Eric Bledsoe had arthroscopic surgery on his torn meniscus today, and the Phoenix Suns are optimistic he will return to action this season.

The surgery on Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe's knee was successful today.

The surgery was performed in Phoenix by renowned Suns team doctor and knee surgeon Thomas Carter. Bledsoe will immediately begin a recovery and rehabilitation program and will pursue a possible return to action during the second half of this NBA season.

The key on the surgery for Bledsoe was a likelihood that he could play again this season.

While no details of the surgery were shared, a source close to the team expressed optimism to me that Bledsoe will indeed return in the second half of the season.

More details will follow, but for now his agent Rich Paul has not shared any details on the surgery either.

Lost amid the Eric Bledsoe hoopla: For the fourth consecutive year, Phoenix Suns point guard Goran Dragic is exceeding expectations and raising the ceiling of his career. He is now knocking on the door of an All-Star berth.

Over the past five years, Phoenix Suns fans have witnessed the growth of a true NBA talent from his infancy to the verge of an All-Star berth.

Lost amid the Eric Bledsoe hoopla, the Phoenix Suns still have their heart and soul running the point guard position. After this season, as he witnesses players dropping like flies around him, we may have to give Goran Dragic a new nickname: The Iron Dragon.

Five years ago, the Suns had a "deer in the headlights" 22-year old rookie named Goran Dragic playing ineffective spot minutes behind All-Star Steve Nash. For context, that's three yrs older than Archie Goodwin and two years older than Alex Len are right now. Dragic couldn't dribble the basketball out of a paper bag, couldn't shoot well, and couldn't finish at the rim. And as the point guard, he couldn't generate many points for the team, couldn't use his off hand for anything, shot just 39% from the field and had nearly as many turnovers as assists.

But he flashed some moxie despite the Opie looks. When a player (Jamaal Tinsley, I believe) passed the ball between Dragic's legs, Goran returned the favor on the next play. When a Kings player stole the ball in open court from Dragic, the Slovenian ran him down to take the ball back. There were flashes, but they were few and far between. A noted columnist from ESPN famously (infamously?) wrote that "Goran Tragic* is the worst player in the NBA".

*could this nickname be the source of career-long mispronunciation of Drah-gitch's name?

A year later, during the 2009-10 season, Dragic improved. He became a viable backup to Nash, and even carried the team through occasional stretches of brilliance during their 28-7 late season run to the playoffs. And when the playoffs came - Dragic's one and only playoff experience to date - he was a darling of the nation. To this day, his most memorable national moment was that fourth Q against San Antonio. You know the one.

In the span of one season, our little Slovenian's nickname changed from "Tragic" to "The Dragon".

After a dismal start to the 2010-11 season and a bad trade to Houston, the Dragon got his first chance to run a team in the final weeks of the season when Kyle Lowry got hurt. He #killedit to the tune of a triple-double capper, but Houston came up just short of the playoffs.

I thought Dragic had reached his ceiling - a good backup point guard who could flash brilliance on occasion, but never become a full-time starter.

I was wrong.

In 2012, Dragic's 4th NBA season, he got an even bigger chance for Houston when Lowry missed most of the second half to injury. In 28 starts, Dragic averaged 18 points and 8.4 assists in 36 minutes per game. He nearly single-handedly carried the short-handed Rockets to the playoffs, starting the last 26 games of that season and missing the playoffs in the final week.

As Dragic hit free agency, I once again thought he'd reached a new, but distinct, ceiling - a quality starting point guard who had probably played a tiny bit over his head in Houston. He still wasn't a consistent shooter or great set-up passer like his former mentor, Nash. I also thought Dragic's balls-out style might not last a full season of wear and tear. In terms of league rankings, Dragic was maybe the 15th best point guard in the league. Not great. Not bad either.

Again, I was wrong.

He lasted the whole season as the starter in Phoenix and became the epitome of what Suns fans wanted from their team - consistent effort, all game long, and a winning attitude. Dragic put up strong numbers considering the lack of talent around him, even setting a career high in all major categories.

And for the fourth year in a row, Dragic was even better in the second half of the season. He averaged 16.1 points and 9.5 assists per game in 26 post-ASG starts, up from 14 and 6.3 before the break. And this was under Hunter and amid a youth movement.

