It is sad to say goodbye to Goran Dragic. A great professional, great player and great person to be around. I don’t blame him for wanting to move on and put himself in position to get his first major contract and acknowledging that the Suns won’t be the ones to be able to do it.
With that said, there is no reason that the Suns should pay that much (hoping for four years, $80 million or five years $100 million from now the Heat). Yes he was third-team All-NBA and the League’s most improved player last season but if the Suns want to become the franchise that they once were and become something they never have been, a champion, spending $100 mil on a guy like Dragic isn’t the way.
In the trade that sent him to the Heat, the Suns received Danny Granger (who is an expiring contract), John Salmons (who will be waived) and two first round picks (one protected to seven in 2017 and the other unprotected in 2021). I am guessing this trade does not go down without the Suns involvement in the next deal that they made involving the Bucks and the Sixers.
That deal dealt Tyler Ennis and Miles Plumlee to Milwaukee, their lottery protected first round pick once owned by the Lakers to Philly and coming to Phoenix is Brandon Knight.
If there is no Knight, there is no Dragic deal. Knight was almost named to the NBA All-Star game this season having averaged over 17 points and five assists per game to this point. He is a combo guard how can play off the ball and handle the ball depending on the situation. He spent much of this season playing the point guard role while shooting over 43% from the floor and 40% from three. From what I see from Knight, he has the skill set that better suits him playing off the ball than Dragic. Goran said himself that he is better with the ball in his hands and he is right. I do not know if Knight prefers that as well and if he does, we could have another problem on our hands with the two point guard lineup. But once he he see’s how Hornacek’s system works and how he can play along side Bledsoe with the way they get out and run and the way the ball moves, this could be an excellent fit.
I do not necessarily think that Knight is a better player than Dragic. Numbers might tell you he is but in watching both play, I give the slight edge to Dragic. But there could be an element here of the Suns getting younger and adding a piece that is soon to be a restricted free agent who won’t cost as much as Dragic looks to this off-season.
The dealing of Ennis and Plumlee is both sad and disappointing. Plumlee was a shell of what he was at the beginning of last season. Something hit him from a confidence stand point and he just has not been the same since about the three quarter mark of last year. But from what we saw on the court early last season, he has a lot of ability and I don’t think it was a fluke. It was just between the ears.
Ennis being dealt is frustrating seeing as he was the second of two first round picks last year for the Suns. Many questioned why drafting a point guard there knowing at the time you already had Bledsoe and Dragic. Before even developing with this team, he is gone. Maybe the Suns didn’t anticipate dealing him and he was a key asset to be able to trade to acquire Knight, but at a time where the team is trying to build through the draft, that selection continues to be a head scratching move.
Isaiah Thomas had a nice little date with the Suns but his tenure didn’t even last a year. Like the situation with Dragic along with Bledsoe, Knight along with Bledsoe with Thomas in the mix probably wasn’t going to work either. This without a doubt is the first big mistake that the Suns have made under Ryan McDonough. I don’t know if they snatched him because they were worried that they might lose Bledsoe over the offseason or if they actually thought that it could work with him. I was one that liked the signing initially because I thought his ability to score off the bench would be big for this team and something they were lacking with Ish Smith in that role the year before. But if I was told that him being in Phoenix was going to alter the role of both Dragic and Bledsoe and it was going to be an issue if he wasn’t on the floor in the late minutes of the game, I would not have liked it. That is what happened, and now because of it, he is gone and off to Boston for what will be a late first round pick that was once owned by the Cavs.
After all of this, the Suns are still technically in the playoffs clinging to the 8th seed by a half a game over the red hot Thunder who just happen to have the reigning MVP and the reigning All-Star game MVP. With all of this turnover, I think the Suns may have saw the writing on the wall that it was going to be hard to make it in and needed to start building a nucleus for next season.
If they know this, I am all for it. Missing the playoffs again would be extremely disappointing but continuing to be in limbo with good but not great players is not acceptable. I do think that the moves they made today help the team in that regard. They got something for Dragic knowing he was going to be gone next year. They got something for Thomas having a less than ideal contract and not being a good fit and they added a very talented young player. But they still have a long way to go.