Goran Dragic said in September that he hoped to have a quick free agency when he expectedly opts out of his current deal in the summer of 2015. He made it clear that he would be all for returning to the Phoenix Suns, but that doesn’t mean he won’t explore his options. The Sporting News’ Sean Deveney reports that Dragic expects to have an “open” free agency, where he will find suitors in the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers, among others.
" … Dragic will have an “open” free agency, league sources told Sporting News. When Dragic opts out and becomes a free agent next July, he will be a sought-after commodity, and while Phoenix would get the first hearing, Dragic will have options.Among those options, according to sources, would be Houston — the team Dragic left in order to sign with Phoenix in 2012. The Rockets are well-stocked with point guards, but nearly all, including starter Patrick Beverley, can become free agents next summer.The Lakers also figure to be a potential landing spot for Dragic, a source said — though, to be clear, the Lakers have only about $36 million committed next season with needs at just about every position, and thus are expected to pursue multiple big-name free agents."
Of course, it’s likely Phoenix will have the first shot to lock up The Dragon, but none of this will be easy. Unlike the Eric Bledsoe saga, the Suns won’t have the protection of restricted free agency and will have to consider setting the market for the point guard themselves. It’s going to be costly, especially with an expected salary cap jump next summer and the market price being set, to a degree, by Bledsoe.
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The worry that Dragic leaves is obviously exacerbated by the Suns’ three point guard system that is still working things out. Phoenix’s 118-114 victory against the Boston Celtics on Monday was evidence that Dragic has far from lost his magic from last season and is instead working his way through adjusting to the new system — one that so far still runs in high gear when he’s at the wheel. While he has been honest about it being a difficult process, Dragic has shown no indication of being upset over the addition of Isaiah Thomas and the signing of Bledsoe.
But even the most selfless player deserves a right to earn what he’s worth. Kobe Bryant and LeBron James have been vocal in recent months about how the salary cap stops their ability to make a fair and true market value, and though that comes across as greedy, there is a legitimate and progressive argument to believe NBA players deserve to be paid more.
Dragic has the right to put pressure on the Suns to make him a deal on par with what others like Houston and Los Angeles would offer. It doesn’t mean Dragic is any less loyal to the Suns. He’s just putting himself in position to see if they’re loyal to him.
It seems they are at this point. Adding brother Zoran Dragic was an important move of a pawn on the chess board, after all.
Still, we have to at least mention the possibility for a trade if the Suns really don’t want three point guards getting them halfway to the salary cap.
Last January, a report from CBS Sports’ Ken Berger indicated league sources believed Phoenix didn’t see the Dragic-Bledsoe pairing as a long-term solution. That, in terms of scheme and philosophy, obviously isn’t the case with Phoenix bringing on Thomas this offseason, but with Thomas and Bledsoe locked up for the next several years, it’s a wonder if Dragic doesn’t become a very valuable trade chip (though that’s not to say a player like Thomas couldn’t be a trade chip down the road). The Suns’ roster is clearly not a championship contending one, but most of the players on it are valuable in trades because of their reasonable to valuable deals.
If Dragic is indeed the center of a trade, the question would then would be “for whom?” Forget his value on the court — Dragic is easily the team’s most likeable and marketable player. A trade would have to be off-the-charts in making the Suns better than they are at present. It’s a huge risk if it fails.
In all likelihood, this reaches next summer, where Phoenix will be in solid position below the salary cap and with Dragic’s Bird Rights. That should give them the positioning to outsmart Houston in formulating a contract and outsell the Lakers, who have an uncertain future.
The theme stays the same for the Suns front office. Give out fair contracts to good players and figure out the rest later.