Should the Phoenix Suns Trade Goran Dragic?
My man Russ Peddle put it best when he said that maybe the Suns are finally admitting, "Hey, maybe we have too many point guards?"
That may very well be the case -- but, whatever the reason (money, chemistry, team direction), the reigning NBA Most Improved Player may be on the move before the All-Star break comes to an end.
Dragic may have a player option for next year left on his current contract, but we all know that's not going to happen. He's currently making $7.5 million and just saw Eric Bledsoe sign a 5-year, $70 million dollar contract and Isaiah Thomas sign on for over $6 million per year...as a backup. On the free agent market, Dragic is going to demand a lot more money (maybe double) than what he's making now.
So, maybe the Suns are just thinking that they won't be able to afford him or that he's not worth what he will be looking for. Or maybe they just fear losing a player of Dragic's caliber without getting something in return. As for the latter, why wouldn't they be afraid?
If you put me in the Suns' shoes, I would want something for Dragic, too. Phoenix has more important needs to address and, with the guard talent the Suns possess, Dragic might just be expendable.
Nearly three months ago, we were wondering if the Suns' three point guard experiment was working. It really wasn't then, and it really isn't now.
At that point in the season, the backcourt combination of Thomas and Bledsoe was clearly outplaying the other two combinations. The Thomas-Bledsoe combination was the only backcourt duo with a positive net rating at +5.6. Is that the case now though?
Well, the combination of Dragic and Bledsoe have played a total of 1,309 minutes together, posting a net rating of +4.4. That's not terrible, but you'd figure the two dynamic guards would have a higher rating. Defense is the problem though -- while on the floor together, the two have a defensive rating of just 101.4.
Does this all really matter though? The Suns are currently in the eight spot in the West, but our numbers don't like their playoff chances. In fact, the Thunder -- who sit ninth in the West -- have a 73.4% chance of making the playoffs compared to the Suns' mere 28.5% chance.
So, maybe the Suns see that the odds are stacked up against them and its time to plan for the years to come. Not only do they have Thomas and Bledsoe (25 and 26 years old, respectively), but they also have the young Tyler Ennis waiting in the wings. Maybe it's time to bring his development to the forefront.
Outside of the backcourt, the Suns have other more important gaps to fill. They have yet to find a solid center for the future -- unless you're that big of an Alex Len fan, and they could really use another wing scorer to go along with the undersized Bledsoe. As solid a player as P.J. Tucker is, he isn't much of a scorer. As for Gerald Green, he's an inefficient scorer and a horrible defender.
Maybe the Suns could turn an expendable guard into a much-needed wing scorer or a promising center. Can they though?
As much as Dragic may not like it, the Lakers are one of the two main teams interested in trading for the 28-year-old Slovenian. They've coveted Dragic for some time and they would likely offer him something near a max deal if he hits free agency this summer. Might that be LA's only chance to land him though?
I'm not sure the Lakers have the assets to pry Dragic away from the Suns. The only players the Suns might be interested in are likely the same ones the Lakers want and need to hold on to for the future -- Wayne Ellington and Julius Randle. Wesley Johnson hasn't shown enough to warrant trade value and Jordan Hill's $9 million salary isn't very trade-friendly.
As much as Lakers fans would love to see this happen, it doesn't seem likely.
Now, the Rockets might be a more suitable trade partner, not to mention a very intriguing one. As playoff (and maybe championship) contenders, the Rockets could potentially add a player that might help put them over the top in the West.
Or would it?
Dragic has a nERD of 0.5, which is good enough for just eighth on the Rockets' current roster. If you're unfamiliar with how our nERD metric works, it's a number that measures the total contribution of a player throughout the course of a season, based on efficiency. The league average is 0, and for Dragic, with a score of 0.5, that would mean a league average team would win just 0.5 more games with Dragic inserted into the lineup.
At a glance, it wouldn't do much for the Rockets, but on the other hand, it might. Dragic is averaging nearly two minutes less per game than a season ago and has seen his usage rate fall from 24.5% to 21.5%. He just hasn't had the ball in his hands as much with Bledsoe and Thomas using their skills to create off the dribble as Dragic did a year ago.
Last year, Dragic averaged 5.9 assists per game and assisted on over 28% of his team's field goals while on the floor. This year, he's averaging just 4.1 helpers per game and assists on 19.5% of his team's field goals. It just hasn't been a good situation.
It could be totally different in Houston. Patrick Beverley is the only regularly used point guard on the Rockets' roster, and he's primarily become a spot-up shooter on the wing. He averages 2.2 three-point makes and just 3.3 assists per game. Dragic might have the opportunity to possess the ball a lot more.
James Harden is the playmaker for the Rockets, averaging nearly seven assists per game from his shooting guard position. He needs the ball in his hands to make plays, just like Thomas and Bledsoe. So Dragic could end up in the same situation in a different place.
There are doubts about this though -- like the Lakers, Houston doesn't have a whole lot to offer in return. The Suns couldn't possibly want Dwight Howard's contract (if they would even offer it) or his ridiculous suits, and the Rockets wouldn't want to trade any key contributors and disrupt team chemistry, which leaves basically two options -- Terrence Jones and Kostas Papanikolaou. The two-for-one trade would financially work, according to ESPN's Trade Machine, but it would add just one win to the Rockets and take five wins away from the Suns.
If the Suns are high on either guy, maybe they do it if they can get a pick as a booter, but I'm not so sure. They might need a third team to enter the discussion to pull it off -- maybe a team like the Sixers or Knicks. Maybe another team entirely will make a push for Dragic's services.
However, I would more easily suspect that the Suns hold on to Dragic until the end of the year and go from there. It's not as fun as a trade sounds, but it's probably in the Suns' best interest not to trade Goran Dragic.