Another month, another Goran Dragic free agency story.
This time Sean Deveney of the Sporting News wrote an article that included (per league sources):
Dragic will have an "open" free agency. 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.
This isn't really breaking news... or any kind of logical leap.
What would be the alternative?
"Goran Dragic has said he will not meet with any other teams before re-signing with the Suns."
I mean, really... sources don't have to help us out by stating the completely obvious. Although I was completely blindsided by the suggestion that the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets would be potential suitors... Shocker alert.
This story seems like a palpable and monumental waste of time (as Jim types away at his story reporting on the waste of time), but maybe the Suns should be taking heed of this tocsin. Are these murmurings just phantasmagoria or are they substantive?
I would argue the latter... and there are still things that may compromise Dragic's faithfulness to the Suns.
While Dragic has (repeatedly) expressed his fondness of Phoenix and the Suns organization the business of basketball is still an undeniable part of the equation. Goran is headed toward his last big payday. Dragic has "only" made ~$30 million dollars through his career so far. While that might be a staggering number in ordinary terms it's really not that much in the enchanted realm of the NBA. Goran figures to fetch at least double that number with his next contract.
As Dave King has already reported here on Brightside, the Suns will have no problem paying Goran that kind of money to keep him in Phoenix (cap situation explained in linked article). GM Ryan McDonough has expressed this is the team's desire at this juncture.
"We have every intention of keeping Goran in a Suns' uniform as long as possible. We know he loves Phoenix. There's plenty of money for Goran next year or when it comes up. We fully anticipate taking care of him."
The team already took care (using that as a big time euphemism for last summer) of Eric Bledsoe. After a protracted "negotiation" Eric was given a five year, $70 million dollar contract which was pretty much unanimously considered more than fair.
I'm not asserting that Goran is rapaciously drooling while he slumbers at night gleefully dreaming of pushing around sweaty piles of cash in a wheelbarrow on his way to practice, but I don't think it's any stretch to concede that Dragic has already considered he should get paid on the Bledsoe scale.
While Dragic still contends he will give Phoenix the home field advantage in negotiations next summer, don't expect a home team discount.
Unfortunately, there are already the nefarious possibilities of pitfalls lurking in the shadows of dark corners that could undermine some of the equity the Suns have built with Dragic.
The Suns' logjam in the backcourt has already affected Goran's playing time and production in the early going. If things don't coalesce between the guards this won't cultivate an environment ideal to seducing Goran to return... especially if this results in the team missing the playoffs again.
Dragic has been trying to say the right things, but even in doing so he reveals that he is frustrated. Dragic recently gave a particularly revealing answer to a query on why the team has struggled:
"Because there's only one ball and we're all point guards. That's an easy answer. It's hard. That's sacrifice. If Isaiah's playing well, he's going to stay in. Me and Eric, it depends who is playing better and who is going to be on the court. The other guy is going to be on the bench. It's the way it is. We need to embrace that."
That definitely suggests to me that trouble may be brewing on the horizon. The ramifications of this statement may be mitigated as the trio gains cohesion, but there will never be more than one ball. Of course with a trade there could always be one less point guard. But who would be the odd man out? The $70 million dollar man? The Suns' prize free agent acquisition? This is definitely a complicated situation.
The frustrations over the on-court issues could boil over into another area.
This is (obviously) a contract year for the Dragon. A year after posting 20.3 points and 5.9 assists he is down to 15.6 and 3.2 in the early going. Last season he was third team All-NBA. This season he's been a very average player. If the system in place stymies his production it could cost Dragic millions. If he hasn't thought of it already, he will if things continue along this road.
It's still early now, so expect lots more on this as the season progresses. Let's just hope that the likelihood of re-signing Goran, which has mostly seemed like a Gerald Green slam dunk, doesn't evanesce as it does so... because once money and flattery start flying around this summer the Suns don't want the Dragon to slip through their fingers like an Eric Bledsoe turnover.