Again, I thought Goran had hit his ceiling. How much better can you be than 16 and 9? When the Suns acquired Eric Bledsoe in the offseason, I figured that Dragic would get more space to operate, but would handle the ball less and overall cap out at his numbers - 15 points and 5 assists or so a night, while Bledsoe stole the spotlight.

Now, in his sixth NBA season, Goran Dragic is once again reaching for a new ceiling. He is now knocking on the doorstep of an All-Star berth, thanks only to the chance that a number of better players will miss the game to injury, such as Kobe Bryant and Russell Westbrook.

In 29 first-half starts, Dragic has blown away his prior numbers. He's putting up a career high 19 points per game along with 6 assists, despite sharing time with Bledsoe as expected. The extra 4.5 points per game over last year may not seem like much, but it's the difference between go-to scorer and supporting player.

And we haven't even hit the second half of the season!

To recap, Goran Dragic has been better every single year of his career in the second half of the season. Check out the splits. Despite playing for his country every summer, "The Dragon" gains power as the season wears on.

Can the Suns survive without Eric Bledsoe for a time? If you read articles and fan reaction, the clear answer is no. Without Bledsoe, the Suns will "Bled" out, they say.

But I say different.

I say that the Suns will continue to rise on the fire breathed by The Dragon. His career trajectory is still rising, despite the ceilings I have imposed on his career.

The kid who arrived in the NBA as a deer-in-the-headlights PG despite already being 22 years old may now be busting down the door of an All-Star berth in his sixth NBA season.

Eric Bledsoe will be missed. But if Leandro Barbosa, Gerald Green, Channing Frye and P.J. Tucker can continue to space the floor by making a solid chunk of their three-pointers, and if Barbosa and Ish Smith can handle some of the PG load while Dragic gets a breather, there's every reason to think Dragic can carry this team to the playoffs. A mere .500 record from now on will get the Suns 45 wins, which should be good enough to make it.

Dragic has experienced the postseason only once in his career. In three of the other four seasons, he's come up just short in the final week.

He gets better in the second half, every single season. Despite missing Bledsoe, he's still surrounded by better talent than he's had since 2010. He's got a coach channeling his own former playing days - days that included an All-Star berth - into the Slovenian guard built just like he was in both temper and talent.

This Suns team is fueled by Fire, not Bled.

Goran Dragic will continue to improve. He just needs the rest of the team to deliver the way they have all season.

Ryan McDonough and team have done an amazing job of putting together a winning team on a shoestring budget. But does that help or hurt the Suns in trying to acquire better players in the trade market?

The tried and true maxim of making money through investments is to buy low and sell high. In theory, the goal is to find some undervalued asset, invest, and then watch as it increases in value, selling it at the top of the market. It works for almost everything. But does it work for an NBA roster? Is it possible to be too good at finding undervalued assets?

I wanted to quantify how much the Suns were paying for their wins this season and see how good of a bargain this team really is. Here's a chart showing each NBA team and how much they are paying per win so far this season.


As you can see, the Suns are a hell of a bargain, relatively speaking. It's no surprise that the teams with best records end up being the best deals, but look how much those other teams in the top 10 are paying! Only the Hawks are spending less on total salary. In the top 5, the next closest team to the Suns is spending an additional $5,000,000. Not too shabby. And think about this: that number includes Emeka Okafor's $15,000,000 contract. If you subtract that, the Suns are far and away the best deal going in the NBA right now.

So what does this tell us? First of all, that Lon Babby, Ryan McDonough and Jeff Hornacek have done a bang up job of A) assessing and acquiring undervalued talent, and B) getting the most out of that talent on the basketball court. Most of us knew this without the data and the rest of the NBA is finding out every time they say, "Who?" when Miles Plumlee dunks on them, PJ Tucker snares a rebound or Gerald Green hits a game winner.

This is good news, right? We've got a front office that, after several years of misses and instability, is not only good at picking talent, they're good at picking cheap talent! It's the best of both worlds: lots of wins coming in, not a lot of money going out. Except we all know one thing: this roster probably isn't a championship contender just yet. The Suns need to get the vaunted "missing piece" that's the subject of so much speculation in comment threads. They need to acquire someone to put them over the top and in the same breath as the Heat, Thunder and Pacers.

