For Riley And The Heat, Goran Dragic Is The Answer

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I can imagine that Pat Riley and the Miami Heat heard the Dragon’s roar on Wednesday.

Goran Dragic is ready to move on from Phoenix, according to USA Today. With this news, the Suns will probably be open for business in moving the point guard-turned-shooting guard, as risking to lose him for nothing when he opts out this summer will be pointless. But the Suns are clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, with the Oklahoma City Thunder charging fast, so trading him would hurt them in the short term.

Unless they move him for reinforcements.

And if Riley and the Heat want to be involved, then they’ll have to think bigger.

As it has been heavily documented, the Heat have zero in the way of trade assets. You could argue that Norris Cole has been the best trade chip that they have, which is comparable to someone trying to trade a Coors Light for a bottle of Johnnie Walker.

But this Dragic news changes things. Yahoo!’s Yahoo’s! Adrian Wojnarowski from Yahoo! Sports reported that sources list the Heat, Knicks, and Lakers as teams he would accept a trade to. The Suns are probably looking at that list and wondering what they ever did to anger Dragic so much that he would only accept a trade to three teams that aren’t bursting with young assets. The Lakers and Knicks do have draft picks (ironically L.A. owes Phoenix their first round pick this summer, assuming it’s outside the top 5), which can help Phoenix reload in the future,  the feces that the Knicks and Lakers have aren’t exactly going to help them in the present. Of course, the Heat offering Cole won’t get a deal done, but they do have something that the Suns coveted  a couple of times: Luol Deng.

Phoenix was interested in freeing Deng from the banishment that is Cleveland before last season’s trade deadline, while also viewing him as an option this past summer, before he opted to sign in Miami. Now fate has brought them back together, as Deng offers Phoenix the two-way player that they can use on the front line. Deng’s very friendly two year deal that he signed with the Heat also doesn’t clog up the Suns’ cap space moving forward. The concern for Phoenix is that Deng also has an opt out clause in his contract and there hasn’t been any indication whether he would choose to enter free agency this coming summer. But if Phoenix can get the assurance from Deng that he’ll either re-up for 2015-16, or sign him to an extension, then that should comfort them.

The fit for the Heat is beyond perfect. They need a point guard like Dragic that can break down defenses, handle the ball (averaged 7.4 assists per game in 2012-13, before the Suns acquired fellow point guard Eric Bledsoe), and OH MY GOD, THE DRAGIC PICK AND ROLLS ARE ALL THE FIRE!

(Sorry.)

This season, Dragic is averaging 16.2 points on 50% shooting from the field, which is down from last season’s 20.3 ppg. You can put some of that to blame on the addition of Isaiah Thomas, who has taken some touches away from Dragic (his shots are down, as is his usage rate; Thomas is second on the team), so a change of scenery might do him some good. But a point guard that can score 50% from the field is something that might as well be a unicorn in the wild for Heat fans, as Cole, Mario Chalmers, and Shabazz Napier have shot so many bricks that Habitat for Humanity has an excess of building materials thanks to them.

Is Deng for Dragic sexy enough of a return for Phoenix? Probably not. But with Houston not on the list of teams that Dragic would sign an extension with, and the Lakers and Knicks probably willing to wait for free agency to sign him without trading picks, the Heat’s offer might be enough to get it done. Plus Deng will at least give the Suns a fighting chance at trying to hold off the Thunder for the final spot in the West.

As for the Heat, this is a no-brainer. Miami gets the point guard they have coveted, will hold his Bird Rights, and will have a fighting chance at both securing a playoff spot in the East, while giving themselves a puncher’s chance at making a top seed sweat in the first round. Would you want to see a Dragic/Dwyane Wade/Chris Bosh/Hassan Whiteside quartet in April if you were someone like Toronto?

The Bird Rights brings up the question whether Riley will want to offer Dragic an extension beyond this year, as he’s hoarding cap space for the summer of 2016 to make a run at the likes of Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, and Joakim Noah. But assuming Whiteside is the real deal, why wouldn’t he want to lock up a 28 year old – turns 29 in May – point guard to a long term deal? With the way the cap is slated to go up in 2016, the Heat can still make a run at a second-tier free agent to add alongside a Bosh/Whiteside/Dragic trio in two years.

Riley and the Heat know all of this. They know that this might be their best shot at salvaging a season that had started out with higher aspirations. The rise of Whiteside, combined with Bosh playing well and Wade looking to return from injury this Friday means the Heat can hit the reset button on the season come tip-off in New York.

On Wednesday, the Dragon roared.

Now Riley and the Heat need to respond.