Trade grades: Suns ship Goran Dragic to Miami in three-team deal
Dragic, 28, is averaging 16.2 points, 4.1 assists and 3.6 rebounds this season. The 2014 All-NBA third team selection is earning $7.5 million this season and is expected to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, when he will hit the market as one of the biggest names at his position.
Here's how we graded this one:
Phoenix Suns: B
Outgoing: Goran Dragic, Zoran Dragic
One of the key themes of this year’s trade deadline was the preemptive, proactive treatment of upcoming free agents. This might be most easily explained as the Dwight Howard Corollary. Orlando agreed to trade Howard in 2013 before he hit free agency and now has Nikola Vucevic, Elfrid Payton, Evan Fournier, Moe Harkless and assorted other picks to show for it (once you run through their subsequent trades). The Lakers opted against trading Howard in 2014 and watched him walk in free agency for absolutely nothing. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out which is the preferred approach to dealing with an unhappy, impending free agent.
Dragic understandably chafed at Phoenix’s guard-heavy approach; his numbers took a hit this season after the offseason acquisition of Isaiah Thomas (who the Suns also traded Thursday), and due to the good health of Eric Bledsoe. Knowing that he would be a coveted free agent, Dragic was free to force the issue before the deadline in hopes of landing in a spot that would allow him freer reign, a greater role, and the best shot to land his first All-Star Game. Miami offers exactly that type of opportunity, with Dwyane Wade past his prime, Chris Bosh needing some help and no other reliable options at point guard.
The price for Dragic is just about right. Phoenix was able to generate a slightly better offer than what Boston got from Dallas for Rajon Rondo, a similarly talented player at the same position who is also heading for free agency this summer.
Giving up early on Dragic doesn’t necessarily mean that Phoenix is punting on this season, given that GM Ryan McDonough also traded for Brandon Knight on Thursday. The Suns should remain competitive down the stretch of this season, and if they do fall out out of the playoff chase, as expected given Oklahoma City’s rise, at least they have multiple future picks to show for it.
The 31-year-old Granger hasn’t been the same player since missing nearly all of the 2012-13 season with knee problems. He isn’t likely to be a major factor in Phoenix, although he does have a $2.2 million player option for next season, which he would be smart to pick up. Phoenix plans to waive Salmons, a journeyman wing who signed a one-year, $2 million contract with New Orleans last summer.
Miami Heat: B+
You’ve got to hand it to Heat president Pat Riley: He’s still got the gambler’s streak after all these years. This trade has boom-or-bust potential, but it makes all the sense in the world in the short-term given Miami’s desire to make the most of Wade’s twilight.
Goran Dragic will be turned loose as a lead ball-handler and pick-and-roll maestro who will help put Wade in position to pick and choose his spots. Dragic and Bosh should enjoy a strong two-man game, and coach Erik Spoelstra will breathe more easily knowing he has a trustworthy offense-initiator. The Slovenian floor general should immediately vault into the “Best point guard in the East” conversation alongside the likes of John Wall, Kyle Lowry, Jeff Teague and Kyrie Irving.
None of the outgoing pieces is of major consequence to the Heat: Granger is on his last legs, Williams was a low-budget offseason flier, Cole has endured a really tough year, and Hamilton barely plays. The stretched nature of Miami’s rotation could actually open up some time for Zoran Dragic, who was buried deep in Phoenix. Look for Riley to fill some of those new roster holes by being active in the forthcoming contract buyout market.
The risk, of course, is that Goran Dragic could still bolt this summer, leaving Riley and company high and dry. Given that Miami parted with two first-round picks, including one that was totally unprotected, it’s safe to assume that the Heat feel strongly about their ability to retain Dragic. That confidence is understandable, given the franchise’s commitment to winning, All-Star pieces, desirable market, willingness to spend, and the contractual ability to exceed all other offers.
Adding a player of Goran Dragic’s caliber certainly boosts Miami’s postseason chances this year, although it hardly makes the Heat a true contender. If avoiding falling off a cliff post-LeBron was the goal, this trade should firmly accomplish that objective. Long-term, there will be a price: losing two first-round picks, even if spread out by four years, will take a toll. The franchise should be deep into a post-Wade and post-Bosh reality by the time 2021 rolls around; swallowing the pain later in exchange for extending the franchise’s relevancy now is a defensible decision, especially if Dragic sticks around.
New Orleans Pelicans: C
Outgoing: John Salmons
Incoming: Norris Cole, Justin Hamilton, Shawne Williams
Whatever. There’s not much to see here. The Pelicans can use “somebody, anybody” at the point guard spot because of Jrue Holiday’s ongoing injury issues, and Cole qualifies under that heading ... barely. Don’t get your hopes up, New Orleans: Cole hasn’t been able to hit the broadside of a barn this year (38.6 FG%, 26.5 3p%) and Miami’s defense has performed far better when he’s off the court (102.6 defensive rating) than when he’s on (107.1 defensive rating).
The other pieces look like flotsam. If the Pelicans were hoping this move would meaningfully improve their shot at making the playoffs, they hoped wrong.