Miami Heat: It’s time to trade Goran Dragic


Goran Dragic’s may be the only Miami Heat player with any real value in a trade.

The Miami Heat find themselves on the clock.

With the NBA Trade Deadline (aka Adrian Wojnarowski’s Playhouse) on Thursday, the Heat have a chance to possibly take a step closer to the top of the Eastern Conference with a deal that could help balance the team.

Or should I say “had a chance.”

With the news of Chris Bosh dealing with another blood clot, this time in his calf, this current version of the Heat now stare into an unknown abyss, as the fear of missing the playoffs (only two and a half games from ninth in East) now seems plausible. Pat Riley doesn’t have the assets for that one big move to put them over the top, and Bosh’s absence just compounds that.

The question is what does he do next? Does he roll the dice on this current incarnation, or tinker with it to at least try to fortify its position as fifth in the conference?

Then again, there’s always a third option.

Trade Goran Dragic.

It would be an odd course correction, literally one year after acquiring him for a buffet of worthlessness and two future first round picks, then giving him a five year, $85 million contract to top the deal off, just to pawn him off on another team. But there’s a method to this madness.

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The Heat’s on the court issue – current and in the future – surround the backcourt of Dragic and Dwyane Wade. Both on paper and in the hopes of dreams of Heat fans, this was a perfect pairing, as both guards attack the basket and both have a nice mid-range game, while being able to complement each other.

Yet things haven’t worked out as planned. The Heat’s offense has been better with Dragic on the floor without Wade, and worse with Wade on and no Dragic. Wade has had the ball in his hands more, with a Usage percentage of 31.5%, which would rank him sixth in the NBA. Dragic’s 19.7% would be fourth on the Heat. But this isn’t because Wade has decided to go “Kobe Bryant” on the Heat, and it hasn’t helped that the Heat haven’t been getting much from the likes of Gerald Green and Justise Winslow on offense; Hassan Whiteside can only have the ball for a second before he decides to shoot; Luol Deng being hit or miss; and Bosh being in a slump. It also seems like Dragic hasn’t been assertive enough on offense to take the wheel, so Wade is left holding the rock.

The overriding issue is the Heat don’t have shooters to spread the floor, so the offense doesn’t play to either of their strengths. While Wade will try to make things work, Dragic seems to be hesitant to jump into the fray.

So why trade Dragic? With the deadline looming, and a questionable future for Bosh, maybe switching gears for this season and beyond might be the best course of action.
Trading Dragic would work on two fronts: on a team with limited assets, Dragic and his contract might be the best one. This upcoming point guard free agent class will be Mike Conley and Rajon Rondo. Conley is probably going to get a max deal, while Rondo might have played himself into a big deal because Knicks with a nice bounce-back season for the Kings. With Dragic set to earn just under $16 million next season, and a rising cap that will make the remaining three seasons look good by comparison to a Conley/Rondo deal, he’ll be a steal moving forward.

Depending on how Riley frames the trade, it could either bring back a young asset/pick, or help net a star on an expiring deal that may not re-sign with his current team (Al Horford? Dwight Howard?). Rumors of a Heat/Rockets/Hawks trade that would send Dragic to Houston, with Horford and Jeff Teague coming to Miami, popped up earlier in the week, but so far that has been unfounded. There’s been the question of acquiring Howard for Dragic, but Howard’s usual baggage gets in the way of that.

Another positive is attaching Whiteside to the deal with a rivet gun, as his value is next to nothing with no Bird Rights tied to him, not to mention the risk of Whiteside going full Whiteside. Yes, it would be odd to just consider him a throw in to a deal, but life comes at you fast [insert “100” emoji].

Possibly the most divisive issue is the pairing with Wade. For whatever reason, the pairing has had its issues meshing on the court. Logic would think that Wade playing off the ball alongside Dragic works best for the Heat, but it has been more of the other way around. This became Dragic’s issue with Phoenix, as he was forced to play off the ball when the Suns brought in Eric Bledsoe.

The Wade/Dragic pairing has a Net Rating of 0.2 over 100 possessions, so there’s barely a difference of impact when they’re together. Dragic only has a lower NetRtg with three other players, one of which – Chris Andersen – is no longer on the team. On the other hand, Wade only has a better NetRtg with three other players, one of which – Mario Chalmers (*hums “In The Arms Of An Angel”*).

So if signs point to Wade being more of a problem, why trade Dragic? Easy answer: assets. If the future is going to have Wade in it, then moving their one asset that isn’t Winslow would be the right call. A good return on a deal can justify the picks that were sent out last February. Hard answer: trading/letting him walk in free agency presents logistical problems for the franchise. It’s one thing to amnesty Mike Miller, or trade Chalmers, Andersen, and Joel Anthony in salary dumps, and it’s another to just dump the franchise’s most important and greatest player on what could amount to being a hunch.

What also complicates things is that Wade is playing well, while also being healthy, so letting him go for nothing seems counterproductive. Why would you dismiss your franchise’s best player coming off a good year, all for rolling the dice? Free agents might look at that as more of a lack of loyalty than trading bit parts.

Of course, that’s not to say re-signing Wade to a “Kobe Deal” is smart; that would be ridiculous. He’s no longer a max player. Anything more than two seasons would be a disaster. If Wade is true to his word, there has to be a magic number both sides agree upon that will still let the Heat be players in free agency and find the next guy that will move the team forward. Wade being the bridge is the perfect way to ride off into the sunset. If Wade thinks he can get another big deal, then let him walk.

Pat Riley has choices to make. The Heat of the present are on some shaky ground, while the Heat of tomorrow are more unknown than ever. Whatever he chooses to do before 3PM EST Thursday could decide the fate of both in one shot.

The clock is ticking.

More heat: Heat acquire Brian Roberts, trade Chris Andersen

Ed. note: This column is in response to another column on All U Can Heat that says it’s too early to trade Goran Dragic. You can check that out here.