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Finals Primer: Suns link to the Heat include the Dragon, ‘lil Book’ and the best trade asset in basketball

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As Miami tries to join the Lakers in the Finals, we take a look at some links between the Suns and Heat franchise

Boston Celtics v Miami Heat - Game Four Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Miami Heat have reached the 2020 NBA Finals and we have to celerate that Goran Dragic has reached the greatest height of all the players involved in Suns trades at that fateful the 2015 trade deadline.

Let’s take a few moments on Bright Side — you can add some comments of your own too! — to discuss the links between the Eastern Conference Finals reps Miami Heat and the Phoenix Suns.

Without further ado, we have a round table of Bright Side writers ready to share their thoughts with you, dear readers.


1) Your take on Goran Dragic making All-Star and starting in NBA Finals after trade from Suns

Sam Cooper: Good for Goran. He was always an undeniable talent, but the McDonough regime just had to destroy a good thing. I don’t see how any Suns fan could be rooting against him right now. As an aside, the Suns need a 3rd guard and Dragic is a free agent, but I doubt he’d ever consider a 3rd stint in Phoenix.

Brendon Kleen: This is exactly what Dragic’s career always was headed for. As in the EuroBasket tournament alongside Luka Doncic in 2017 or on the 2013-14 Suns, Dragic has looked perfect as a secondary creator and initiator in Miami’s offense. While of course it would have been nice to see him do so for the Suns in the playoffs, that was not in the cards, and the Suns have Mikal Bridges to show for it. I’m just happy to see a good guy and a great player get his due.

John Voita: God, if I could only say his name right on the Suns JAM Session podcast! I am of the mindset that, when a member of the Phoenix Suns departs the organization, I will continue to root for them, so long as their last name isn’t Morris or Chriss. Watching Goran continue to his career in Miami has been a pleasure, although you can’t help but wonder what might have been. He would’ve been an ideal fit next to Devin Booker. He would’ve solidified the PG position. But we wouldn’t have Deandre Ayton, right?

Matthew Lissy: There isn’t a former Phoenix Sun to cheer on more than Goran Dragic. With 11 years of experience in the NBA, Goran is the opposite of an Eric Bledsoe, bringing leadership and intelligence to a team. Dragic steals the “Mini-LeBron” nickname away from Bledsoe and heads into the off-season as a starting point guard who will get definitely get paid! I do regret not following others into the Dragic camp and sticking with Bledsoe as my guy to the lead the Suns to the playoffs and be the man in Phoenix. I will live with these demons for many more years to come.

Khaleel: Even though 2017-18 was not his best season in the league, Dragic deserved to be an All-Star and it felt good to see him be recognized on that level. Seeing him on the league’s biggest change as Miami plays their butts off trying to get a title will be pleasing to the eye. I remember when he was in the valley, coming off the bench to score 24 points in the 4th quarter to take down the Spurs in the playoffs. He is a giant killer and deserves this opportunity. I’m happy for him. Can we bring him back in free agency? Please.

Zona Sports: I am beyond elated for him. Things ended poorly in Phoenix with him due to Ryan McDonough’s incompetence and inability to communicate with players, so there’s no grudge to be held here. He was one of my favorite Suns all-time due to not only his on-court production, but how great of a teammate he was along with how humble and kind of a human he was off the court. If it winds up being a Heat/Lakers (as it’s trending towards) Finals, I would love nothing more than for “The Dragon” to set LA on fire and lead the Heat to a ring over the Lakers. I would enjoy seeing him do it against any team, but ESPECIALLY the Lakers.

Dave King: Goran was one my favorite Suns players ever, a wonderful locker room interview after games where he would talk to us like equals rather than trying to get in and out as quick as possible. The Dragon is genuine, and deserves every accolade he has accumulated from the World Cup Championship to All-NBA to an All-Star game to now a chance to win the NBA Championship. Should the Suns have kept Goran in 2015? YES! But that would have required a whole different regime and franchise direction than bottoming out for top picks.


2) Does Tyler Herro have the potential to reach Booker levels in 3-4 years?

Sam: This is such a funny conversation to me, and I’d recommend that Suns fans don’t get offended by the comparisons. There’s a very basic reason why Herro is currently a darling of the media and Booker isn’t, and that’s because media cycles (and consumers) are always concerned with that which is novel. Right now it is novel that a 20-year-old Herro is scoring 37 points in the conference finals, just as it was novel when Devin Booker scored 70 points in his 2nd season. But these days, Booker scoring 30+ is so normalized (in fact, he’s done it 91 times now) that hardly anyone would notice except for Suns fans. Will Herro be as good as Booker in 3-4 years? Who knows. All I can tell you is that if you want Devin Booker to be taken more seriously at this point in his career, he needs to make the playoffs. That’s it, there are no shortcuts.

Brendon: We’ll have to see how Herro progresses as a play-maker before I go there, but Herro certainly has matched Booker’s scoring skill as a rookie. Herro’s way of getting to his spots on the floor and make tough in-between shots is positively Booker-esque, but remember that Booker really took his game to the next level both as a rookie and over the course of his first contract when he turned in more efficient scoring performances and elevated his teammates with his passing and gravity. It’s early for Herro to have shown much of that, but it’s what I’m looking for next as we watch the other young Kentucky alum progress.

