And so the student has become the master.
Goran Dragic's meteoric rise from relevant backup to a starring role for the playoff-contending Houston Rockets has been covered from nearly every angle. Especially from fans and supporters of the Phoenix Suns.
In order to avoid rehashing tired storylines, I'll be brief: Seeing Dragic succeed in a starting role for the Houston Rockets — who currently sit tied with the Suns for the eighth seed in the playoffs — is surely a sore sight for Suns fans.
There is just one question that begs to be asked: Could Dragic's blossom into a bonafide starting-caliber point guard have occurred with the Suns?
Many of the Suns faithful look back on the days of "El Dragon" with a sense of longing. His late-game heroics in game three of the team's series against the San Antonio Spurs in 2010 were etched into the hearts of fans forever.
Then, in a shortsighted move to bring the underwhelming Aaron Brooks to shore up the backup point guard position, Dragic's time as a member of the Phoenix Suns was over as quickly as it had begun.
The Suns were committed to Steve Nash — and rightfully so. The man is single-handedly keeping this team in playoff contention. The rest of the team is beginning to gel and play better than originally thought, but without Nash, there would be no hope for a playoff series in Phoenix.
That's where things get tricky.
There are those that view this year as Nash's victory lap with the Suns. A last hurrah of sorts, if you will. While Nash remains unequivocally committed to his current team, there is also the very real possibility that the Suns won't commit the three extra years Nash desires after his contract ends this summer.
So, where does Dragic fit into this scene?
The Goran Dragic of today looks much different than the Goran Dragic of old. He's poised, confident and plays for a team and coach that believe in him. His tendency to shy away from tough defense has subsided, and most importantly, he is averaging 36.6 minutes as a starter.
Dragic wouldn't have seen that level of support — or minutes — from the Suns until this summer, at the very earliest.
The main complaint heard from many Suns fans is that the team should have had more patience with him. He showed flashes of achieving his potential while in Phoenix, and those flashes were occurring more and more frequently before his untimely departure.
Should the Suns have kept Dragic? As of right now, all signs point to yes. The team wound up missing the playoffs the year they traded for Brooks, who never really looked like he wanted to be the backup to Nash. Then, as the NBA lockout drudged onward into the doldrums of summer, Brooks signed a one-year contract with a team in China and hasn't been since.
With the Suns in "win-now" mode, Dragic's development was labeled too much of a long term project for Robert Sarver. The problem with that mentality is the Suns ditched a player who is currently showing signs of being a legitimate NBA starter, while the team is currently unsure of what to do after Nash inevitably leaves the team — be that this summer or in three years.
The Suns organization needs to pick a plan and stick to it. Sarver regularly states that he is unable to watch a team suffer through years of losing in order to build the team from the ground up. What he fails to realize is that holding onto a team that is a borderline playoff team — at best — is a surefire way to mire the franchise in mediocrity.
Hindsight is always 20/20, but for the amount of mistakes made by the Suns' front office, hindsight should have become more of a foresight by now.