As our friends over at Bright Side of the Sun have reported, the Phoenix Suns may be putting Goran Dragic on the trading block. Rumor has it that the veteran point guard can be acquired for the price of a first-round draft pick, which is an asset the Boston Celtics happen to be overflowing with.
Hearing Suns want a first-rounder for Goran Dragic and, rest assured, they'll get it. Rockets got to be tempted.— Gery Woelfel (@GeryWoelfel) February 12, 2015
Speculation about a Dragic trade has stirred since before the season started. The Suns parting with Dragic seemed almost inevitable after they locked up Eric Bledsoe and signed Isaiah Thomas in free agency, but the unorthodox three-point guard system has defied most expectations. After a bumpy start that saw Dragic struggle to adjust to a new role playing off the ball more, the Suns backcourt trio has learned to play together effectively. Phoenix ranks 7th in the league with a 105.9 Offensive Efficiency and Dragic's numbers have been on the rise since his shaky start.
At this time last year we were hearing that Dragic was among the most notable All-Star snubs. In his breakout season he produced 20.3 points and 5.9 assists, while shooting over 50% from the floor and over 40% from beyond the arc. He also posted a career-best 21.43 PER than ranked 20th in the league. His numbers have declined a bit this season, as his Usage Rate (20.6) has plummeted to its lowest point since he arrived in Phoenix four years ago, but he remains a very effective player that can be even better when asked to do more.
So why would a Phoenix team clinging to the 8th seed in the ultra-competitive Western Conference be looking to get rid of him? Moving Dragic before the trade deadline for a future draft pick would be a drastic blow to their playoff hopes, but Phoenix may be motivated to move him if they don't expect to keep him beyond this season.
Dragic's contract includes a $7.5 million player option for next season. If the Suns expect him to decline it, getting a valuable asset for him now would be more appealing than losing him for nothing this summer. This is where Boston could swoop in with it's bundle of future draft picks to tempt Phoenix with. They certainly have the ammo to get a deal done, but should they?
The 6'3'' Dragic is big enough to cover opposing shooting guards, while quick enough to take advantage of the match-up on the other end of the court. Given how well he has played alongside Bledsoe, it's reasonable to expect that he could team with Marcus Smart to create a formidable backcourt. Coach Brad Stevens has indicated in the past that he likes the idea of playing multiple point guards together. This could totally work!
The opportunistic Danny Ainge has been patiently waiting for his chance to cash in some of his chips to acquire an impact player. Dragic would fit the mold, but surrendering one of their valuable first-round draft picks for a player that may bolt after this season is a steep price to pay. He's a good player - maybe even good enough to help them land in the postseason - but he's not enough of an upgrade for them to avoid being anything more than first-round roadkill.
Boston certainly wouldn't give up one of their own picks or the potential gold mine that they have in future Brooklyn picks. If they were to entertain that idea then they surely would need to put some heavy protection on it to ensure they aren't giving up a lottery pick. They also have future first-rounders from the Grizzlies, Mavericks, Clippers and Cavaliers that would be less risky to give away. Dragic may be worth the gamble for one of those picks if Ainge has reason to believe a half season in Boston will be enough to convince him to re-sign after the season. They may even be able to convince him to pick up his player option, which would allow him to reach free agency in 2016 when the salary cap is expected to jump significantly.
With no assurances that Dragic would stay, Ainge would be taking an unnecessary risk. While Dragic would look good in green, the Celtics are better off trying to lure him in as a free agent this summer rather than surrendering assets to acquire him as a rental. A team with championship aspirations that could be put over the top by acquiring a point guard of his caliber would be more likely to make a move for him - so keep your eye on the Houston Rockets.
Update: Some interesting comments from Suns GM (and former employee of Danny Ainge with the Celtics). These comments only support the notion that the Suns could be open to dealing Dragic.
"I think our roster balance is a little off, and that's my fault," Suns GM Ryan McDonough told Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Wednesday. "We are a little too backcourt heavy, especially in terms of guys who, you know, I think you'd define primarily as scorers in the backcourt. "So I think at some point we'll need to balance that out, try to get a little more size, a little more frontcourt scoring and rebounding." … "At the same time it's a challenge because we do have talented players, they've all had success individually and team success in the NBA," he said, "so those are some of the decisions we'll kind of mull over the next week or so and we'll see where we are on the 19th next week."