Here's where the Suns' success in the bargain bin becomes a little more troublesome. Below is a chart of each Suns player and their value to the Suns expressed in Dollars Per Win Share. For the uninitiated, Win Shares are like PER in that they are a single value measurement of a players' on-court contributions, except instead of "efficiency", they try to value how many wins a player has contributed to the team. Head over to for a full explanation.


Due to space, I can't show you how this compares to the rest of the league, but suffice to say, the Suns' rotation players as a whole are smokin' deals. All of the Suns' regular rotation players are in the top half of the league in terms of dollars per win share. Even the Suns' two "worst" deals, Channing Frye and Dionte Christmas, are great deals by this measure. By way of quick comparison, Jared Dudley clocks in at $2.8M/WS, Marcin Gortat at just over $3M/WS, and Luis Scola at $3.4M/WS. The Suns clearly got a whole lot more bang for their buck in the off-season.

The problem with this becomes: how on earth do the Suns get equivalent value for any of the players on their roster? And how well do these players' value translate to potential trade partners?

In a hypothetical trade for just Kevin Love in order to make salaries match, the Suns would have to send either A) Emeka Okafor and a combination of players making less than $3.8M or B) some other combination of players making about $12-$18M (and of course, draft picks). If you're the Suns, option B is clearly out of the question as it would entirely decimate the roster. But if you're Minnesota, how is option A appealing without a lottery pick? "Hey, season ticket holders, in place of your top 10 power forward, here's some, um... efficiency! And some picks, that may or may not pan out." (They can't even get both Morris twins because the money doesn't work.)

And, then let's assume for a second that the Suns are looking at options outside of trading for a player on a max deal. Let's take Thaddeus Young since we're all about the power forwards around here these days. Now, if the Sixers are willing to accept Channing Frye, maybe a Markieff Morris and a draft pick, then I feel like that deal gets done. But what if they don't want Channing Frye? How do the Suns hit that $6-$10M window to make the salaries work without giving up Goran Dragic? Is a Thad Young worth a Goran Dragic? Is anyone?

Now I know there are ways around some of this. Minnesota could include another player to make a potential deal work or I may be undervaluing Channing Frye in the eyes of the 76ers.

But I also think that the Suns' asset situation isn't as rosy as one might think. No doubt, McDonough and company have done an excellent job in putting together a valuable roster on the cheap. But those deals might be so good that flipping that value for something "equivalent" in both the eyes of the Suns and potential trade partners may be more difficult than one thinks.

It appears that the signing of Leandro Barbosa is the first step toward filling some pretty big shoes for the next several weeks.

ESPN's Mark Stein reported today that Eric Bledsoe will undergo surgery to repair his knee, and will be out indefinitely.

Bledsoe injured the game against the Clippers on Dec. 30, although he returned to that game. The knee swelled up, however, keeping him out of the last four games. Now he is going to be out for much longer.

John Gambadoro is reporting that the injury is a torn meniscus.

Just heard from another reliable source it is a meniscus tear for Bledsoe that will require surgery.

— John Gambadoro (@Gambo987) January 9, 2014

Of course, it's important to get it fixed now, and it's best to miss time while the Suns face their easiest month of games to date. After playing one of the league's toughest schedules so far, the Suns now get to see all those East teams over the coming weeks.

In the meantime, the Suns front office has rightly decided that Ish Smith is not a guaranteed, shut-the-door long term answer as the third guard in a four-guard lineup (behind Goran Dragic and Gerald Green, ahead of rookie Archie Goodwin).

So, Leandro Barbosa is a smart pickup. While he doesn't know the offense - make no mistake, this is a totally different offense than the Nash days - he does know how to play with Goran Dragic and Channing Frye, three-fifths of the Suns much-loved second unit from the 2010 WCF run. All we need now is Louis Amundson to come walking (err, riding) through that door.

Barbosa may have only made one shot against the Timberwolves in his second Suns debut, but he did flash his signature speed and got to the basket almost at will. If nothing else, he provides more stability in the lineup.

But he's no Eric Bledsoe. Neither is Ish Smith. If Bledsoe is gone for the foreseeable future, the Suns will have to pull another rabbit out of that hat to stay in the playoff chase.

The Phoenix Suns’ optimism for improvements coming as an eastern road swing continues is all but shot. In fact, a major reinforcement won’t be coming for a while. ESPN’s Marc Stein...

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