It was the summer of 2012, the NBA's offseason, and it was time for the Houston Rockets to begin making some moves.
Goran Dragic, the smooth, Slovenian point guard that the Rockets had acquired in a trade for Aaron Brooks a little over a year prior, was coming off of his best season as a pro, averaging nearly twelve points a game in 2011-2012 and routinely cracking the twenty point mark in games during the final two months of the season after taking over starting point guard duties in the wake of the Kyle Lowry trade to Toronto.
So it would stand to reason that the Rockets would want to keep Dragic around to run the show with Chandler Parsons and whoever Daryl Morey eventually acquired as a foundational type of star player. Or so we thought. The team offered Dragic around $8 million per year over three years, but Dragic wanted a fourth year at his option in the deal. The Rockets balked at that.
As it turned out, the Rockets wanted to keep Dragic, but not enough to concede player control over a fourth year in the deal, and perhaps whatever remaining grudge Dragic has over that is the reason why we are where we are this morning.
Of course, back in 2012, Dragic wound up signing a three year deal with the Phoenix Suns with a player option for a fourth year, the deal worth about $30 million total over those four years. That Dragic's game would develop the way it has as a full time starter, to the point where he was third team All-NBA last season, not even the most optimistic of Dragic supporters could've seen coming.
Of course, Dragic's development didn't stop the Suns from signing point guard Eric Bledsoe to a maximum deal this past summer nor from signing point guard Isaiah Thomas to a four year, $27 million deal to join the Suns. Suddenly, the backcourt in Phoenix was crowded, and it became increasingly obvious that Dragic would not be opting into his fourth year in Phoenix. He would become a free agent after the 2014-2015 season.
This was confirmed on Tuesday night, courtesy of Sam Amick from USA TODAY:
Goran Dragic wants out of Phoenix.
According to two people with knowledge of the situation, the representatives for the Suns point guard told team officials in a Tuesday meeting that he has no plans to re-sign in Phoenix this summer as a free agent.
With the Thursday trade deadline looming and the clear message now sent that Dragic plans on playing elsewhere next season, it remains to be seen if Suns general manager Ryan McDonough will succumb to the pressure and agree to a deal. The people spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
This would seem to be great news for the Rockets, who are in the market for another perimeter player, and have the trade assets that would seem to satisfy a team like the Suns, who are reportedly looking for a first round pick and/or a young player with All-Star potential. The Rockets have both of these items (depending on how the Suns feel about, say, Terrence Jones or Donatas Motiejunas).
There's only one problem, and this report comes courtesy of Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! From his Twitter account:
The Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat and New York Knicks are among preferred destinations for Goran Dragic, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) February 18, 2015
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Dragic's list reportedly consists of seven teams, none of whom are the Rockets. Now, this doesn't mean that the Rockets can't or won't trade for Dragic. It just means he's unlikely to sign an extension with the Rockets after the season is over. If the Rockets feel he's the missing piece to a title run, then they might be fine with what would amount to a four month rental, provided the price in a trade is something they see as reasonable.
This also doesn't mean that the Rockets have no chance of re-signing Dragic if they traded for him, despite his current contention that he would rather play elsewhere in the coming seasons. Playing in their favor if they did want to re-sign him, the Rockets would have a) Dragic's Bird rights (meaning they can go over the cap to pay him more than any there team) and b) four months to sell him on re-signing in Houston.
For now, with the 24 hour countdown nearly upon us for the NBA's trade deadline, the odds of the Rockets making a deal that significantly reshapes their lineup definitely took a hit on Tuesday night. However, with Dwight Howard's championship window possibly shrinking much faster than anybody thought because of his rickety knee, maybe four months worth of Goran Dragic is worth what the Suns are asking.