Essentially, the point being made was Phoenix needed to trade him, thanks both to their stacked back court and the looming likelihood of Dragic opting out of his contract this offseason. Sure, the possibility of retaining him was there. It was quite faint, but there nonetheless. If the Suns decided not to deal Dragic, attempting to woo him with a possible playoff berth, it was a valiant, but incredibly risky strategy.
Oh what a difference a few days can make.
News broke last night stating Dragic’s agent, Bill Duffy, has basically told the Suns that, if they plan on keeping the guard past tomorrow’s trade deadline, they’ll only be extending his tenure in Phoenix by a couple months. Dragic apparently intends to sign somewhere else this offseason, thanks in part to his frustrations from having to share valuable minutes with fellow guards Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas.
On top of this, not only has Dragic expressed his lack of desire to stay in Phoenix, he gave GM Ryan McDonough a short list of teams he’d prefer to be traded to if the Suns indeed wanted to move him before 3 p.m. EST tomorrow. The highlights include the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks and Miami Heat, mainly due to each club being able to offer Dragic a chance to be the primary point guard, therefore giving them an inside track at re-signing him this summer.
Now, McDonough has gone from the mindset of dealing Dragic only if he finds the best offer to basically being forced to trade him, and only to a specific handful of teams. Oh, and he has a little more than a day to get it done.
I understand Dragic’s frustrations with his situation in Phoenix. He’s a talented player, one who’s definitely earned his fair share of minutes, as noted by his most recent comments after today’s practice. It seemed odd of the Suns to overload their back court this past offseason, and it’s certainly lead to a few stumbles along the road for the team this year.
With all of this out of the way, it’s time to face facts: Dragic is absolutely screwing over the Suns’ front office.
Has he been overly committed to Phoenix this entire season? No. He claimed in September he’d likely re-up with them after opting out this offseason, but recently shifted it to “explore all options.” This is hardly an endorsement, but it also never eliminated the Suns from the running. You couldn’t blame McDonough for shifting between searching for an ideal trade and convincing himself he could hang on to Dragic this summer, especially if a playoff berth was clinched this season.
At the same time, why would Dragic wait until less than two days before the trade deadline to say the Suns have zero chance of re-signing him this offseason? He could’ve easily made this statement right as the All-Star break began last week. This way, McDonough would have the chance to come to the realization Dragic needed to be moved, and therefore erase any and all hope of keeping the guard around this year and beyond.
With the extra time, the front office could’ve increased their chances of not getting railroaded in a bad deal for Dragic. The number of interested suitors for the guard is reportedly in the double digits, and the chances of at least one or two of these clubs being desperate enough to overpay were quite high. Would it be unfortunate to lose a fan favorite in Dragic? Of course, but it’s a little more reassuring to know the time is there to ensure he isn’t sold at a low price.
But no, Dragic feels he can’t trust the Suns any more, so he gave management hours instead of days. With the sliver of optimism towards re-signing him destroyed so late in the game, Phoenix now has to scramble to get a deal done. They now know keeping him on the team is essentially guaranteeing they’ll lose him for nothing as soon as the season is over. It all forces you to wonder if such late notice will increase the desperation of the Suns’ front office to a point where they get suckered into a deal they shouldn’t take.
Speaking of which, Dragic isn’t helping matters any more with his select list of preferred trade destinations. While a player telling his management where he’d like to be dealt is nothing new in sports, it certainly makes dealing him on short notice much more difficult. McDonough is now hamstrung into having to discuss a deal with only a handful of teams, which may or may not make a significant dent in the list of potential trade partners.
What happens if the Knicks, Lakers or Heat don’t have any solid returns to send to Phoenix? Each of these clubs is now well aware of their standing with Dragic, and you wouldn’t blame any of them for possibly making an offer which would land just a little short of fair value. You never want to be forced into a “take it or leave it” situation, but with Dragic telling McDonough where he specifically wants to be dealt on such short notice, it definitely puts the GM behind the eight-ball.
What if there are a good amount of interested teams out there that could put together a great package for Dragic, but they don’t happen to be on his preferred list? Does Phoenix try to make the deal regardless? Or will Dragic not expressing any interest in being traded to these clubs scare them away from making an offer? Why try and make a trade for a player who might put up a fight against playing for your team?
It’s just another example of how Dragic’s handling of this situation is definitely leaving his current team on the raw end of things. The Suns now have limited time to work with a limited amount of teams in order to try and avoid getting swindled, all thanks to their own player imposing a last-second game-changer.
Of course, let’s not focus completely on the trade aspect itself. Here’s something else to ponder: what if Phoenix can’t find a good deal for Dragic?
The Suns know intentionally keeping Dragic past the deadline is an unwise choice. At the same time, they also don’t want to be low-balled. If you’re trading one of your best players, your main goal is to ensure you get something solid in return. If no deal comes off as appealing to Phoenix, there’s a very real chance tomorrow’s 3 p.m. deadline comes and goes without Dragic being moved. Then what?
Phoenix is still hanging on to the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, if only by a hair. Obviously, the Suns want to get into the postseason. Of course, if Dragic isn’t traded, will the fact the team would be suiting up with a key player who’s openly stated he’s not coming back and who the team desperately tried to move cause some issues?
Chemistry is a very real thing in the NBA, and the last thing a fringe playoff team needs is any sort of schism in the locker room. But, it’s tough to believe Dragic’s last-minute reveal of his desire to get out of Phoenix wouldn’t cause something like this occur. Those who are committed to the team this year and next would no doubt have trouble hiding their frustration with having to play alongside someone who’s already seeking greener pastures.
With teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder and New Orleans Pelicans hot on their trail, the Suns can ill-afford anything to throw them off their game. Having a star player frustrated because he’s still on the roster certainly would be one heck of a curve ball.
I don’t envy the Suns front office right now. I wasn’t exactly jealous of their situation last week, but Dragic’s latest move has made the circumstances much more dismal. Instead of having an opportunity to craft a quality trade which could possibly even improve Phoenix’s chances at a playoff berth, they now have to hope Dragic’s just-recently submitted list of teams can offer something positive in return.
Again, I get why Dragic wants out. He’s a high-quality player who’s noticed a decrease in both minutes and stats thanks to having to share the court with multiple guards. However, his anger about this current situation in Phoenix appears to have gotten a little out of control. Dragic has apparently hit his boiling point, and this has resulted in screwing over McDonaugh by giving him little time to make a deal with one of the select few teams the point guard is interested in.
The Suns are now likely working as hard as possible to ensure a deal is made before tomorrow afternoon. This sudden deadline has made it much more difficult to find a great trade, but would also potentially damage Phoenix’s playoff hopes if a deal can’t be made.
Best of luck to the Suns’ front office. The clock is officially ticking.