PHOENIX — Around the same time that the Los Angeles Lakers were introducing newly-acquired Steve Nash on Wednesday, the Phoenix Suns held a less-anticipated and more somber press conference to...

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As expected all along, the Suns officially signed Eric Gordon to an offer sheet today worth the maximum possible money: $58 million over 4 years, with a starting salary of $13.7 million (and 4.5% annual raises).

This was all very expected. Despite fans from both teams expecting sign-and-trade discussions to occur, unnamed sources from each team had all along consistently said that the Suns would make the offer and New Orleans would match it. No deviance.

Yet the way it has played out has many heads scratching, not least of all in New Orleans. Here are some quotes from Hornets coach just today. Doesn't sound like they've patched things up with Gordon yet.

For weeks, Demps and Williams have referred to Gordon as their best player and have said they plan to build around him. When asked Wednesday if Gordon was still in his plans, Williams said, ''Yes.''

''Eric is just in a weird situation right now,'' Williams said. ''He has always talked about being here, and then all of this stuff has come out of the blue.

''I just think when you're going through free agency and you're talking about that kind of money, certain things are said and felt,'' Williams continued. ''But I think when the dust settles, you'll hear more of the truth about where he wants to be.''

Yet Williams also stressed that he does not see the wisdom of forcing a player to be in New Orleans against his wishes.

''We want people that want to be here,'' Williams said. ''If you don't want to be here, we've got to make some adjustments.''

Two other restricted free agents (Roy Hibbert and Brook Lopez) also garnered "max" offers from rival teams who vowed all along to match any offer.

But in each case the incumbent team (Indiana and New Jersey, respectively) preempted those offer sheets with a matching or better contract of their own, simplifying the process for everyone and smoothing the ruffled feathers of their "max" star at the same time.

Not so with New Orleans.

Despite having eight days to consider the offer, making repeated vows to match it, and now-reported refusal to even consider a sign-and-trade scenario to send Gordon to Phoenix outright, New Orleans failed to act proactively with their disgruntled star.

After Gordon complained vehemently about their lack of attention, they made Gordon fly all the way to Phoenix and sign the Suns' offer sheet for them to match, rather than simply making the same contract offer on their own and shaking his hand face-to-face.

And to make matters worse, on the same day they traded away the team's only veteran (Jarrett Jack) for the rights to a Euro player who won't come across the pond any time soon. Suddenly, newly signed plays-the-same-position-as-the-#1-overall-pick Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon are the team's grizzled veterans at 4 years of NBA service apiece.

Strange, and not very team-building with their young star. And certainly, not what Gordon was hoping, for sure.

Makes you wonder what's going on down there in New Orleans. Is Dell Demps just flexing his muscles or what?

Marc Stein (via twitter): Hornets now have 3 days to match EGordon offer sheet. They definitely will but early indications I get is they'll make PHX wait full 3 days about 38 minutes ago

Well if he is, he's shooting himself in the foot at the same time. If New Orleans had signed Gordon to their own contract, they could traded him anywhere in the NBA anytime after January 15, 2013.

By simply matching the Suns' offer, now the Hornets cannot trade Gordon for a full year without his permission. And, they've continued to burn bridges with their best player.

So what's New Orleans' end game here? What's the power play doing for them?


Jared loves basketball like a fat kid loves cake

"Do you think the average NBA Player is happy for LeBron?"

"What kind of a gambler are you?"

"Did you ever have a moment in the NBA where you felt like you just didn't belong in the league?"

"Describe your childhood to a stranger"

"What's the most difficult thing you've overcome in your life?"

"What is something that you do that consistently annoys the people who love you?"

Jared Dudley takes on these questions and more in this interview he did today on ESPN2 on the Dan Le Batard Show. Always a good interview, this is a good 7 minute interview for any Suns fan... to take your mind off other current news today.

Looking down the road - Jared definitely has a bright future in sports media.



PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns finally got that offer sheet signed by New Orleans restricted free agent Eric Gordon, the team announced today. The Hornets will have three days to match the...

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Can Dragic be the next great point guard in Phoenix?

