Goran Dragic won’t land in Houston

Dragic is unlikely to be with Phoenix after the deadline.
Dragic is unlikely to be with Phoenix after the deadline (USA Today Sports)

The completion of the Trade Deadline is fast approaching. Time is running out. Goran Dragic has been highly coveted by several teams, none more so than the Houston Rockets. Dragic’s past tenure with the Rockets stretching between 2010-2012 was productive, the mercurial combo guard averaged 11.7 points and 5.3 assists per game in the 2011/2012 campaign under Kevin McHale.

And then the Rockets let him go. Dragic’s management was insistent about a player option on the final year of his four year deal. Rockets GM Daryl Morey wanted to maintain flexibility and stockpile assets, an extension could not be agreed upon. Morey opted for flexibility, and in return Dragic walked. He returned to Phoenix, where he signed a four year $30 million dollar contract. Dragic has thrived in his second tenure with the Suns; he averaged 20.3 points per game in the 2013/2014 season and won the Most Improved Player award in the same year.

Dragic is an unhappy man in Phoenix this year. For some reason unbeknownst to the NBA public, the Suns acquired guard Isaiah Thomas in a sign and trade deal with the Sacramento Kings. At the time, it was speculated the Suns’ front office made this move to ensure the potential loss of then restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe. When the Suns reached an agreement with Bledsoe for a five year, $70 million dollar deal, this did two things.

Firstly, it sent a message to Goran Dragic that he wasn’t the ‘man’. Despite putting together a season worthy of All Star recognition as Bledsoe spent numerous weeks injured, the Suns offered Bledsoe a superior deal to the one Dragic received. This in part can be attributed to the number of suitors firming for Bledsoe, but if Phoenix believed Dragic was the man to build around then today’s situation would not have presented itself. No one can know for sure what Dragic felt and feels about the Bledsoe deal, but we can ascertain with reasonable confidence that he was not overly thrilled with the size of the extension.

Secondly, it created a logjam at the guard rotation. Not only had Phoenix just signed Bledsoe to five years at $70 million dollars, they had also acquired Isaiah Thomas. As a result, Dragic’s numbers have taken a hit across the board in almost every noteworthy statistic, but there’s a greater issue at hand to dissect.

The Thomas acquisition was a mistake by the Suns
The Thomas acquisition was a mistake by the Suns (USA Today Sports)

The Trade Deadline begun and inevitably the news broke. Dragic wanted out of Phoenix. Per. Adrian Wojnarowski.

Dragic’s want to leave Phoenix and reset his career elsewhere came as no surprise to anyone, except the Suns front office. A general consensus was held that Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough would roll with the loaded backcourt, as he believed there was enough talent to secure a playoff berth in the stacked west. In essence, if the Suns had success, Goran would stay.

Incorrect.

Oklahoma City look all but certain to claim the 8th seed in the west, Phoenix has gone just 12-8 in their past 20 games and face the real possibility of narrowly missing the playoffs for the second year in a row. To further compound things, as developments continued to unfold, it became increasingly apparent McDonough had committed irreparable damage and the relationship between Dragic’s management and the Suns front office was souring. Dragic was asked about the Suns’ management during the Deadline, he offered these words. Per. Paul Coro.

And said this.

And then proceeded to dismantle any hope Phoenix had of retaining him.

Upon these revelations, McDonough found himself in the situation no GM wants to be in. Instead of desperately trying to recoup an unhappy Dragic and make right of his wrongs, he faced the prospect of having to find a deal that gave Phoenix something of value before he inevitably walked in free agency after the season.

Houston has long been floated as having considerable interest in reacquiring Dragic. Dragic has a good relationship with head coach Kevin McHale and is familiar with the Rockets’ system. The move also makes sense because the Rockets are in desperate need of an upgrade at point guard. Patrick Beverley is a great presence on the court and always hustles, but he cannot be the starting point guard on a championship team. When paired with James Harden, Goran Dragic can.

Houston also has considerable assets that they can offload to Phoenix to secure the services of Dragic. Donatas Motiejunas has enjoyed a breakout season and his trade stock is at an all time high. Rockets’ GM Daryl Morey also possess the New Orleans pick or NOP for short which he received for offloading Omer Asik in the offseason. Although the pick is protected between picks 1-3 and 20-30, it holds high currency. The idea of Dragic going to Houston in exchange for Motiejunas, the NOP and some fillers to match salary makes too much sense for both parties.

But not all is what it seems. Many explanations for Dragic’s refusal to consider Houston have been theorized. Among the most common are that he wants to be the ‘man’ on his next team, which he would not be in Houston. Another possibility is that Dragic’s management does not believe Morey will not match any max offers to Dragic over the offseason (Dragic’s contract contains his bird rights). Therefore Dragic’s agent Bill Duffy, is looking to get Goran to a team where he can achieve both stardom and max money in one move.

However, there is one school of thought being held by the minority.

Houston is the perfect fit for Dragic, he can run the offense when Harden sits and be the third star Morey has been pursuing since the acquisition of Dwight Howard. Dragic knows this, Houston knows this. But money talks, and having both Goran Dragic and Patrick Beverley on the same team would diminish BDA Sports commission significantly. From the perspective of Dragic’s management, a move to a destination such as the Lakers is a huge windfall. Not only would Dragic be earning a max contract over five years, Beverley would qualify for the starter’s bonus.

Goran Dragic and Patrick Beverley.
Goran Dragic and Patrick Beverley (USA Today Sports)

This line of thought seems irrational at first. Yet if you take time to remember the development that came out of Houston last year that Daryl Morey had let Chandler Parsons enter restricted free agency as part of an agreement to land Dwight Howard (both Parsons and Howard have the same agent, Dan Fegan) then the possibility of Duffy manipulating Dragic’s trade destination to earn a larger commission is a legitimate possibility. Houston may offer a juicy package involving Motiejunas, the NOP and Jason Terry, but it is unlikely Morey will pursue Dragic in the final hours of the Trade Deadline.

Even though the Rockets are in win now mode, they aren’t desperate enough to give up appealing assets for a rental of Dragic and it is also unlikely they will match any max offer for the guard in the offseason, as Morey tries to retain flexibility to pursue Kevin Durant in the 2015/2016 free agency. Dragic will most likely land at a lottery bound team, where expectation and spotlight significantly increase. Only time will tell if it benefits Dragic.

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