Here's some great news for the large contingent of Goran Dragic fans still in Phoenix -- the kid's playing really well for the Houston Rockets who are still very much in the hunt for the last playoff spot. Aaron Brooks, however, has increased his shooting percentage but failed to provide the consistent scoring punch off the bench the Suns were looking for when they trade Dragic AND a 1st round pick to get him.

Since the trade the Rockets (40-36) are 12-5 with Dragic. The Suns (37-38) are 9-11.

Here's what Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo! Sports says about both guys:

Catching up with the trade deadline 'dealt' in the West - Ball Don't Lie - NBA Blog - Yahoo! Sports

Goran Dragic, Houston Rockets The athletic guard has been a huge part of Houston's turnaround over the past month, as his offense has shot way up following the trade that sent him from Phoenix to Houston. Dragic is making a ridiculous 55 percent of his 3-pointers as a member of the Rockets, who have boasted the NBA's best statistical offense since the trade deadline. He's dropped his turnovers, too.

Aaron Brooks, Phoenix Suns Last year's Most Improved Player has turned his year around in Phoenix statistically, raising his 3-point percentage back up to 37 as a member of the Suns. But his decision-making and defense remain as dodgy as ever, and the Suns are reeling.

More fun facts after the jump...

Goran Dragic with the Rockets

  • Shooting .567 from three up from .277. Even his free throw shooting has improved from .608 to .724
  • Assists are down from 3.1 to 1.7 per game but I'm told that's because the Rockets don't run any pick and roll. His turnovers are down as well from 2 per game to 1.
  • Dragic is now scoring a career-high 19.7 points per 36 minutes. He was at 14.8 per 36 as a Suns this season.
  • With the Rockets, Dragic has a career-high PER of 18.2
  • Not only has Dragic played well, but SB Nation Houston says the moving Brooks has made Kyle Lowry better:

The Real Winner Of The Aaron Brooks Trade? Kyle Lowry - SB Nation Houston
Can you imagine if Lowry had been the guy at the beginning of the year? The Rockets might already be in the playoffs instead of wasting so many minutes on Brooks.

Brooks with the Suns
  • Brooks is also shooting better after the trade: 3P% up to .346 from .284 although for some reason his free throw shooting took a dive from .940 to .778.
  • While Goran Dragic saw his assist and turnover drop when he went from the Suns pick and roll system, Brooks hasn't seen any increase in either number.
  • Brooks' PER has gone from 11.8 with the Rockets to 17.4 with the Suns.
Bottom line, the Suns traded Brooks to take some pressure of Nash but that didn't work. During the crucial stretch when the Suns were in the playoff hunt, Nash wasn't able to play less minutes and when he missed a few games, Brooks didn't step up.

More recently during a painful four-game losing streak, both Lon Babby and Alvin Gentry stated on multiple occasions that they weren't happy with the bench scoring during the early part of the fourth quarters (aka Brooks' time).

Since coming to the Suns, Brooks has managed to get himself suspended once and ejected from two games. In my observations, his teammates aren't gelling with him on the floor at all and frankly seem much more happy playing with Zabian Dowdell.

In last night's game against the Clippers, Brooks and Dowdell each played 24 minutes. Zabian, a much better defender than Brooks, had 5 assists compared to 6 for Aaron and Dowdell out-scored Brooks 14 to 12. If you watch the Jared Dudley and Alvin Gentry postgame videos you will see both mention Zabian for praise and don't say a word about Brooks.

To make matters worse, the buzz is that Brooks isn't happy coming off the bench and has a very high opinion of himself. He certainly doesn't strike me as a guy that would be a good fit for the culture of this team moving forward.

I never liked this trade, but I didn't expect it to go this bad. I thought Brooks would be a good locker room guy and put up points on a regular basis. Neither turned out to be true.

Meanwhile, in a different system Dragic is thriving which is an indictment on the Suns with some shared responsibility on Goran as well.

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns won a game without Steve Nash in convincing fashion, and no, that’s not an April Fools joke. Sure, it was just the Los Angeles Clippers, a squad the Suns have now...

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]

I would like to lead us all in a moment of silent thanks to one Mr. Donald Sterling. Without Mr. Sterling, even a down and out, nowhere-going squad like the Phoenix Suns wouldn't be able to trounce a more troubled and nowhere going NBA squad.

 Hakim Warrick led the Suns onslaught with 17 points and 10 boards (yup Warrick), while Zabian Dowdell went for 14 and 5 to anchor a solid Suns' bench effort.  Steve Nash sat this one out with the flu, necessitating Aaron Brooks to start in his place. Brooks went for 12 and 6, but more importantly failed to pick up either an ejection or technical foul called on him.

