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Early Struggles

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With Expectations High For The Young Season, The Pedestrian Start Of Has Fans And Prognosticators Questioning The Signing Of Isiah Thomas But The Real Question Is When Will Dragic And Bledsoe Elevate Their Games?


By Wayne Schutsky
Modern Times Magazine

Nov. 12, 2014 — With Goran Dragic, a re-signed Eric Bledsoe, spark plug Isaiah Thomas and a cast of quality supporting characters, the Suns were expected to improve upon last year’s surprising season.

So, what happened?

The team isn’t sinking, but it’s not lighting up the court, either. In reality, it’s been a tale of two teams. The Suns have quality wins over the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors, but have also lost to the subpar Utah Jazz and Sacramento Kings.

In the small seven-game sample size this season, the Suns are averaging 103.7 points per game. That’s good for seventh in the league, but nearly two points per game below last season’s average. The team is also ranked 27th in the league in assists per game, a pretty paltry number for the NBA’s most point-guard driven offense.

This is all coming while the team is getting great performances from Markieff and Marcus Morris. Markieff, specifically, is lighting it up, averaging over 16 points and 6 rebounds per game.

Okay, maybe it is the role players. But, no, the role players aren’t the problem either.

No matter if the team’s brass might want to admit it or not, the problem is Dragic and Bledsoe — who were supposed to dominate — have been down-right pedestrian. The Suns’ stars are failing to play up to their potential. Dragic is averaging just 14.4 points and 2.8 assists per game. That’s way below his averages from last year.

Bledsoe, who had been christened the franchises star of the future ever since the Suns traded for him, isn’t doing much better. He’s averaging around 14 points and just over 5 assists.

The only guard playing near his potential is the newly-acquired Thomas. He’s been a bright spot for the team and is leading the club in scoring with 16.9 points per game.

But, that’s not enough. The team needs someone to turn into that ‘go-to’ scorer that Dragic was last year and that many predicted Bledsoe would become.

So, what’s causing the down year for Phoenix’s top two guards? An easy scapegoat would be the new three-guard set up. It looks like Thomas may have messed up the mojo and put Bledsoe and Dragic in a funk.

That makes a lot of sense. Just putting those two in the backcourt together last season was very controversial, but Dragic and Bledose got comfortable with each other and made it work. They were both able to be productive in that scheme. Throwing another guard into that mix seems to have upset the balance.

But, let me play devil’s advocate. What if the three-guard system is the only thing keeping the Suns afloat?

I would contend that the Isaiah Thomas acquisition was prescient because the team knew it was relying on two talented, yet unproven guards. Dragic had an amazing year last year, but it was by far the best of his career. There was no indication that 2013-2014 was the norm and not simply ‘one great year’ for the Dragon. With Bledsoe, the talent is obvious, but his injury history and offseason of turmoil made success this season anything but guaranteed.

Throwing a third, legitimate point guard, into the mix was just insurance that upped the odds that the backcourt would be productive.

And, it’s paying off. Thomas’ production is one of the big reasons the Suns still have a winning record. Just look at his performance against Golden State when he scored 15 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter.

In the end, I don’t think Dragic’s season last year was a complete anomaly. I think he will find his place in the offense and start scoring more consistently. The same goes for Bledsoe. He had an offseason without team contact thanks to one of the weirdest contract negotiations in recent memory, so it’s only logical that it might take him longer than normal to get into the groove.

Until then, the Suns have Thomas, Morris and a competent roster to keep the team in contention.

It might be a rough road until that happens, though, but don’t blame the Isaiah Thomas trade. In fact, you should be thankful it happened in the first place. Otherwise, things could be a lot worse.

Wayne Schutsky is a senior contributor to Modern Times Magazine.
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