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Adam Kaufman

Celtics Should Fight Temptation, Pass on Goran Dragic

Goran Dragic.jpg


Suns star Goran Dragic wants out of Phoenix and now, according to reports on the eve of the NBAís trade deadline, the rebuilding Celtics are contenders for the guardís services.

Thereís no disputing Dragicís talent. Heís an accurate shooter and efficient scorer with a career .467 percentage from the field and an improving look from beyond the arc at a career .363 mark. Those totals have improved to .503 and .388, respectively, since the start of last season.

Like many point guards across the league as the position has evolved, Dragic has often been relied upon to put up points in recent seasons Ė 17.3 points a game since becoming a full-time starter to begin the 2012-13 campaign, with a career-best 20.3 average last year Ė and heís a fine distributor with six assists a night over his last two-and-a-half years. Heís grown into an elite playmaker.

No question, his arrival would improve the Celtics offensively since heíd provide more from the backcourt in that regard than either Marcus Smart or Avery Bradley on most nights.

However, Dragic is also in his seventh season and on the cusp on free agency. Heís going to be traded because he has no interest with re-signing in Phoenix. Why, with the exception of a larger payday (by about $25 million) and an extra year, would he elect to remain in Boston with a rebuilding franchise if heís dealt to the Celtics? Are those caveats enough to keep him in the Hub? Would they outweigh his lack of interest in playing in a three-guard situation (unless Bradley went the other way in the deal); one of the main reasons his numbers have regressed this year and heís looking for a new home? Thatís a risky play for Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge to potentially pay a high price for a rental.

Moreover, Dragic will turn 30 next season. Seems a tad old to be the centerpiece of a rebuild, unless Ainge is prepared to go all-in now, or this offseason. That means moving the majority of his future assets to surround Dragic with the right pieces and target a second pseudo-overnight rebuild with the hope of creating another window to be competitive with the likes of the Cavaliers, Bulls, Wizards, Raptors, and Hawks for future seasons. At least the Nuggetsí Ty Lawson is only 27 and Dragicís Suns teammate Isaiah Thomas just turned 26. Both men are also said to be on the block.

Then thereís the Smart factor. As I wrote about concerning the Cís reported interest in Lawson, the Celts made their bed, if you will, when they selected the 20-year-old sixth overall last June. Everyone knew at the time that decision spelled the end of the Rajon Rondo era and that a new point guard of the future was to be groomed. Now, after steady development on both sides of the ball as a rookie, is the team prepared to shift Smart off the ball or even relegate him to the bench behind both Dragic and Bradley for multiple seasons to come?

It doesnít make any logical sense, especially with Smart improving while on an inexpensive rookie contract. Of the positions that need upgrading on Bostonís roster, the guard position should not be the area of focus. Thatís what makes the DeMarcus Cousins conversation, however unrealistic, so intriguing and downright mouthwatering.

Dragic is a star, not a superstar like Cousins, but a star; something Ainge is lacking. But dealing several important pieces, be it draft picks or otherwise, for a star with few prime years left is a desperation move.

Ainge doesnít make those. He wonít make this one either, unless the asking price is a whole lot less than conventional wisdom would dictate and he receives assurances Dragic plans on house-hunting in Boston soon.

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