When the news first came that the Phoenix Suns had agreed to a contract with free agent point guard Goran Dragic, followed by the report that former Suns point guard Aaron Brooks was being looked at by the Houston Rockets, it was rather comical. The trade that the two teams made just two years before that sent Dragic to Houston and Brooks to Phoenix looked a bit ridiculous.
However, when Dragic was re-introduced to the media on Thursday, Suns executive Lon Babby said something pretty interesting. While many, like myself, had been more or less mocking the original trade, Babby managed to spin it in a positive light.
He said, "If you would have told me two years ago when we traded Goran that we could trade him for a first round pick, late in the first round, and he would go to Houston and become one of the brightest young stars and brightest young point guard stars in the NBA, and then we could get him back here, I would have told you it was a brilliant move."
Now, Babby obviously meant that the team sent Dragic AND a first round pick to Houston, but that isn't what is important.
The thing that is important is what happened to Dragic after he left.
Babby continued, "Many of us I think believed that had Goran not left, he would have never had the opportunity to spread his wings and grow in the way he has."
We remember the inconsistent Goran. Playing behind a player like Steve Nash is a daunting task. No one is like him. His play is inimitable. Yet the whole world, and even the coaching staff to an extent, would expect Dragic and the offense to look the same when Nash sat down. Goran was shy and tentative. Playing in such a shadow is difficult.
After being traded to Houston, it took a little time, but he got his opportunity after Kyle Lowrie got hurt. That is when Dragic got to play consistent minutes and show his stuff. He scored, he got assists and he even got triple-doubles. He became more vocal on the court. He became confident and comfortable leading a team.
Granted, it was 35 games, but he showed he could do it, and do it at a high level.
Now he is back where the team always believed from the start he should be -- taking over for Nash. Babby said that he will not be compared to Nash, that Dragic will "carve his own path." Fans will compare, but the key will be how Alvin Gentry designs the offense. Only Nash could do what Nash did offensively. Dragic brings a different skillset. If the team uses those skills, he will continue to flourish and the unfair comparisons will be minimized.
Essentially, in the end, the Suns gave up a draft pick to Houston so they would develop Dragic to then come back and take over.
Now, assuming Dragic had never been traded and the team stayed with the belief that he would eventually become what he showed last season, the only thing that would have been different is that perhaps his contract would be less. But he would not have had the experience that he did in Houston and would have had those growing pains this season instead of having gone past them.
"You have to be big enough to admit your mistakes, strong enough to profit from them and strong enough to correct them," said Babby at the press conference.
It may just be that it wasn't a mistake at all.
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