Surprise, surprise: The Celtics have entered the Goran Dragic sweepstakes.
According to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, C’s president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has placed a call to his former assistant general manager, Phoenix Suns GM Ryan McDonough, about the NBA’s reigning Most Improved Player.
Dragic, who is expected to decline his $7.5 million player option for the 2015-16 season, has alerted the Suns he will not re-sign in Phoneix come July, per USA TODAY’s Sam Amick. Given the team’s wealth of point guards after signing Isaiah Thomas and Eric Bledsoe for a combined $97 million this past summer, McDonough is reportedly seeking to trade Dragic by Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline.
Enter Ainge, who has enough draft picks, expiring contracts and affordable young talent to join any trade discussion. But how much are the Celtics willing to pay for a 28-year-old point guard who can walk in June? (See: Rondo, Rajon.)
Granted, Dragic is coming off a Third Team All-NBA season and has 9,118 fewer NBA minutes on his legs than the 28-year-old point guard they traded two months ago — not to mention an entirely different skill-set than Rondo — but Ainge will have to compete with a host of other teams for the Slovenian’s services, including reported suitors in the Heat, Kings, Knicks, Lakers, Pacers and Rockets. Ainge’s familiarity with McDonough, which led to the exchange of Brandan Wright for draft picks last month, can’t hurt in that regard.
Would Brandon Bass‘ $6.9 million expiring contract and pick(s) be enough to land Dragic? Or would the C’s have to include Kelly Olynyk or another burgeoning young talent? The Suns, who currently lead the Thunder by a half-game for the Western Conference’s eighth playoff seed, could use another floor-spacing big man after losing veteran locker room favorite Channing Frye to the Magic in free agency.
Additionally, the Celtics must determine whether the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Dragic — a willing defender and brilliant playmaker who submitted a remarkable statistical season in 2013-14 (20.3 points, 5.9 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.4 steals in 35.1 minutes per game while producing a 60.4 true shooting percentage and 21.4 player efficiency rating) — could coexist with Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley in the backcourt. (Unless, of course, either Smart or Bradley is shipped back to Phoenix in exchange for Dragic). The feeling here is that Dragic and the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Smart could wreak the same kind of havoc Dragic and Bledsoe did during the Suns’ 48-win campaign last season.
According to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Dragic has included the Los Angeles Lakers, New York and Miami among his list of preferred landing spots, demonstrating a willingness to re-sign with a team currently out of championship contention, but it’s unclear whether he’d be open to staying in Boston. Dragic’s agent, Bill Duffy, also represents Rondo, whose desire to test free agency led to his trade. Just as with Rondo, though, the C’s — or any organization acquiring Dragic — could offer an additional year and roughly $25 million more on the open market. With the NBA’s new television deal expected to increase the salary cap in 2016, Dragic could command a max contract this summer.
For more on the impending trade deadline decisions Ainge faces, click here.