Regardless of whether you believe Nash’s actions to be perfidious or justifiable, when he departed for the Lakers he left some large shoes to fill. For the last 8 seasons, Suns’ fans have enjoyed one of the greatest stretches of outstanding point guard play in the history of the league. The Suns actually have a strong tradition of prodigious point guards with headliners Kevin Johnson, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, and even Stephon Marbury (to a lesser degree – he did put up two+ seasons over 20 and 8) manning the post in recent eras. Great point guards are synonymous with Phoenix Suns basketball. It has arguably been the defining position on the team for the last quarter century (Barkley, Amare, and TC weren’t too shabby at the 4, either).

Enter the Dragon.

Goran Dragic has accepted the daunting proposal of following in Nash's footsteps as an implicit stipulation of his new contract. Having studied under his tutelage, Dragic should be explicitly aware of what Nash meant to this team, the fans, the league, and even other countries. Can Dragic fill the vacuous void left by Nash’s evacuation? Probably not. It would be nothing short of miraculous if Dragic can contribute something even comparable to the total body of work that Nash provided.

But he doesn’t need to be the next Steve Nash, just the next Goran Dragic. He doesn’t need to match 8 years of amazing achievements, he just needs to play his best next season.

The following analysis will divagate from the surfeit of discussion involving the ethical issues surrounding recent events and assess the possible implications with respect to basketball. What will the fallout be? Is Dragic up to the task or will he quail under the pressure? Is it even possible that the Suns could lose Nash and improve at the point guard position next season?

Hit the jump to scrutinize one angle of this multifaceted subject.

While Nash’s overall greatness is undeniable, many of us had noticed a slight deterioration in his play the last few seasons. I detailed some of the exact areas where he had tapered off in his player evaluation back on May 14th (criticism made more valid based on pre-dating his apostasy). A modest overall decrease in production has been exacerbated by the late season swoons that have punctuated the end of his last couple campaigns.

Nash’s PER36 and advanced statistics below illustrate this decline.

Nash PER36:

Season Age Tm G GS MP FG% 3P% FT% TRB AST STL TOV PTS
2009-10 35 PHO 81 81 2660 .507 .426 .938 3.6 12.1 0.6 4.0 18.0
2010-11 36 PHO 75 75 2497 .492 .395 .912 3.7 12.3 0.7 3.8 15.9
2011-12 37 PHO 62 62 1961 .532 .390 .894 3.4 12.2 0.7 4.2 14.2

Nash Advanced:

Season Age Tm G MP PER TS% eFG% ORtg DRtg OWS DWS WS WS/48
2009-10 35 PHO 81 2660 21.6 .615 .570 121 114 9.1 0.8 9.9 .178
2010-11 36 PHO 75 2497 20.8 .601 .542 118 114 7.3 0.7 8.0 .153
2011-12 37 PHO 62 1961 20.3 .625 .581 115 110 5.2 0.6 5.9 .144

A steady decline in points and WS/48 are the two areas which show pronounced difference. What these don't depict is the late season struggles that have beset Nash. More on those to follow.

Next are statistics for the Phoenix Suns new starting point guard. His statistics reflect the time since he left Phoenix during the 2010-11 season.

Dragic PER36:

Season Age Tm G GS MP FG% 3P% FT% TRB AST STL TOV PTS
2010-11 24 HOU 22 3 378 .472 .519 .667 5.3 5.2 1.3 2.0 16.2
2011-12 25 HOU 66 28 1752 .462 .337 .805 3.5 7.2 1.7 3.2 15.9

Dragic Advanced:

Season Age Tm G MP PER TS% eFG% ORtg DRtg OWS DWS WS WS/48
2010-11 24 HOU 22 378 17.7 .604 .584 120 109 0.9 0.3 1.2 .157
2011-12 25 HOU 66 1752 18.0 .567 .518 111 106 3.6 1.5 5.1 .139

While Nash's overall numbers are better, the disparity isn't overwhelming. The main area where Nash is vastly superior is assists (no big surprise). While Nash is a more efficient scorer, he doesn't score more frequently. Dragic appears to be a more tenacious defender based on steals, DRtg, and DWS. Their WS/48 the last two seasons are nearly identical.

What these numbers don't show is the way the season ended for these two players.

Dragic started the last 26 games of the season for the Rockets. During this stretch he averaged 18.2 points and 8.3 assists in 36.4 minutes per game. He had 11 games with 20+ points and reached double digits in scoring 25 out of 26 times. He also recorded 7 games with 10+ assists and 6 double-doubles.

