Phoenix Suns: Recent Play from Goran Dragic Proves Team Gave Up on Him Too Soon

Matt Petersen@@TheMattPetersenCorrespondent IApril 11, 2012

Half of a mediocre season was enough to convince Suns brass they should give up on the 24-year-old Dragic.
Half of a mediocre season was enough to convince Suns brass they should give up on the 24-year-old Dragic.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

By June of 2010, Goran Dragic was being hailed as Steve Nash's successor, the next great foreign lefty and the hero to everyone who disliked Sasha Vujacic.

Eight months later, Phoenix traded him to Houston.

Even then, Phoenix Suns fans disliked the trade. Dragic had helped Phoenix finally overcome the San Antonio Spurs with his vintage 26-point second half in Game 3 of the 2010 Western Conference semifinals. He had more highlights than Nash in TNT's vintage NBA playoffs montage.

But management argued the Suns were struggling, and while Dragic's stats were on par with the previous season, his in-game impact wasn't. Both he and Aaron Brooks (who Phoenix received in return) needed a new start.

Fast forward to last month. Kyle Lowry goes down to a "bacterial infection" opening the door for Houston to free-fall from the Western Conference playoff race.

Except Dragic proved that, believe it or not, a 24-year-old point guard is far from a finished product.

As the team that banked on that principle with Nash in 2004, Phoenix should have known better.

In 19 games as a starter, Dragic has averaged 18.2 points and 8.7 assists while leading the Rockets to an 8-3 record over their last 11 games.

Meanwhile, Brooks didn't play for Phoenix at all last year, instead opting to play for China a week before the lockout was lifted. Fittingly, Phoenix and Houston are both fighting for a playoff spot and will play each other in a pivotal game on Friday.

Again, when Dragic (and a first-round pick) was traded, Suns fans were not OK with this. They probably would have preferred Phoenix trading Josh Childress or Hakim Warrick ($52 million combined, both currently stuck on the bench), but Dragic was younger, cheaper and fetched more value.

Yet the assets that made Dragic a valuable trade commodity were the same reasons why Phoenix should have passed on moving him at all.

The Suns were already short on young prospects. Nash was getting older. Instead of playing with hungry role players like Jared Dudley and Lou Amundson, Dragic was playing with bloated contracts like Warrick, Childress and Hedo Turkoglu.

The biggest irony of the whole situation? Head coach Alvin Gentry—who just nine months before was captured on ESPN sideline cameras encouraging Dragic's defining performance against the Spurs—admitted on Chuck and Vince Live that he was aware Dragic was being shopped, as well as his own approval of the move.

"You'd hate to part with Goran, but we felt like at this stage Aaron Brooks would probably make us a little bit better of a team."

How does that make sense less than a season after seeing Dragic's potential first-hand? Shouldn't he have told management that the young-and-down point guard wasn't the problem, that a down year may or may not be in play after replacing Amar'e Stoudemire with Turkoglu, Childress and Warrick?

Either way, Houston is grateful he didn't. So is Dragic, who is in for the payday of his life this summer as teams vie to keep him.

Even as the Suns keep paying for giving up on him too soon.