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NBA Trade Rumor: Phoenix Suns offering Goran Dragic for first round pick?

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Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

According to the beat reporter for the Milwaukee Bucks, Gery Woeffel, rumor has it the Phoenix Suns want a first rounder for the (effectively) expiring contract of Goran Dragic.

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These same rumors came out last year, when people couldn't believe the Suns wanted to keep Dragic AND Bledsoe long term. They came out again last summer, when people couldn't believe the Suns wanted Isaiah Thomas AND Dragic AND Bledsoe.

Now, the Suns agree that all three aren't ideal on this roster. But is Dragic really the odd man out?

For those who believe Goran Dragic will demand more money than the Suns want to pay him this summer, getting a first round pick for him is better than nothing at all.

For those who believe the Suns are phasing Dragic out of the game plan in favor of two guys they signed last summer, Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas, because they like both of those guys better, than trading leftovers for a good pick has to be a bonus.

But those people are ignoring the other side of the argument.

Production

Goran Dragic is no Jerry West. He's not a perennial All-Star. But since he's come to the NBA, he has improved every single year and is one of the more productive players in the NBA.

Even this year, despite having the ball in his hands a great deal less than in prior years, he's still producing about 16 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds per game. While Eric Bledsoe has the ball in his hands for 5 of his 33.9 minutes of playing time (38th in the league), and Isaiah Thomas has it for 4.4 of his 25.7 minutes, Goran has it for just 3.9 of his 33.4 minutes (58th in the league), per NBA.com/stats.

Last year, Goran had the ball in his possession for 6.4 of his 35.4 minutes (18th in the league) as he was the primary ballhandler for more than half the season when Bledsoe was out, and shared the duties when Bledsoe was healthy.

Yet, Goran's "points per touch" have dropped this year as he's been the focal point of the offense less frequently this year than last. A year ago, Goran produced .29 points per touch (ie. scoring every sixth time he touched the ball), while this year that's dipped to about .26 points.

Compare that to Gerald Green (.405) and Markieff Morris (.337) and to the other point guards Isaiah Thomas (.266) and Bledsoe (.237).

Goran Dragic is a productive player who could be even more productive in a point guard role. That doesn't mean the Suns will win more games with Dragic handling the ball more. But its better than a future middling first round pick.

Team player

In Goran Dragic, the Suns have the consummate team player. He's spent the most time "off the ball" this year, while Bledsoe and Thomas have played a more traditional PG position.

"Maybe he's doing it more than other guys are," Hornacek said of Dragic playing mostly off the ball this season. "But that's what we have (three point guards), so we ask all our guys to do whatever it takes to win and that's what he's trying to do."

To me, that's Hornacek admitting that Dragic has made sacrifices while the other two haven't been as sacrificial. If I'm the Suns, I give Dragic credit for that. A lot of credit. And if I'm building a team for the future, I want people on the team who are willing to make sacrifices when asked.

And then I try to reward them for their efforts at some point, rather than shipping them off in order to keep the guys who didn't play along as well.

Loyalty

Everyone gets frustrated, especially when they feel like they are making more sacrifices than others. And Goran has sounded a bit frustrated this year.

But this is still the same guy who spurned other free agent offers to return to the Suns as soon as owner Robert Sarver called him from the parking garage in early July 2012.

This is still the guy who grew up on Suns basketball, often getting up in the middle of the night to watch Steve Nash, who flew to Phoenix for a secret workout prior to the 2008 draft and had the best (to that point) shooting day of his life.

And this is the guy who still makes himself available for long interviews with the media after games, no matter whether the Suns win or lose or if he had a good game or bad game.

When you look in the crowd and see a Suns jersey, it's most often Dragic' #1 jersey you see these days. The Suns don't have any big name players to draw the crowd. But at least they have the Dragon, who still stirs happy memories of the Suns last playoff berth and still has that schoolboy smile.

Why would you trade that away when you don't have to?

Fit

Frankly, when you've got three guys who can play the point guard position well, as the Suns do, then you need to start looking at matchups and pairings.

The Suns have proven that Dragic and Bledsoe can play very well side by side. Dragic is big enough (6'3") to match up against most shooting guards defensively, while quick enough to take them off the dribble and force the other team to play a second point guard to keep up with him.

Bledsoe and Dragic are the 3rd most-used two-man combination on the team this year (behind Bledsoe/Keef and Dragic/Keef) and have produced a +3 (over 100 possessions) as a pairing. A year ago, they were a whopping +10 per 100 possessions!

A Dragic/Thomas combo has barely broken even (+.4 per 100 possessions) while the Thomas/Bledsoe combination has been effective (+4.6) but each of these pairings has only been for about 1/3 of the total minuted (500) as the Dragic/Bledsoe combination.

I'm not sold on a long-term pairing of Bledsoe and Thomas for extended minutes. While they have been effective in short time together, it seems the 6'1" Bledsoe and 5'9" would be exposed on bigger minutes together.

Is a first round pick better than Dragic?

The Suns already have a ton of kids on the roster. They have 5 players who are 23 or younger on the active roster, of which only one is in the regular rotation (Alex Len).

Plus, they have the Lakers' 2015 or 2016 first rounder, and their own upcoming picks, and Bogdan Bogdanovic coming over in another year.

And now, we hear that Alec Brown is being evaluated on the Jam for a 2015-16 guaranteed contract.

Why grab ANOTHER first rounder?

But will Dragic be traded anyway?

Maybe.

Lon Babby was asked on ArizonaSports.com the other day if he'd rather trade Dragic than lose him for nothing this summer.

Babby responded, "That's like asking me if I want to be electrocuted with the AC or DC current."

But really, can the three-headed monster really work out long term?

"I think our roster balance is a little off," McDonough said on the radio yesterday. "And that's my fault, We are too backcourt heavy. At some point we will have to balance that out, get more size and front court scoring and rebounding."

Does that mean now? Or in the summer? Or what?

"We're going to be active over the next week," he said. "We're exploring a lot of options. We have more time (than usual) to make decisions."

The All-Star break now includes a full five days after the All-Star game to consummate trades before the regular season picks up again.

Are the Suns, currently in 8th place, working toward making the playoffs now? Or more toward the future?

"I don't think we're as worried about holding onto what we have," he said of the playoff position. "As we are into building something sustainable for the long term (regarding short term acquisitions just to make the playoffs). We are open to everything. I don't want to minimize making the playoffs as one of the youngest teams in the Western Conference."

Sounds like the Suns will just play it by ear and strike when the deal is a good one.

Is trading Goran Dragic for a first round pick a good deal?

To me, no it's not. At least, it's not a good deal in a vacuum. Trading Dragic - sans any other deals - simply says you're giving up on the rest of the season in order to pile up even more assets.

But if, say, the Suns find a future superstar at the shooting guard spot who can play next to Eric Bledsoe for the next five years in a separate deal, would they trade Dragic to make room? Who knows. Maybe then.

But not in a vacuum.