Goran Dragic was the Phoenix Suns’ best player in 2013-14, averaging 20.3 points, 5.9 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game. He shot 50.5 percent from the field and made nearly 41 percent of his three-point attempts.
He was named to the All NBA Third-Team, and cemented himself as not only one of the Suns’ core players, but one of the better guards in the NBA.
But as of late last week, he is not even the highest paid guard on his team. That distinction falls on Eric Bledsoe, who signed a five-year, $70 million deal to remain in Phoenix. Dragic is entering the third year of a four-year, $34 million contract signed in July 2012.
A guest of Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Monday, the 28-year-old Dragic said that does not bother him at all.
“You know, I love basketball,” he said. “At the beginning, when I started basketball, I never thought I was going to have so much money, so it was all everything about to play, to have fun. And even now in this offseason I went to play for my national team and I’m not getting paid.
“Sometimes I’m risking injury just to play. For me and myself, I’m just happy to be part of this life that I can play basketball.”
A former second-round pick of the San Antonio Spurs before being traded to the Suns on draft night in 2008, Dragic has gradually emerged into the player he is today. At 6-foot-3 and 190-pounds, he has good size for the point guard position, and his athleticism has never been in question. He has also been a pretty durable player, missing just 11 games over the last two seasons.
His path could not really be much more different than Bledsoe’s, a former first-round pick who showed promise as a backup and then last season, his first with the Suns and as a full-time starter, played well but missed 39 games to injury.
However, Dragic is not into comparing his contract to Bledsoe’s or anyone else’s. Entering his seventh NBA season, he has other things on his mind.
“It’s a good thing that you do what you love and you get paid, of course, but at the same time I’m not thinking about other guys,” he said. “I’m only focused on myself, my career and of course about my team.
“I’m happy for Eric, he signed a big contract, and hopefully next year we’re going to stay together.”
Keeping their dynamic backcourt together will be the next challenge for the Suns, because while Dragic signed a four-year deal in 2012, the fourth year is a player option. And, assuming Dragic doesn’t see a sharp decline in performance, he’d stand to make considerably more by declining that option and becoming a free agent.
But that’s a topic Dragic is not ready to discuss yet.
“I always go year by year,” he said. “We’ve still got 82 games, I hope for more with playoffs, and I need to play well. That’s my biggest goal, try to help my teammates and try to help my team to get that one stage higher than last year. I’m not thinking about next season yet.
“We’re going to see what’s going to happen after next season, of course I’m going to see my options, and after that I can say a little bit more.”