Nash played in 25 of the Suns’ final 26 games. He averaged 10.7 points and 10.2 assists in 30.2 minutes per contest. Nash reached the 20 point mark just once over this stretch and recorded 10 games with single digit scoring. He did eclipse double digits in assists 17 times and amass 8 double-doubles in all.

Telfair Advanced:

Season Age Tm G MP PER TS% eFG% ORtg DRtg OWS DWS WS WS/48
2011-12 26 PHO 60 895 13.2 .495 .461 99 107 0.4 0.7 1.1 .058

While Telfair's statistics look fairly pedestrian, his late season performance adumbrates favorably for next season. Although his play is unlikely to parallel the stellar conclusion to last season, there is hope that the overall body of work can exceed this production.

Price Advanced:

Season Age Tm G MP PER TS% eFG% ORtg DRtg OWS DWS WS WS/48
2011-12 28 PHO 36 517 8.4 .465 .427 89 105 -0.4 0.5 0.1 .008
All Statistics Provided by Basketball-Reference.com. Generated 7/10/2012.

Ronnie Price was a warm body.


Total PG

Player

Actual Min.

Adjusted

Adjusted

WS/48

Total

Minutes

Played

%

Min.

Wins

3168

Nash

1961

100.0%

1961

0.144

5.88

Telfair

895

63.4%

765.1

0.058

0.92

Price

517

36.6%

441.9

0.008

0.07

3373

3168

6.88


What do these numbers mean?

The first row is total minutes at the point guard position last season (66 games x 48 minutes).

The actual minutes played by the trio means that they also played time at other positions (mostly Price at the two) and that there is a small discrepancy for overtime games, etc. To account for this I adjusted the reserve minutes based on their percentage of the actual minutes played.

Multiplying the adjusted wins number by the WS/48 score and dividing by 48 yields the wins produced. Reference Nash's 5.88 wins against the 5.9 from his advanced stats above, and it appears this math is correct.

The Suns' point guard position produced approximately 6.88 wins last season.

*****

Total PG

Player

Actual Min.

Adjusted

Adjusted

WS/48

Total

Adjusted

Minutes

Played

%

Min.

Wins

Wins

3936

Dragic

2952

100.0%

2952

0.146

8.98

7.23

Telfair

1112

63.4%

623.8

0.061

0.79

0.64

Marshall

642

36.6%

360.2

0.008

0.06

0.05

4706

3936

9.83

7.91

This next set of data is a projection.

The total minutes are based off of a full season (82 games x 48 minutes).

I have given Dragic 36 minutes per game and split the remaining minutes between Telfair and Marshall according to the same ratio between Telfair and Price from last season.

I have increased Dragic and Telfair's WS/48 by 5% each. These adjusted scores seem well within reason. Dragic and Telfair both produced at a higher clip at the end of last season. I have already detailed Dragic's exploits, and Telfair produced a .212 WS/48 over the final 14 games last season. I don't see why a meager improvement is out of the question. I left Marshall's static from Price's production (or lack thereof) last year, but let's face it, if Marshall doesn't overshadow Price's performance from last year I will be sorely disappointed.

The wins are calculated in the same fashion, but then adjusted back to account for the difference in games between the seasons to allow for a proper comparison.

Following this criteria, next year's version would produce 1.03 MORE wins (7.91 - 6.88) over a 66 game period. That's a 15% increase in win shares! Obviously win shares doesn't provide a comprehensive analysis, but I think this does illustrate that it is conceivable that a Dragic/Telfair/Marshall grouping might not be ineffectual compared to last season's Nash/Telfair/Price contingent.

*****

Overall, I think there is hope that the Suns new point guards will acquit themselves admirably next season. The unique skill set that Nash possesses is irreplaceable. He is truly inimitable. The intangibles alone are supernumerary. But the Suns' new point guards bring other talents to the table.

Dragic is young and I expect him to play more minutes than Nash has the last couple seasons. Having the best player at a position take up more of the minutes was a major factor in increasing the win shares in my previous example. The Suns have parted ways with a player on the decline and now have three point guards on the roster with a potentially ascending trajectory.

Dragic's youth, stamina, defense, and scoring will help offset the decline in distributing, leadership, and efficiency at the starting position.

A minor overall improvement over last season from Telfair will help shore up the unit and provide healthy competition for the rookie.

Kendall Marshall showing us practically anything will be an improvement over last year's third string point guard.

So it may not be better, Suns' fans, but it could be worse.


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