Phoenix Suns’ Ryan McDonough has his work cut out for him in Goran Dragic situation

Feb 18, 2015, 2:13 PM | Updated: 2:35 pm
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“Are y’all trying to get the record for the most point guards in the NBA?” TNT analyst Charles Barkley said to Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM last July.

This, of course, was in response to the Phoenix Suns, who already had Goran Dragic under contract and were negotiating with restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe on a new deal, signing free agent Isaiah Thomas to a four-year contract.

“I have no idea what they’re doing, to be honest with you.”

Barkley has been known to be a little sensational with his comments. But seven months later, it looks like his assessment of the Suns’ growing collection of point guards was right on.

Tuesday night, reports spilled over the Internet that Dragic’s agent, Bill Duffy, met with the team and informed them that his client has no interest in re-signing this summer.

Dragic has a $7.5 million player option for the 2015-16 season but can opt out and become an unrestricted free agent.

The reports further indicated that Dragic supplied a list of teams that he wants to play for moving forward. That list included the Los Angeles Lakers, the New York Knicks and the Miami Heat.

Other reports indicated the Boston Celtics and Sacramento Kings also have strong interest in acquiring Dragic, despite his lack of desire in playing for them.

You can’t blame the Suns for wanting to gauge Dragic’s future interest. Their three-point guard experiment hasn’t worked as well they hoped and as of Tuesday’s meeting, there were less than 48 hours remaining until the NBA trade deadline.

It’s somewhat surprising that Dragic feels the way he does about his future in the Valley. He broke into the league with the Suns as an understudy to Steve Nash. After Phoenix bungled a 2011 trade that sent the Slovenian point guard and a first-round pick to the Houston Rockets, he opted to come back to the Suns — a team that was coming off a .500 season and lacked any discernible organizational direction.

But Dragic managed to become the “face” of the Suns franchise. He averaged over 20 points per game in 2013-14, was named the league’s Most Improved Player and was a third team All-NBA pick.

Last summer, the Suns signed his brother Zoran to a multi-year deal. Some thought that would make Goran’s decision to re-sign with Phoenix a foregone conclusion.

That’s not the case.

The puzzling three-headed point guard lineup, which has been a source of conversation and consternation all season, has made a negative impact.

The Suns have been steadfast in wanting to bring Dragic back, but it appears his amended role this season is too much to overcome. Why should he accept a role where he’s playing off the ball for a middling team, when he’s shown that he can effectively fuel an offense with his scoring and playmaking ability?

So now what? Do the Suns acquiesce to Dragic and his camp and trade him to one of his three preferred teams, even though the cards have been shown?

Should Phoenix hold on to Dragic for the remainder of the season and allow him to enter free agency, they could pay him more than any other team in the league. They could call Dragic’s bluff and still attempt to cash whip him in July, or at least utilize him in a sign-and-trade to avoid walking away empty-handed.

But the more likely situation is that Phoenix will work to trade Dragic by Thursday’s deadline. And with the guard’s team preference list becoming public knowledge, there are likely 26 teams that have little to no interest in giving anything up for a player who could be a stretch-run rental.

General manager Ryan McDonough has done a great job since taking over the post in 2013, but he hasn’t been perfect. He admitted last week on Arizona Sports that the Suns’ roster issues are his responsibility. More to the point, signing Thomas was not the best strategy.

McDonough’s got his work cut out for him to make the best out of what could be a bad situation for the Suns.

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