Goran Dragic is in for a tumultuous summer filled with million-dollar promises and a seemingly endless list of point guard-seeking suitors, attractive markets with vacant starting roles like the New York Knicks or Portland Trail Blazers.
That’s because the 25-year-old Slovenian and second-year Houston Rocket is an unrestricted free agent after this season, and Houston G.M. Daryl Morey may have to choose between keeping Dragic or fellow rising star Kyle Lowry as the team’s starting point guard.
Dragic, who told reporters following last night’s victory in Portland that he would like to be a starter (presumably full-time), is drawing comparisons to Manu Ginobli and averaging over 18 points per game on 52 percent shooting (44 from beyond the arc), along with 8.7 assists, since manning a starter’s role. He was just named the Western Conference Player of the Week, and he’s proven capable of raising his game in the grandest moments; you remember his 23-point fourth quarter versus San Antonio in the Western Semis, right?
The hype is more than warranted; along with his creativity, deft touch, and acrobatic athleticism, Dragic is exceptionally quick. In the prime of his life, anxious Houstonites should be aware that he is only touching upon the tip of his vast potential, with all the skills to become a future All-Star. Houston Chronicle beat writer Jonathan Feigen even associated 2012′s Year of the Dragon with, you guessed it, the rise of Dragic. Needless to say, while Dragic’s superstar play has lifted Houston into the current sixth seed of the postseason, it has also increased attention from opposing teams eager to shed pounds of dough to overpay him this summer.
What does Dragic himself have to say about this?
“…all the doors are open,” the man nicknamed “Gogi” said. “We’re going to see what is going to happen this summer [...] Hopefully, I’m going to stay in Houston.”
Both encouraging and worrisome for Toyota Center residents, but it prompts a few questions; is Rockets’ management willing to pony up and keep him? And with a borderline All-Star in Kyle Lowry recovering from serious illness, will they even commit to Dragic as the regular starter when both are healthy together?
Morey has a few choices, but none of them are simple or clear-cut. With Dragic, it may be difficult to re-sign him without some notable upheaval, such as the trade packaging of Lowry, who still has two years left on his contract. It sort of feels like the Aaron Brooks situation after the 2009-10 season. Lowry was playing as well as Dragic is now before his bacterial infection, so it may not be too much of a drop-off to let Dragic walk to a desperate team, like Portland, that will overpay.
However, Lowry’s game is predicated more on effort and hustle, while Dragic possesses rare offensive skills Lowry lacks and more potential as a star, in my opinion. Morey could probably keep Lowry and still sign Dragic — although rotational issues would need to be addressed — but the chances become slimmer the longer Dragic plays at this high level, and Houston’s upcoming summer of cap room bliss, which they have worked tirelessly to achieve over the past 2-3 seasons, would be gone. A consolation prize of Lowry and Courtney Lee wouldn’t be so bad, but would Houston be any closer to a championship? Probably not. If Dragic dazzles in the postseason, expect the market price to be too high for Houston to keep him without packaging Lowry for a trade or giving up their dreams of landing a superstar this offseason.
Regardless of asking price, I think Dragic’s potential as a star is worth keeping him in Rockets’ red at all costs — even if that involves losing Lowry. Ideally, a combination of both would provide Houston with a young, up-and-coming championship core. But the feasibility of such a plan is unlikely. I know I’d like to finally buy a Rockets’ jersey with a name I know will be on the team the following year. And I want that name to be Dragic.
What do you think?
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