Suns fans can tune in next season and watch a trio of players that have enjoyed their share of time in the limelight as fan favorites. A Spurs slaying Dragon, a future ring of honor inductee and a four fingered dunking phenom that span 13 years of Phoenix Suns basketball.
All they have to do is watch the Miami Heat.
The South Beach Suns will feature this triumvirate as a revamped, and hopefully healthier, squad appears poised to climb the ladder in the Eastern Conference after a disappointing season that saw them miss the playoffs.
Dragic (essentially) was dealt to the Heat for a 2017 top seven protected first round pick and a 2021 unprotected first round pick after an unseemly sequence of events culminated in him claiming that he didn't trust the Suns front office and wouldn't be resigning with the team this summer.
While Dragic had tapered off from his historical efficiency in the 2013-14 season, some (or most) of this was intertwined with the turmoil that resulted from a failed three point guard system.
Dragic ended up signing a five year (5th year player option), $85 million dollar contract with Miami Heat this summer. That's $3 million more per season than the Suns locked both of their starting guards in for. There are concerns over Dragic's age, who will be 33 years old entering the final year of his contract, considering the reckless abandon he attacks the basket with, but in the brave new world of NBA contracts this isn't really an overpay if Goran can even approach his third team All-NBA season production.
A starting five of Hassan Whiteside, Chris Bosh, Luol Deng, Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic should fare pretty well in the Eastern Conference next season. More changes could be on the way in short order. The only players the Heat currently have under contract for next season are Bosh, Dragic, Josh McRoberts and this year's #10 pick Justise Winslow.
Bosh is also on the back nine of his career, but consider this. LaMarcus Aldridge turns 30 next week and Bosh is only 31. Both have four years left on their contracts. They aren't really that dissimilar of players, either, as fours that can stretch the court.
Aldridge's career averages - 19.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.
Bosh's career averages - 19.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.
If Pat Riley can retool around Bosh and Dragic they could be part of a core for years to come. The hope is that won't be the case, though, with the first pick owed to the Suns just two years away.
While getting two future first round picks for a disgruntled player is pretty good damage control, Dragic's future in Miami may very well be nettlesome from a "what if" standpoint... what if the Suns hadn't signed Isaiah Thomas?
While Dragic was a malcontent in his final days in Phoenix, you can decide how to apportion the blame, I think it is telling that a basketball genius like Pat Riley gave what he did to have the upper hand in negotiations with Dragic this summer. Dragic may not be a superstar, but obviously he's a piece Riley believes he can build and recruit around.
I think that carries some weight.
Dragic will play the most prominent former Sun role on the Heat next season, but he will be accompanied by a couple old friends.
While Amar'e Stoudemire is no longer the dominating presence of his prime years, he is still a very efficient offensive weapon. In his 23 games with the Dallas Mavericks at the end of the 2014-15 season he averaged 23.5 points and 8.0 rebounds per 36 minutes while shooting over 58% from the field.
Of course, with Amar'e, the question is always health (and defense). Stoudemire played in just 59 games last season and has managed 60 appearances just once in the last four years. He can still be effective off the bench for around 20 minutes per game, though, and put up 11.5 points and 5.6 rebounds per game in 2014-15. That's pretty good production for a backup big.
Playing for the veteran's minimum, Amar'e has the chance to be one of the better values in the league next season. He is also a reasonable facsimile for Bosh, can play a little bit of backup five and should fit seamlessly into a veteran locker room.
Gerald Green worked his way out of the Suns rotation last season due to an amalgamation of tepid shooting, unsteady defensive effort, questionable decision making and a measure of grousing. After starting out as a regular rotation player he saw his minutes truncated and even received a few DNP CD's in the second half of the campaign. Green did have a few solid games down the stretch as the Suns floundered, though, scoring 23 or more points in three of the team's final six games.
Green can fill it up.
Despite his struggles he still averaged 11.9 points per game and his 22.0 points per 36 minutes was the highest mark of his career. Gerald also shot a career high 9.6 three pointers per 36.
Perhaps the most entertaining aspect of Gerald's game was his high flying theatrics, often rising for exhibition style dunks in real time. He also had a proclivity to enter human torch mode, going on torrid streaks that prompted teammate Goran Dragic to compare him to a video game.
Green enjoyed the high tide of his career playing next to Dragic, especially when starting next to him in the 2013-14 season when Eric Bledsoe was sidelined with an injury. Now Gerald has a chance to earn playing time along Goran and spell Dwyane Wade, who has a history of missing his share of regular season games.
Between Green and Stoudemire the Heat shouldn't lack scoring punch off the bench.
In addition to monitoring Dragic's progress on the Heat, the concomitant Brandon Knight trade will be scrutinized this season.
The onus will be on Knight to prove worthy of the assets sent out to obtain him from the Milwaukee Bucks, most notably the Los Angeles Lakers top 3 protected first round pick that went to the Philadelphia 76ers. If Knight and the Suns struggle and that pick ends up in the middle of the lottery it will be a cause of consternation.
It has a chance to be a very good pick next year since the Lakers are a jumbled mess, former franchise superstar Kobe Bryant now playing the role of franchise killing albatross.
The Lakers, the Heat, the Suns...
There will be plenty of story lines to keep the season interesting. Hopefully, after the wreckage of last season the Suns will at the forefront of good stories this season...
Because the more focus on these other teams and subplots means the Suns aren't compelling enough to keep a captive audience.