The Phoenix Suns' second unit has been a sore spot this season after being one of the points of pride through the team's Western Conference Playoff run. A ton of different guys have rotated in and out of the line-up and played a variety of roles, but the one constant was backup point guard Goran Dragic.
Dragic is -- was -- the visible face of the bench unit. He was the guy who signified the time when the team went from the MVP-hands of Steve Nash to someone else.
With Dragic at the wheel, the Suns were a horrible -16.6 in plus/minus. Of course, the Suns were also a +11 when Dragic was on the court with Vince Carter, Channing Frye, Marcin Gortat and Jared Dudley. And the team was -19 when he was on the court with a slightly different group of players that included Hakim Warrick and Josh Childress.
Does that mean Goran Dragic was the source of all the Suns' second unit woes?
With Aaron Brooks stepping in, we are about to find out if the season-long struggles were the result of Dragic's poor play. Or perhaps there were more issues at work that didn't show up quite so glaringly as the contrast between the two-time MVP and the third-year player.
In comes Brooks, who won the 2009-10 Most Improved Player award by following up fairly unimpressive rookie and sophomore seasons with a big year as the Houston Rockets' starting point guard last season.
Brooks averaged 19.6 points per game and shot 39.8 percent from three. He frequently put up huge nights, with 10 games with over 30 points. Of course, like most players, he had his off nights, too, including 11 nights with 10 points or less.
What's notable about Brooks' "great" season last year -- kind of like Goran Dragic's plus/minus numbers -- were the teammates he played with. He was sharing a lot of court time for most of the season with offensively-challenged players like Chuck Hayes, Trevor Ariza and Shane Battier, which gave him plenty of opportunities to score.
Brooks took 16.2 shots per game, which is about two fewer than LeBron James and slightly more than Amare Stoudemire. Unfortunately, his shooting efficiency didn't justify that many attempts, as he struggled to score in the paint due to his small size and showed little ability to make up for that with a decent mid-range game.
As a point guard, Brooks didn't do much to set up his teammates, either. Steve Nash had an assist rate (percent of possessions that ended in assists) of 64.8 last year. Brooks' assist rate was 25.62, which was 39th among point guards who averaged over 25 minutes per game.
Brooks proved last season that given enough chances he could score the ball, but he didn't do much to set up his teammates. The Brooks-led Rockets failed to make the playoffs and finished 42-40.
This is the guy the Suns have committed to: a high-volume, shoot-first point guard who had one "decent" NBA season followed by a regression this year where he lost his job to Kyle Lowry and has seen his shooting percentages drop to a career-low 34.6 from the field and 28.4 from three.
Brooks Isn't An Experiment
By giving up a young player with upside along with a first round draft pick, the Suns have made it quite clear that they intend to re-sign Brooks, who will be a restricted free agent after this season.
Of course, if Brooks does play well over the next 27 games, they risk seeing his market value rise, while if he continues to play poorly, they will be faced with either signing him anyway or letting him go after giving up two valuable assets to get him for the final part of one season. Kind of a pickle, really.
Hopefully, Brooks will come in and give the bench the scoring punch it needs and he will recover some of his game that impressed observers so much last season. If not, the Suns front office will have lost a gamble on a guy with a shaky track record.