I wanted to start this article with a joke but then I realized there is no need for comedy when you have the back court rotation the Miami Heat currently do. Which is why it is astonishing how the Heat with one trade can change the entire course of the season and not only make a run these final 30 games but actually become a dark horse for the playoffs.
By now you have already seen the posts from Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc Stein late last night. If not, here you go:
ESPN sources say Suns trading Dragic by Thursday's 3 p.m. trade deadline is now regarded as the likely scenario— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 18, 2015
Goran Dragic is understandably tired of being part of a three guard rotation out in Phoenix. With the Suns also losing and being at the edge of the playoff race, I recently wrote of how Miami is unlikely to even land a player like him due to not only the lack of assets but also the Heat have an eye towards 2016 more than anything.
All that has changed now that Dragic has come up with a list of teams he is interested in signing with. The significance of this list is that Dragic will be a free agent this summer, and the team may be forced to trade him by Thursday's deadline because if he is kept, he won't be resigning with the Suns in the off-season. Phoenix faced a similar situation years ago with Amar'e Stoudemire and instead of choosing to trade, they kept him only to see him leave for nothing to New York. So it seems unlikely Phoenix will let that happen again.
Dragic's agent has told Phoenix the list is comprised of the New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, and the Miami Heat. Phoenix now has a day to work some type of trade with these teams that will make both sides happy. So let's first look at the four teams in the running and assess Miami's chance from there.
New York Knicks:
Okay fine I'll be serious. The East may be attractive to free agents due to the lack of competition, but the Knicks have still managed to be in a mess. New York is one of the best cities in the world, but that doesn't mean the Knicks are one of the best teams. Would the Knicks give up their lottery pick? Highly unlikely. Would the Suns want someone like Jose Calderon back? Also highly unlikely. If Dragic wants to go backwards in losses but get paid like Carmelo, he may have a NY State of Mind.
The future of the Lakers continues to not be bright until Kobe retires and his huge contract is finally off the books. The back court of LA is a struggling Jeremy Lin, soon to be retiring Steve Nash and Kobe, and an offense around a man nicknamed Swaggy. On the other hand, according to Marc Stein of ESPN, the Lakers have every intention of offering Dragic a max 4-year $80 million contract in free agency. Will the Lakers chase Dragic to team up with Kobe next year and make one final run? They sure can beat their former coach Phil Jackson for Dragic but in an already stacked Western Conference, LA still won't make the playoffs even after offering Dragic that much money. Which brings us to our final team, the one in our backyard.
Miami has the best record among these three teams and already have two star players established. The most glaring weakness has been the back court, and Dragic can provide an instant answer as a starter and his job will never be in jeopardy. Along with the winning culture (hello four Finals appearances) Miami is still in the playoffs though it is unable to maintain a consistent starting lineup due to injuries. Once in the playoffs the Heat actually have a fairly decent chance to get into the 2nd round and possibly further with Dragic at the helm.
So now that you see Miami's place among the three teams, can it offer something more enticing than the Lakers and Knicks? Phoenix has a depth issues at small forward, while Miami has had the early season production of Shawne Williams, the mid season production of Danny Granger, the overall production of Luol Deng and the youthful production of James Ennis. So who can the Heat give up?
Deng seems to be the most likeliest scenario because of his contract as well as his ability to produce on the offensive end as well guard the other teams best offensive weapon.
While McRoberts came here to be a starter in a position-less starting five, his injury has not only created the emergence of Hassan Whiteside, but has also just about guaranteed Josh's place on the bench as a sixth man role for the next season. So from that perspective the Heat could very well trade its future bench player for a current starter.
Norris Cole/Mario Chalmers/Shabazz Napier:
These three names are in the mix in case the Heat also want Gerald Green as part of the trade. Green would become the starting small forward in Miami but the Heat will probably have to give up one of the players in its current back court.
The reason why Birdman may be thrown in there is because of his contract to take up space in the trade. I don't see the Suns being interested in Bird because he could very well retire after next season.
Pat Riley has always envisioned 2016 to be his 2010 or at least somewhat close to it. He has always just wanted a seat at the table of free agency and be able to motivate players into joining a championship tradition. Then Hassan Whiteside happened. While Miami shouldn't forget about the 2016 free agency, Whiteside himself can become Miami's first big free agent for 2016 if his play continues to get better.
So Whiteside has created a fast track for Riley and Pat may want to produce now instead of later. Riley has also liked Dragic as a player and has said he would only make a move if it helps the Heat's future and present. So is Dragic worth a 4 year $80 million deal in Miami. Could Riley talk him down for the sake of winning? Can a lineup of Whiteside, Bosh, Ennis, Wade and Dragic enough to get you back into the NBA Finals?
You're still imagining that lineup aren't you? What Dragic could do for the Heat currently is undeniable. Miami will finally have a point guard who could facilitate the entire lineup and also create his own shot. You'll have someone who can feed the ball into Whiteside, set up jumpers for Bosh and put less pressure on Wade to become a nightly star.
Dragic won the 2014 Most Improved Player, averaging nearly 20 points and six assists, but has dropped in production this year to 16 points per game and four assists due to a crowded back court. At 28, Dragic feels as if he could change a franchise and deserves the money to be a star. Can he be one? Sure he can but like every other star, he'll need help. Miami offers that help.
By Thursday at 3pm, the Heat will either be 8th seed facing the NY Knicks or one of most dangerous teams in the East that can scare anyone in a seven game series. Because that's what happens when you go from tragic to Dragic.