The 1975-1976 Phoenix Suns entered their season with a trio they felt could carry them deep into the NBA playoffs. Paul Westphal, Gar Heard, and 21 year old Alvan Adams were ready to take the franchise to new heights; the team would make it to the 1976 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics and fall in one of the greatest championship series of all time. Earlier in the season the team made a trade for a veteran guard, the type of guy who could be a mentor for a young team. What he lacked in production and athleticism he made up for in effort and veteran guidance. His name? Pat Riley.
Riley would average a mere 4.6 points per game on a Michael Carter-Williams-esque 38.9% shooting for the Suns before retiring at the end of the season. The decision would bring an end to his nine year long NBA career. Four years later Ryan McDonough was born. Thirty-four years later Riley and McDonough would make a deal that not only rocked the NBA, but also gave NBA fans a sneaky insight into the minds of the two GMs.
You already know the terms of the deal; the Riley run Heat received Goran and Zoran Dragic, and the Phoenix Suns received two draft picks, one in 2017 and the other in 2021, as well as some throw away contracts. For many Suns fans the 2021 draft pick, which is completely unprotected, seems like a bit of a joke. The Suns are getting a pick six years from now? Who cares?
Ryan McDonough cares. Pat Riley? Not so much.
By trading for Goran Dragic Pat Riley acquired the Dragon’s Bird Rights, a benefit which will allow the Heat to offer Dragic a five year contract while the other 29 teams can only offer four. The Heat, one of Dragic's infamous "preferred destinations," will have the inside track on resigning the point guard and will most likely offer a five year deal worth the max or close to it. The contract, if it is indeed a five year deal, will make Dragic a member of the Heat through 2020. At that point Dragic will be 34 years old. Chris Bosh will be 36. Hassan Whiteside will be 32. Dwyane Wade will be 38. Dwyane Wade's knees will be 73.
Just before the 2020-2021 season, months after the anticipated Dragic contract expires, T.J. Warren and Archie Goodwin will celebrate their 26th birthdays. Alex Len will turn 27 two weeks before the 2021 NBA draft. Eric Bledsoe will turn 31 that season, two years older than Goran now, and Brandon Knight will be 29 when the season begins. The Morris brothers will be 32.
Ryan McDonough will turn 41 years old during that season. Pat Riley will turn 76. He will more than likely celebrate with a drink in his hand and sandals on his feet.
Many in the NBA look at the Dragic trade as a fleecing. Old Man Riley pulled one over on Young Buck McDonough. They may or may not be right, but the 2021 draft pick is fascinating for the reasons listed above. McDonough is making a bet that his team will be hitting a peak, with the perfect mix of players entering their prime and players ending their prime, and an even bigger bet that he will still be around. Riley is betting he will be retired by then and won’t care.
Is that 2021 draft pick the key to a Phoenix Suns championship? I have no idea. The Miami Heat are a free agent destination, and will be until Pitbull becomes Miami's mayor and subsequently ruins the city. Which realistically won't happen until 2024, when Pitbull will be 43 years old. Nobody knows what the future holds, and McDonough certainly isn't banking on the 2021 Heat pick to be the key to his legacy, but the Dragic trade was a no-win situation. The 2021 pick may be a nice prop bet.
Meanwhile, meet Shemar Morrow. He lives in Lorain, Ohio just outside of Cleveland. He is a small forward for the King James Shooting Stars AAU club and the top rated 7th grade prospect. He graduates high school in 2020. You can't make this stuff up.
Suns vs Heat tonight at 5:30PM! Let's see what everyone thinks!
What Vegas Thinks: Not This Again (Suns +1, O/U 206)
The Suns are one-point underdogs against the Miami Heat, much like they were on Saturday against the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs managed to beat the spread, just barely. But this is Bright Side of the Sun, so what's the bright side? Most of the time Vegas isn't off by 26 points! The Heat have only won one game by 20+ points this season, and it was against the Knicks coming out of the All-Star break. More importantly for this game, the Heat have gone 0-7 since late January against teams with winning records. The line may be the same as the Spurs game, but Suns fans can head into this game confident it will turn out differently!
Vegas Predicts: Heat 104 Suns 103
What the National Media Thinks: Get ready for some Hot Takes!
The national media has backed off the Dragic trade story lines over the last week, mostly because of the unique circumstances surrounding the Heat. Rarely, if ever, does trading for a game changing point guard in the trade deadline’s eleventh hour take a backseat as a story line for a team but with news of Chris Bosh being out for the season with a blood clot near his lungs the Dragic story has done just that. The NBA has been inundated with story lines this week, Dragic is obviously adjusting to his new team, and the Heat have played some aesthetically brutal games since the trade. These along with the Bosh story have led to the trade getting shockingly little coverage. However, get ready for all of that to change.
Monday night and Tuesday will be Hot Take City for the Phoenix Suns/Miami Heat game. Whether Dragic goes off for 30 points and beats his former team or whether he plays awful and the Suns win in a landslide, pundits will be lining up to overreact to the performance. It starts tonight with NBAtv covering the game as their national broadcast, meaning every single commercial break will feature Chris Webber breaking down the action! This game means practically nothing in terms of the trade being a success/failure for either team, after all Shemar Morrow hasn't even committed to Kentucky before winning the national championship and being drafted by the Suns yet, but the game will surely attract tons of pundits no matter how it plays out. For better or for worse, the Suns will be a featured story after tonight's showdown.
What Miami Thinks: A Savior Has Arrived
The Miami Heat and their fans are certainly excited for the newest member of their team. It isn't every day you get to sign a player with natural scoring ability who plays solid defense and who leads a lockerroom after joining the team halfway through a season. I'm of course talking about new Miami Heat addition Michael Beasley! Beasley is starting his third stint with the Miami Heat on a 10-day contract, and I am not kidding when I say Heat fans are actually kind of excited about the move! Michael Beasley and Goran Dragic have been reunited!
The Miami Herald was clearly excited about the Goran Dragic trade when it happened last week, but beat writer Joseph Goodman wonders if the Heat have a chance at holding onto their playoff spot with how they have played recently, going so far as to describe the team as defeated. The Heat’s last five wins have come against the 76ers, Knicks (twice), Magic (OT), and Celtics. Miami lost their best player in Chris Bosh to a freak ailment, and are losing their franchise crown jewel to age as Wade continues to miss games. The Dragic trade was a great move for Miami, but not everything is rosy in South Beach.