Phoenix Suns turned a bad situation into something good
On Wednesday night I didn’t think there was a snowball’s chance in Hell the Suns could make a good trade with Goran Dragic. I knew they were going to trade him — they didn’t want him to be a distraction for the rest of the season and they wanted to get something back in return for him rather than letting him walk for nothing. But the list of teams that Dragic wanted to go to left a lot to be desired in terms of roster presence. Miami, New York and the Los Angeles Lakers had nothing Phoenix would have wanted. Outside of draft picks it was hard to envision Phoenix getting anything relevant in a trade involving the Dragon.
Fast forward to Thursday at 1 pm and the Suns rebounded nicely from what could have been an absolute disaster.
They salvaged a bad situation in which they alienated their best player and made a myriad of trades that netted them a dynamic combo-guard in Brandon Knight from the Milwaukee Bucks, some solid scoring punch off the bench in Marcus Thornton, three future first-round picks plus a couple million in cash from Miami. The Suns got other players, but will waive John Salmons, Kendall Marshall and likely Danny Granger, too. They gave up the best player in the deal — Goran Dragic, a player who never fit in Isaiah Thomas, a third-string center in Miles Plumlee, a quality asset in point guard Tyler Ennis, a practice player in Zoran Dragic and the first-round pick from the Lakers that is top-5 protected this season.
The key to the trade is re-signing Knight, who will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season. Knight turned down $9 million per season from Milwaukee last offseason. He is a really good player who just turned 23, so he is almost six years younger than Dragic. He is a combo-guard who prefers to play the point and will get some opportunities to do that here, but will be featured as the two-guard. He is strong and athletic, can create his own shot and is shooting the ball well from three-point range. He is a better on-the-ball defender than Dragic, though not as good a passer.
Thornton will be a free agent at the end of the season but is a good player and the Suns get a free look at him. He can score, and he is someone Phoenix may decide to keep. The picks are tough to figure out. They get Cleveland’s first-round pick in 2016, Miami’s first-round pick in 2017 that is protected top-7 and Miami’s first-round pick in 2021 — the kid they pick with that one is in 6th grade right now.
The three point guard system with Dragic, Thomas and Eric Bledsoe didn’t work. The players didn’t like it, didn’t embrace it. It made it hard on Coach Hornacek and hard on the players. The Suns’ system became more 1-on-1 than free flowing. It hurt Dragic, Plumlee, P.J. Tucker and Gerald Green. And it killed team chemistry.
Now that Thomas is gone it is addition by subtraction. The Suns can move forward and get back to playing the style of basketball that made them successful. Look, they are not winning anything right now. I can’t see them holding off Oklahoma City and making the playoffs. But they are setting themselves up for the future with four core players, none older than 25, in Bledsoe, Knight, Markieff Morris and Alex Len. And that’s not half bad.