Quick and to the OBVIOUS

  • Dowdell continues to impress. His poise is excellent and if he can bury that 15 footer consistently, he's a strong #2 PG. To quote the well respected Gary Bender: "Dowdell is gona be a solid player in this league!" Hell, what did the Suns give Marcus Banks? DOUBLE IT!
  • Grant Hill was strong with 19 points in 26 minutes.  I'd offer up a 2 year deal, 8- 10 mil total. Maybe incentive laden, minutes/games played.
  • Dudz went for 16/7/5. What if??? What if the Suns give Dudz the starting 2 job next season?
  • J-Chill played 22 minutes, registering a -2.  Still, 3-4, 4 steals. Maybe he spells BAMF next year?


Suns Roll Through Blakers (SB):

Nice game all around. Zabian Dowdell was impressive and Grant Hill provided a ton of energy and leadership to bust the game open. Frye battled hard against Griffin and held him to 6-15 shooting.

Clippers vs Suns coverage

Clips Nation

[Note by Seth Pollack, 04/01/11 10:25 PM MST ]


Video: Jared Dudley's Dunk Found Wanting By Panel Of His Peers - Desert Dirt - SB Nation Arizona
The general consensus at the time from media row was, no dunk. But after the game Mark McClune from Fox Sports Arizona assembled an esteemed panel of dunkers to pass final judgement. Vince Carter (a famous dunk contest winner), along with the high-flying Hakim Warrick and Josh Childress were given final say. 




Remember When Chris Kaman Was Good?


(photo by @sethpo)

Now that the Suns are extremely out of the Western Conference Playoff race and words like "future" are being tossed around liberally by fans I started to think of June's NBA draft. As you're likely aware, the Suns will be slotted with anywhere from 12th - 14th pick in the draft depending on how they finish out this season. Sure they could hit the lottery jackpot and wind up in the top 3 but that probably won't happen. 

Considering that was the general area the Suns were going to be picking in I decided to try and take a look at how that portion of the draft had fared in recent years. Since the draft can easily be broken up into sixth's I've expanded our range from the 11th pick overall to the 15th pick in the first round (which is currently the first pick out of the lottery). So how have things been going for teams in that range?  

Well, bad. In fact, the 11-15 slots have basically been fruitless for the past 14 drafts.

If you're looking for someone who has developed into an All-Star player (even 1 appearance) from the 11-15 draft spots you have to go all the way back to 1996 when some schlubs named Kobe Bryant, Peja Stojakovic and Steve Nash went 13, 14, and 15. Since then? Zero.

That's 70 different draft picks over the course of 14 years, none of which could muster 1 All-Star appearance. Sure there's still time for the 2010 middle picks - Cole Aldrich, Xavier Henry, Ed Davis, Patrick Patterson, and Larry Sanders - but apparently the odds are quite long. 

If you're looking for an All-Star comparison over that same 1997-present period here it is (listing all the guys with at least 1 appearance):

1st - 5th pick:   24 All-Stars (Duncan, Brand, K. Martin, Yao, L. James, D. Howard, D. Rose, B. Griffin, Francis, Durant, Billups, B. Davis, Gasol, C. Anthony, D. Williams, Horford, Jamison, Bosh, Paul, Westbrook, V. Carter,  Wade, D. Harris, Love)

6th - 10th pick: 11 All-Stars (Szczerbiak, Kaman, Roy, R. Hamilton, McGrady, Nowitzki, Marion, Stoudemire, Pierce, J. Johnson, C. Butler)


Obviously the picks coming before 11-15 should outperform them, but even the portions of the draft coming AFTER have outperformed 11-15:

16th - 20th pick 6 All-Stars (Artest, Magloire, Z. Randolph, D. West, J. Nelson, D. Granger)

21st - 25th pick3 All-Stars (Rondo, Kirilenko, Wallace)

26th - 30th pick: 3 All-Stars (T. Parker, J. Howard, D. Lee)

You can even reach into the 2nd round to find more All-Stars:

31st - 35th pick3 All-Stars (Arenas, Boozer, R. Lewis)

36th - 40th pick1 All-Star (Okur)

41st - 45th pick1 All-Star (Redd)

46th - 50th pick1 All-Star (M. Williams)

51st - 55th pick:  0 All-Stars

56th - 60th pick1 All-Star (Ginobili)

Seriously, look at that. You can break the NBA Draft into 12 even segments and only 2 of those segments have failed to yield an All-Star in the last 14 seasons. Hell, the 59th and 60th picks weren't even around until 2004. 51st - 55th has a solid excuse since most of those dudes are randoms you've probably never heard of, but what's up with 11-15? 