John: Define “Devin Booker levels”. An All-Star? The best player on his team? A premier scorer? Or a combination of all of the above? Make no mistake about it, Herro is a top-tier talent who definitely has the potential to reach Booker’s level in scoring. I don’t want to take anything away from a player who is pouring in points and impacting a team’s run to the NBA Finals. The difference between Booker and Herro, however, is their environment. Early on in Booker’s career he was given the keys to the franchise and told to drive us towards the playoffs. The culture has been tumultuous, the supporting cast around him has under-performed, and the need for him to be the alpha exists. Conversely, Herro was drafted into a winning culture onto a team with savvy veterans and talented role players. The addition of his talent has propelled the team through the playoffs and into the Finals, yes, but the need for him to be the alpha doesn’t exist. This is a long way of saying the following: does he have the potential to reach Booker levels? Yes. Will the team need him to reach Booker levels? Probably not. Even with players like Butler and Dragic moving on in the next 3-4 years, Miami’s culture will always consist of solid team play and numerous offensive threats, of which Herro will be a contributor.

Matthew: Yes, and not just because of the 37 point performance in game 4 of the Easter Conference Finals. Tyler Herro has the respect, the work ethic, the quickness, and the ability to not just be one dimensional on the court. Both baby-faced men- Devin Booker and Herro, wont settle to be anything short of great and they have both been given the opportunity by their teams to take control of games and become the silent leaders. Booker, who now is the voice of the Phoenix Suns on and off the court paved a path for his biggest fan in Herro. Any success that Herro has, can be contributed to his idol- Devin Booker.

Khaleel: Tyler Herro is nice! But Devin Booker is nicer. That will always be the case. I respect Herro and the Heat franchise and expect them to get the very best out of him. He will be a very good player in this league. But even he’s stated he looks up to Booker and models his game after him. I do not doubt that Herro will be able to reach Booker’s current level in 3-4 years. However, by then I also expect D-Book to be at another level as a constant All-NBA player.

Zona: Tyler Herro is the first NBA player to publicly make it known he models his game specifically after Devin Booker, and I absolutely adore that. I do not believe he will be the last to do so, either. There are times where he hits a ridiculous off-balance shot or makes a play in a crucial moment and jaws at the opponent and I’m like, “yeah, that’s Book”. I take all the Herro/Booker comparisons as a compliment, even if they are getting a bit carried away as recency bias is one hell of a drug. Can Herro eventually get to the level where Booker is now? Of course, however, that would require some pretty significant leaps in the following; adding strength, developing an effective post game, becoming one of the best mid-range shooters in the league along with a massive playmaking leap. Those are a lot of boxes to tick, and it just goes to show how much Booker added to his game from his rookie season to where we are now. I believe Herro will be a very good player for a long time, but some of the “higher ceiling than Booker” comparisons need to be tempered until he proves he belongs in that conversation by doing it over the course of an 82 game season over multiple years.

Dave: Watching Tyler Herro play basketball is a joy because he does remind me of Devin Booker with his array of shooting and scoring talents for Miami, including a 37 point game to give Miami a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals. I think Herro has a great future, and likely becomes a C.J. McCollum type who can be a solid #2, just below All-Star level. That’s how people described Booker for a few years too, so it’s no insult. I want to see Herro become the #1 option, get schemed against and beat traps and double teams before I can really assess his ceiling in the NBA. In the meantime, it’s a huge boon for Miami to have drafted the next C.J. at the least!


3) Do you still miss that 2021 Miami pick given up in the Mikal Bridges trade?

Sam: In hindsight it is so funny that anyone ever tried to doom-and-gloom this trade on the basis of a Miami Heat draft pick. The Miami Heat, under the leadership of Pat Riley, were never going to tank! It’s just unimaginable. Since Riley took over in 2008, the Heat have never fallen below 37 wins. So unless the Thunder (who now own that pick) stumble upon the next Giannis in the late first round next year, you can sleep soundly knowing that the Suns acquired a remarkably intelligent 3-and-D contributor in Bridges for years to come.

Brendon: This is a joke, right? Of course not! Bridges looks like a fringe All-Star candidate while the Heat pick keeps getting worse and worse. First it was going to be 2021 that we had the double draft, then that came and went. Then it was that the Heat might have to bottom out and rebuild, but they scored Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo and avoided tanking or rebuilding at all. The end result is that the pick is pretty bland, and the Suns scored an awesome player in return.

John: It was worth holding on to the pick as long as we did, and given that the value has tanked, I don’t miss it one bit.

Matthew: It seemed like the end of the world at the time of the draft pick trade. Every NBA podcast seemed to the think the Phoenix Suns were insane trading away that pick. Draft picks are now behind the Suns franchise knowing that we have in Deandre Ayton, Devin Booker and Mikal Bridges. I have forgotten about giving that pick up and am now excited and focused on this years free agent class.

Khaleel: We have Mikal Bridges and that means we won the trade. Enough said.

Zona: Mikal Bridges... I do not miss it one bit and it was never wise to assume a Pat Riley led team would concede a valuable pick, even if their team construction at the time was putrid. The 21’ Draft Class looks to be stacked, but the odds are that pick will be in the early 20’s to late 1st round range, so it’s whatever. We have Mikal Bridges, therefore we win.

Dave: I remember saying all the way back then in 2018 that there was no way Pat Riley would allow that pick to have any value. Here we are with Bridges being a potential #2 or #3 on a playoff team, while that Miami pick might be a bottom-5 pick in the first round. I don’t miss. I never did.


Congrats to the Miami Heat making the NBA Finals, which start on Wednesday against the Los Angeles Lakers!