When a winning team such as the Phoenix Suns trades two of its four best players at the trade deadline, it expects its best remaining players to step into the void with more production and leadership than ever. It also expects some underutilized rotation players to improve with increased playing time.
Neither of those happened, as the Suns have stumbled to a 10-14 record since the trades.
At the trade deadline, the Suns shipped out 31.4 points, 7.8 assists and 6 rebounds per game, including 3.1 three pointers on 8.1 attempts (38%) and 5.9 of 7.1 free throws from just two players, Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas, who made those contributions in 59.1 minutes per game.
That's 30% of the team's points per night, gone. Poof.
In return, the Suns acquired Brandon Knight, who only played 11 of the team's 24 games, and only partially filled the void even when he played. In those 11 games, Knight took over 33 of the missing minutes, contributing just under half the points and just over half the assists.
With Knight's long term injury, he actually only replaced 24% of the traded back court minutes.
Who played the other 76% of the missing minutes? And what did they do with that extra time?
As you can see from this chart, thanks to hoopsstats.com, the needles for Markieff Morris and Eric Bledsoe barely budged (they are 7th and 8th on the list).
The Suns best remaining players have covered only 4.2 of the lost minutes. In those extra 4.2 minutes of playing time, Bledsoe and Keef have taken less than one more field goal attempt per game, contributing only an additional 0.6 points, 0.8 rebounds and 1.2 assists collectively.
To recap, the Suns traded away about 31 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds and their two remaining best players have replaced almost none of that lost production.
Knight has been hurt. Keef and Bledsoe have been Keef and Bledsoe, nothing more, nothing less.
So who got the remaining 55 lost minutes of playing time each night?
The chart above shows it was a mix of everyone. No less than six players have seen a 5+ minute/game increase in their playing time since the trades. Across the board, nine players saw their minutes change before/after the trades and collectively contributed less than 14 more points per game since the trades.
T.J. Warren, Archie Goodwin and Marcus Morris have seen the biggest uptick in minutes per game since the trades and none have set the world on fire with their play.
Marcus has been the most impressive of the three overall, considering he started off as a quality contributor (9 points, 4 rebounds per game) before the trades, and improved his production quite a bit from there.
P.J. Tucker has improved in the second half in the same way Marcus did - by using his extra minutes to provide significantly more production. Unfortunately, both P.J. and Marcus saw a major decline in their shooting percentages as a result of the extra pressure to produce.
Making matters worse, the Suns have dealt with some key injuries, most notably to Brandon Knight (ankle/heel) and Alex Len (nose), two of the team's youngest players and major minutes eaters.
Those injuries put even more onus on Keef and Bledsoe to step up.
Instead, they have failed to increase their production in any noticeable way and now are showing their frustration by racking up technicals again. Keef was lucky to get "only" one technical last night in an ugly loss to Atlanta, while Bledsoe got two quickies on a call that went in his favor.