Maybe you're saying to yourself, I'm sure it's not all bad, I'm sure it's borne some fine NBA players, just not All-Star level. And you'd not be totally wrong, but it's still not particularly attractive.

With stats as of March 31st, 2011 here are some of the overall statistical leaders for the 11th - 15th picks and some relevant NBA players and busts for that 1997-present period:

11th pick: 

Games played:   Bonzi Wells

StartsJared Jeffries

Points:   Wells

Rebounds:   Andris Biedrins

Assists:   Wells

Other Relevant NBA Players:    Mickael Pietrus , J.J. Redick, Jerryd Bayless

Busts:  Tariq Abdul-Wahad, Trajan Langdon, Jerome Moiso, Kedrick Brown, Fran Vasquez, Acie Law

12th pick:

Games playedAustin Croshere

StartsVladimir Radmanovic

Points:  Radmanovic

Rebounds:   Nick Collison

Assists:   Radmanovic

Other Relevant NBA Players:   Michael Doleac, Nick Collison, Thaddeus Young, Jason Thompson, Etan Thomas (that's stretching it), Melvin Ely

Busts:  Aleksandar Radojevic, Robert Swift, Yaroslav Korolev, Hilton Armstrong

13th pick:

Games played:   Corey Maggette

StartsRichard Jefferson

Points:  Maggette

Rebounds:   Maggette

Assists:   Derek Anderson

Other Relevant NBA Players:   Keon Clark, Thabo Sefolosha, Tyler Hansbrough, Brandon Rush

Busts:  Courtney Alexander, Marcus Haislip, Marcus Banks, Sebastian Telfair, Sean May, Julian Wright

14th pick: 

Games playedTroy Murphy

Starts:   Murphy

Points:  Murphy

Rebounds:  Murphy

AssistsLuke Ridnour

Other Relevant NBA Players:   Maurice Taylor, Kris Humphries, Ronnie Brewer

Busts:  William Avery, Mateen Cleaves, Rashad McCants, Earl Clark

15th pick:

Games played:   Matt Harpring

PointsAl Jefferson

Starts:  Jefferson

Rebounds:  Jefferson

Assists:  Rodney Stuckey

Other Relevant NBA Players:  Kelvin Cato, Steven Hunter, Robin Lopez (for Seth)

BustsVince's bitch Frederic Weis, Jason Collier, Reece Gaines, Antoine Wright, Cedric Simmons

Yup, that's the list. When you're trying to cling to Corey Maggette, Troy Murphy, and Al Jefferson as best in breed you know you've got problems. No the statistical measurement isn't perfect and you know I'm the last guy to go by All-Star berths but the findings are hilariously damning nonetheless.

If you're curious from the list above, any player I didn't mention wasn't good enough to be relevant but wasn't bad enough to be a bust. Examples are Anthony Randolph, Gerald Henderson, Terrance Williams, Austin Daye, and any of the 2010 draftees.    

Obviously the numbers can and probably will improve over time since guys like Thaddeus Young, Rodney Stuckey, Kris Humphries, Tyler Hansbrough and Jason Thompson will continue playing and maybe starting games for years to come and probably become the statistical leaders for their pick. But it still doesn't appear there's an All-Star among any of those guys or any of the newer guys either.  

If you had to form a starting 5 from those 11-15th picks this is probably what you'd be looking at:

C -  Al Jefferson

PF - Troy Murphy

SF - Matt Harpring

SG - Richard Jefferson

PG - Rodney Stuckey

You can honestly throw together an arguably better starting 5 with guys picked between 56-60 (yes I know Amir Johnson is out of position but give me a break). 

CMarcin Gortat

PF - Luis Scola

SF - Amir Johnson

SG - Manu Ginobili

PG  - Ramon Sessions

Does that mean the Suns should dump their lottery pick in exchange for one of the last 5 picks in the draft? Well obviously it does (not). But does that mean that when the Suns pick in that 11-15 range they are doomed to get a player who is at best Richard Jefferson and at worst Frederic Weis? Well not doomed but personally I wouldn't bet my SB Nation Arizona paycheck on it. 

It's funny because most people look at that late lottery, low playoff drafting range and think that's the spot where teams pick guys who have high boom/bust probability. Yet in the last 14 years there has been lots of bust but no boom above a dull pop. 

Maybe 2011 is the year that the next Kobe or Steve Nash slips to the 11-15 slots - but it probably isn't.  Go ahead and disagree and talk about how much you love Jimmer, Kemba, and the Morris twins in the comments.

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