I want to believe in so many things.
I want to believe that Lon Babby knows what he’s doing in trading Goran Dragic and the Suns’ lottery-protected first round pick in 2011 to Houston for Aaron Brooks. I want to believe that Brooks will revitalize the Suns’ second unit. And I want to believe that my reaction to such a minor transaction is massively overblown.
I’m less than happy about the Dragic deal. As the Nets, Blazers, and – to a lesser extent – the Knicks showed us this deadline, you accumulate pieces in order to try to acquire really good players. You don’t give up draft picks, even if they’re lottery-protected, in order to make a move that’s lateral at best. You don’t convince yourselves that a player who fits so poorly into your system is the long-term answer. You don’t attempt to convince the fanbase that your newly acquired backup point guard is the leader of the future by using your hard-earned cap space to give him a too-large contract in the off-season. You’ve suffered under the burden of a $17 million shooting guard who doesn’t play in the fourth quarter – at least, not when you win – and you’re going to use the cap space you save when Carter’s contract expires to make a commitment to a guard whose promise is unclear?
And believe me, the prognosis on Brooks isn’t good. Mike Schmitz of ValleyoftheSuns gave his take in the aftermath of the trade deadline:
If Brooks wants to be a factor with the Suns, he needs to run the pick and roll effectively. He hasn’t proven that capable this season as he’s shooting 40.5 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from three out of the play.
The pick and roll is only 12.8 percent of Houston’s offense, while it makes up 20.8 percent of the Suns’ offense. But Brooks does prefer the pick and roll, as it makes up 30.3 percent of his plays, which is more than any other play type. In comparison, however, Nash runs the pick and roll over 50 percent of the time while Dragic ran it 33 percent of the time.
Phoenix ranks second in the NBA in pick-and-roll-man scoring, proving how great Nash is at feeding his big man the ball in the right spot. The Rockets rank 14th, and Brooks isn’t exactly known as a top-notch pick and roll player as a passer or scorer.
He turns the ball over 19 percent of the time as the pick and roll ball handler and struggles with decision-making.
Alvin Gentry has shown an ability to adapt as a coach; it’s one of his best qualities. Through innumerable roster changes and the up-and-down swings of various wings and Goran Dragic, Gentry has done his best to navigate through the season with a steady hand. The Suns are still in playoff contention; that’s really all I can ask, given the current roster. But Gentry may very well find himself stuck between the D-League and a Most Improved hard place as the season progresses. The Suns have less margin for error than an ugly chick on American Idol. Every slight miscue, every blemish will set this team back in their trek to reach the playoffs. If the second unit falters in an important game – that is, in any of the remaining games – will Gentry really have an opportunity to work Brooks into the lineup? To see what hand he’s been dealt? Or, more likely, will he have to see whether Zabian Dowdell can prove more effective or bring Nash in off of short rest?
This is another in a long chain of questionable moves by the front office. Why are you getting rid of draft picks when you’re going to have to rebuild in the near future? The trade with the Magic earlier this year garnered a surprising center, a Frenchman who has become an integral part of the rotation, Vince Carter-shaped cap space* and perhaps most importantly, Orlando’s first round draft pick. You were accumulating assets, something a team on the verge of rebuilding should be doing. Then you decide to make a u-turn on the interstate and give us all whiplash. You didn’t even bother to look in your rear view mirror to see if the road is clear – let alone the logic of heading into on-coming traffic. If you had, you’d see a history wrought with selling draft picks, trading away promising players, and declining to sign your biggest free agents to long-term deals. I’m as down on Dragic as anyone, but it’s just ridiculous.
*The same company that used to manufacture Theo Ratliff’s expiring contract introduced a new injection-mold this year: the Vince Carter undead deal.
And why? All because you think that Aaron Brooks might be the point guard of the future? Gee, that’d make a lot more sense if, you know, he was actually under contract past this season. How much hoping and wishing does that line of thinking require? I’d like it if my political science degree turned into a mathematics degree. I wish that humanity could figure out a way to make bacon grease dispose of itself. I think that if climate change continues at a convenient enough pace, upstate New York might become more similar to Arizona and I would no longer have to deal with snow.
I could continue with the absurd, whimsical things I’d love to see happen, but the thing that sticks in my craw is this: in looking to retain Brooks beyond this season, you hope that he performs poorly enough that his offer sheets will stay low.
You’re hoping that his declining play will allow you to sign him on the cheap?
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! What kind of logic is that? You do know that he’s now on your team, right? You are aware that your opportunity to make the playoffs may very well rest on how Brooks performs with the second unit, aren’t you? Dragic was playing extremely poorly this season – there’s no doubt about that – but at least he didn’t create an untenable situation where fans were rooting for the team to succeed while he failed.
I’m fully aware that I may be proven wrong and would love for that to be the case. Brooks has shown, in prior years, that he can be quite a force. He’s coming off an injury, which may account for a lot of the decline in his production, If this facilitates a Nash trade, great – it gives the Suns flexibility, in that they don’t have to demand a point guard back. But when you move Nash, you’re going to be looking for draft picks, and you just gave one up to get a player who doesn’t fit into your system and is a restricted free agent. It seems like such a simple question to me: Would you rather have Goran Dragic and an opportunity to pick an unproven point guard in the draft, or an unproven point guard that may or may not be with the team at the end of the season? I think most would choose the former, but the front office picked the latter because they hope that Brooks can be their gatekeeper. They’re counting on potential and reaching based on his (not-so-impressive) reputation.
Then again, Dragic showed against the San Antonio Spurs that he could execute the Suns’ system flawlessly. Apparently the exchange rate between regular season reputation and playoff prestige is a first-round pick.