the top three prospects come off the board and with a possible lockout coming, the Suns don’t want to have to guarantee money to a draft pick that will be riding the bench anyway.
The Suns draft history in the last decade has been horrible. Aside from picking Amar’e Stoudemire in 2002, there have been no impact player. 2009’s first round pick, Earl Clark, was traded to Orlando. Robin Lopez has been a non-factor. They drafted Rajon Rondo, Rudy Fernandez and Luol Deng only to trade them before they ever put on a Suns jersey. Dumping the extra pick here was actually a smart move.
In the end, the already formidable bench got exponentially better with this trade. Brooks is an explosive playmaker who gets into the lane at will and can break down any guard off the dribble. Brooks lost his starting spot in Houston as a result of injuries and falling out of favor with his coach, but the Suns medical staff has proved they can work wonders (See Grant Hill) and will do the same for Brooks. The Suns got rid of the pick they didn’t need and if they do end up in the lottery, they will not have to forfeit that pick to Houston. Suns management made smart basketball decisions and not choices wholly dependent on the dollar sign while improving the team in the process. This is the way the Suns need to do business. Well done!