clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

How the Suns (and Goran Dragic) set the NBA trade deadline on fire

Ryan McDonough had the dynamite, but first he needed to find the match.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images


When Goran Dragic declared on Wednesday that he had lost trust in the Phoenix Suns, his team had a few options. Reportedly (and understandably) livid at the inconvenient timing of the pronouncement, Suns management could have called Dragic's bluff and held his rights while attempting to deal Isaiah Thomas.

The offseason addition of Thomas, a lightning bolt scoring guard, had set things wrong with Dragic as IT2's presence reduced the Slovenian's role in a contract year. While Thomas was in some ways insurance against Dragic's potential 2015 free agency flight, Thomas' presence made that flight more likely.

The pose from the Suns was that the team would not acquiesce to Dragic's demands unless a deal made sense for the franchise. So when the point guard's list of acceptable partners came out, starring the asset-poor Lakers, Knicks and Heat, we all understood that to mean that one side was going to end up really unhappy on Thursday evening, and that side would probably be Camp Dragic.

After all, Dragic was third team All-NBA last season, and is just 28 years old. The Heat, Lakers and Knicks had point guards they could trade, but no one with any realistic potential of someday equaling Dragic. In that view, all looked hopeless: the Suns would either call the bluff and hold on to Dragic or ship him somewhere he didn't want to be.

Unless there was a Plan C, one that involved flipping Phoenix's plentiful other assets for a hot young point guard who could slide right up next to Bledsoe and Markieff Morris.

SB Nation presents: The three biggest trades at this year's deadline


So there was, and his name was Brandon Knight. Suns GM Ryan McDonough lit the fuse, took cover and blew the deadline into a million pieces.

Knowing that Dragic was willing to sign a long-term deal in Miami, the Heat lobbed plenty of assets -- including two future first-round picks, one of which is an unprotected 2021 selection, which is crazy -- at the Suns. With that treasure trove in hand, the Suns made their best asset -- the Lakers' protected first-round pick -- available in a deal for Knight. Milwaukee's in the playoff race and trying to build an arena with public funding, though. The Bucks probably wouldn't have dealt Knight for even that pick. The Suns needed help translating the pick into a real player.

There just so happens to be a team that is glad to snatch up potential lottery picks in exchange for young players: the Philadelphia 76ers. And those Sixers happened to have something the Bucks would want in a cheaper young point guard with promise: Michael Carter-Williams.

Most teams would resist trading reigning Rookies of the Year for future draft considerations. The 76ers are not most teams. GM Sam Hinkie continues to follow his blueprint, and continues to give zero whits about what anyone else thinks. That commitment to the process allowed the Suns to make their moves, which allowed Miami to retool and add a third star.


Philadelphia made some other Very 76ers Moves around the MCW deal, trading K.J. McDaniels for a pick and taking on a pick to eat JaVale McGee's salary for 18 months. They are moves that will reinforce both sides of the great Hinkie debate. Fans will laud the addition of another potentially great pick and critics will rip the commitment to losing. (The best part: Hinkie, the man at the center, doesn't participate in the debate at all except to throw kerosene on it at the deadline and draft each year.)

Miami didn't quite mortgage its future for Dragic, but trading an unprotected pick six years out is rather daring. Seven months after losing LeBron James in free agency, team boss Pat Riley has resuscitated a Big Three of sorts, pending Dwyane Wade's health. This isn't a Finals team, but if things break properly, an upper-level East team is going to get mighty nervous when it draws the Heat. And next year, Miami will be gunning for the Cavaliers.

But no team had more at stake entering Thursday than the Suns, and no team detonated its roster quite like Phoenix. At the end of the day, the Suns had traded the Dragic brothers and Isaiah Thomas, the Lakers' pick, Tyler Ennis and Miles Plumlee for Knight, three future first-round picks and some roster chaff. Somehow, the Suns traded away five players -- three of whom played major roles -- while improving the team's long-term outlook and maintaining its viability in the West playoff race.

That shouldn't be possible, and perhaps time will render McDonough's haul less impressive. Regardless, the gambit will forever be remembered as incredible in its pure explosive power.