MIAMI — Desperate for an upgrade at point guard, the Miami Heat acquired Goran Dragic from the Phoenix Suns before the league’s trade deadline Thursday.
The three-team trade between Miami, Phoenix and the New Orleans Pelicans was completed minutes before 3 p.m. and approved by the NBA later in the evening.
"We are incredibly pleased to take another step in getting the Miami Heat back to real championship prominence with the acquisition of Goran Dragic," Heat president Pat Riley said in a statement. "Goran is an All-NBA player, including the Most Improved Player last season, and we felt that once he became available, we would do all that we could to acquire him. We feel he is the perfect complement to the players we have on the team. We are also pleased to bring his brother, Zoran, into the HEAT family. He had a great summer during international play and it’s great to have a brother-brother duo and someone that can help us in our rotation."
The finalized deal is Goran and Zoran Dragic heading to Miami, with the Heat sending two first-round draft picks and forward Danny Granger to Phoenix. Point guard Norris Cole, forward Shawne Williams (who is expected to be waived) and center Justin Hamilton were sent to the Pelicans. Phoenix also acquired forward John Salmons from New Orleans and is expected to waive him.
Upon learning of the news, Cole took to Twitter to thank Heat fans for their support since his arrival in 2011.
Thank you @MiamiHEAT HeatNation for the opportunity! Many Great memories! 2 Championships in 3yrs! @PelicansNBA IM READY 2 WORK!
The Heat had been searching for depth at guard and came away with Dragic, the 2014 NBA Most Improved Player who averaged a career-high 20.3 points and 5.9 assists per game last season and was named to the All-NBA Third Team. The 28-year-old is averaging 16.2 points on 50 percent shooting, along with 4.1 assists and 3.6 rebounds, this season.
A starting lineup of Dragic, Wade, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside could make the Heat contenders in the Eastern Conference.
With Dragic, the Heat now have one of the best point guards in the league who could form a devastating pick-and-roll partnership with Whiteside as well as provide easy buckets for the All-Star duo of Bosh and Wade.
In Dragic, the team gets the playmaker they coveted without giving up any key players. Their young bench core of James Ennis, Tyler Johnson and Shabazz Napier remains intact as well, with both Dragic brothers fortifying the backcourt. Granger’s, Williams’ and Hamilton’s minutes had been reduced as the season wore on, and Cole lost his starting job and was playing behind Mario Chalmers and Napier.
The loss of the two picks further depletes the Heat’s low supply of future first-rounders, but Riley and the front office are forging ahead with their win-now approach.
Instead of focusing on the unknown that will be the 2016 free agent market, Riley instead is seeking to upgrade the team he assembled in the wake of LeBron James’ departure. The trade also opens up two roster spots for the Heat, and they still have their $2.6 million injured player exception granted by the NBA because of McRoberts’ season-ending knee surgery.
Dragic, who can play both guard positions, grew frustrated with his diminished playmaking role in Phoenix after the Suns re-signed Eric Bledsoe and added Isaiah Thomas in free agency before the start of the season.
He had said earlier this week he would not re-sign with the Suns this offseason and asked for a trade. Phoenix risked losing him for nothing if he walked and were compelled to make the move. He can opt out of his current contract after the season and become an unrestricted free agent. The Heat, reported as one of Dragic’s preferred destinations when his displeasure become public earlier this week, can offer him an extra fifth year and more money then any other NBA team in order to re-sign him.
Hours later Thursday, Dragic confirmed the trade on his official Twitter account with a welcome message.
NOW it's #heatnation time and I'm excited to bring the Dragon's fire to Miami!!