Suns star Goran Dragic wants out of Phoenix and now, according to reports on the eve of the NBA’s trade deadline, the rebuilding Celtics are contenders for the guard’s services.
ESPN sources say Celtics emerging as contender on the outside for Goran Dragic in trade with Phoenix— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 18, 2015
Celtics have the assets to jump into Dragic talks and, like Houston and Sacramento, also have the guts to trade for a free agent-to-be— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 18, 2015
Don't forget Celtics prez Danny Ainge and Suns GM Ryan McDonough have strong working relationship and have already done a deal this season— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 18, 2015
There’s no disputing Dragic’s talent. He’s 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 – 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 – and he’s a fine distributor with six assists a night over his last two-and-a-half years. He’s grown into an elite playmaker.
No question, his arrival would improve the Celtics offensively since he’d 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. He’s 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 he’s 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 he’s looking for a new home? That’s 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 Nuggets’ Ty Lawson is only 27 and Dragic’s Suns teammate Isaiah Thomas just turned 26. Both men are also said to be on the block.
Then there’s the Smart factor. As I wrote about concerning the C’s 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 doesn’t make any logical sense, especially with Smart improving while on an inexpensive rookie contract. Of the positions that need upgrading on Boston’s roster, the guard position should not be the area of focus. That’s 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 doesn’t make those. He won’t 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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