Goran Dragic Signs with Phoenix Suns: Bye Bye, Leandro Barbosa?

Sean StancillSenior Writer ISeptember 24, 2008

This article can also be found at Hoops4Life.com, a basketball fan's site.

Goran Dragic.

English translation: Less minutes for Leandro Barbosa.

The Phoenix Suns announced Tuesday afternoon that they have signed second-round draft pick Goran Dragic to a multiyear deal.

The Suns acquired Dragic from the San Antonio Spurs on draft night for the 48th overall pick (Malik Hairston), a 2009 second-round draft pick, and cash.

The machine-dribble specialist averaged 9.7 PPG, 3.1 APG, and 1.2 SPG while playing overseas. By signing the skilled southpaw, General Manager Steve Kerr and the Phoenix organization have publicity sent a direct message to Leandro Barbosa to step up his game—or get shipped out.  

Kerr and Goran seem to be intertwined, with Kerr enthusiastically celebrating after acquiring the Slovenian, and Dragic confessing his life-long dream of becoming a Phoenix Sun.

Like Barbosa, Goran plays both the point-guard and shooting-guard positions—another piece of evidence that the Brazilian may see his minutes dwindle this season.

The Suns plan to reduce the minutes of veteran Steve Nash this offseason, along with Grant Hill and Shaquille O'Neal, thus opening a world of opportunity for their reserves.

With confirmation from Steve Kerr that the Euro-star will play in 2008-09, the Suns now have three point guards on their immediate roster aside from Leandro—Sean Singletary, Nash, and Dragic. If Barbosa wants to be classified as a shooting guard, then lock-down artist Raja Bell and newcomer Matt Barnes are alongside him on the depth chart as well.

Widely recognized for his lightning speed and parallel slicing amidst defenders, the rambunctious shoot-first combo guard routinely shows little initiative towards spreading the wealth and getting his teammates involved. Barbosa also fails miserably on defense, despite his elongated frame. His reckless style of play on both ends of the floor has garnered criticism from analysts, as well as coaches around the NBA.

Still, Leandro is regarded as a great threat and is one of the league's most exciting players, excelling in three-point shooting, attacking the basket, and flourishing in a high-transition offense.

In his best season as a pro, Leandro averaged 18.1 PPG, 4 APG, 1.2 SPG in 2006-07, the year he claimed Sixth Man of the Year. 

However, last season the Brazilian Blur suffered drawbacks in a plethora of categories such as minutes per game, steals, three-point shooting, assists, points per game, free-throw percentage, and field-goal percentage. All categories fell short of his averages from the previous year. 

The acquisition of Goran shocked many, after Phoenix recently deemed Barbosa the heir to Nash's offense, inking him to a five-year contract extension in the summer of 2006, after his breakout season. It has also been reported the Suns have been in talks with free agent Shaun Livingston, who has looked impressive in recent workouts after a year-long absence due to a devastating knee problem.

Perhaps a trade involving Josh Howard of the Mavericks maybe in order, with the former Wake Forest star in dire need of a change of scenery, and the Mavericks aching for a young point guard. The Suns could certainly use Howard, with Grant Hill lingering on the ropes of retirement and Alando Tucker presumably Hill's replacement.

Another bonus if Josh is traded out to the desert is there would be less of a distraction than in the big city of Dallas. If there is any trouble, though, they can always send him to Tent City.

The Nuggets, Warriors, and Bucks are also in need of a starting point guard, creating a pinwheel of possible destinations for the underachieving speedster. The Cleveland Cavaliers were also said to be lobbying for his services before they acquired Mo Williams from the Bucks.

Hopefully, this will jump start the inconsistent International player, who has spent all four seasons of his career with the Suns. If not, he could be donning a different color jersey next season.