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Lakers Free Agency: Goran Dragic could be a target for Lakers

Long thought to be a foregone conclusion on the free agent market, Goran Dragic has emerged as a legitimate possibility for the Lakers on the free agent market because of Miami's apparent unwillingness to pay the full five-year max.

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In the midst of an otherwise miserable season in which it was not quite apparent yet that Jordan Clarkson was marching to an All-Rookie beat, the rumors of Goran Dragic near the trade deadline were a quiet comfort. Indeed, it wasn't so much that the Lakers were actually going to trade for Dragic, something that could have possibly jeopardized the draft pick that the team is incredibly fortunate to have at the moment, but rather the possibility that he would entertain suitors, including the Lakers, in free agency gave some inkling of hope that this past season would be worthwhile. Those hopes appeared to be silenced after the Miami Heat dealt for Dragic, making it fairly clear that they were going to give him the full five-year, $100+ million contract offer that only they could give him in order to keep him in town.

Well, according to ESPN's Marc Stein, that is not even remotely close to what will be on the table:

Sources told ESPN.com that the Heat are planning to offer Dragic a five-year deal in excess of $80 million to keep him in Miami after acquiring the 2014 All-NBA third-team selection from Phoenix on trade deadline day in February.

The biggest advantage that Miami always had in keeping Dragic was the ability to offer an additional year in any contract negotiations with him this offseason. Even with the cap skyrocketing soon, Dragic's 29 and probably would prefer the long-term security of a five-year deal going into his 30s. However, this was predicated on Miami actually paying him the full max, as even with no Florida state income tax as a consideration, that's not going to account for the almost $4-5 million difference each year between what Miami is offering and the four year, $85 million offers the Lakers and other teams could send Dragic's way as free agency opens. In addition, the Lakers could theoretically leave an out for Dragic to hit free agency earlier in order to reap the benefits of the increased cap via a player option or similar, as Dragic's game should age fairly well.

Stein mentions that the primary bugaboo Miami is dealing with is the uncertainty surrounding what Dwyane Wade will do with his player option, as not only does Wade want more than what Miami is likely willing to offer, his presence is critical to keeping Dragic in town. Sans closure on this situation, Miami is understandably treading with caution in paying Dragic the full max, but by the same token, it's playing a dangerous game for a player with little to no reason to stay in Miami unless he's adequately compensated. Although a core of Chris Bosh, Hassan Whiteside, Wade, Dragic, and their number ten pick in the upcoming draft is certainly an interesting group in a still weak Eastern Conference, that group becomes significantly less impressive if even a diminished Wade is no longer present.

As such, Dragic could potentially be back on the map as a free agent option for the Lakers, as they've reportedly expressed no qualms at offering the full 30% max for him. Assuming that the Lakers go with Jahlil Okafor, who coincidentally shares an agent with Dragic, over D'Angelo Russell next Thursday, the team certainly has a dearth of backcourt players that Dragic would help tremendously. As Dragic is used to playing off the ball at times in Phoenix with the likes of Eric Bledsoe, it's not outlandish that Dragic and Kobe Bryant (and ultimately Dragic and Clarkson for the more long-term consideration) could work well together even with Byron Scott still running the ship.

Miami certainly could put the kibosh on this entire saga by offering something closer to the full five-year max, a reality that the offers in free agency from teams like the Lakers might push them towards, and the safe assumption is still for Dragic still to be wearing a Heat jersey next season. This notwithstanding, Dragic was viewed as more or less an entirely unrealistic option ever since the trade deadline in February, so to add him to the pool of free agent options is refreshing, especially as the team attempts to assemble a workable core for what will likely be a fairly momentous free agency saga in 2016.

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