The Phoenix Suns are attempting an intriguing experiment by giving three point guards significant play time. Through the signing of Isaiah Thomas and the re-signing of Eric Bledsoe last offseason, Phoenix placed two 1-men alongside Goran Dragic to form one of the most formidable backcourt rotations in the NBA.
This experiment is seemingly working thus far, as the Suns are 11-8 and all three floor generals are performing exceptionally. However, this trio is destined to split following the conclusion of the current campaign.
The reason? Dragic will be an unrestricted free agent next summer and is open to leaving Phoenix.
Therefore, it is important for the Suns to start searching for potential trade options. Management must do so because Dragic will likely leave in search of a bigger role and the team can receive significant value in return.
With the presence of three starting-quality point guards on Phoenix's roster, head coach Jeff Hornacek has been assigned the tough task of properly distributing minutes for each 1-man. Unfortunately for Dragic, this has led to a decrease in play time compared to last season, as his minutes have dropped from 35.1 to 31.1 per game.
Dragic's usage rate (i.e. the percentage of plays he's involved in while on the floor) has also diminished, falling from 24.5 to 22.1 percent. As of this moment, he is not only trailing Bledsoe and Thomas in this statistic, but he's behind small forward Gerald Green and power forward Markieff Morris as well.
As a result, this has caused a drop in his overall output. The 28-year-old is currently averaging 15.5 points and 3.2 assists—a noteworthy reduction from the 20.3 points and 5.9 assists he put forth last year.
Clearly, Dragic's role with the Suns has taken a hit.
If Phoenix were a top team with a chance to win the title, the odds of him staying would probably lean in it's favor.
But in the heavily stacked West, the Suns are a low playoff seed at best. The squad is currently sitting in eighth and will likely hover around that zone for the remainder of the year.
Essentially, Dragic—who is the reigning Most Improved Player—is filling a smaller role on a middle-of-the-pack team. Should a better ballclub come along and provide an opportunity to play in an increased role, it is likely the point guard will accept the offer.
And Dragic will receive lucrative offers. According to Sean Deveney of Sporting News, the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers are expected to serve as two of the many options from which the 1-man will get to choose:
Among those options, according to sources, would be Houston — the team Dragic left in order to sign with Phoenix in 2012. The Rockets are well-stocked with point guards, but nearly all, including starter Patrick Beverley, can become free agents next summer.
The Lakers also figure to be a potential landing spot for Dragic, a source said — though, to be clear, the Lakers have only about $36 million committed next season with needs at just about every position, and thus are expected to pursue multiple big-name free agents.
While the Lakers are a mess, it is the Rockets that can potentially draw significant interest from the floor general. Not only is Houston currently competing among the best teams in the West (and therefore the league), but the 28-year-old actually suited up for the ballclub from 2011 to 2012.
Barring any changes in Dragic's current role with Phoenix, all signs point to him leaving via free agency next summer.
Consequently, the Suns would be wise to begin exploring the trade market.
It's illogical for Phoenix not to examine this option, as Dragic is a top-tier talent who can net a lot of value in an exchange.
The Suns are not without weaknesses. Specifically, the roster needs an upgrade at center, as current 5-men Alex Len and Miles Plumlee are failing to perform up to par down low.
Through 19 games this season, Len and Plumlee are combining to put forth a lowly 10.8 points per night. Based on stats from RealGM.com, 18 centers in the league score more points per game on their own. Evidently, buckets from Phoenix's bigs are few and far between.
In addition, according to TeamRankings.com, the Suns are currently allowing opponents to score 45.5 points in the paint per contest. This places them 25th overall in the NBA. While Len and Plumlee are not the only ones to blame for this, they certainly play a role in Phoenix's defensive struggles.
It is clear the Suns can use a new big. By offering Dragic to a team willing to exchange a productive center, the franchise can easily fix its low post issue while keeping its excellent point guard situation in tact.
Of course, Phoenix can consider other deals involving different types of athletes as well. Whether the club looks for a center, a wing player, draft picks or a combination of the three, one thing is obvious: giving up Dragic will bring in outstanding value.
The Suns can only benefit by trading the six-year veteran. Bledsoe and Thomas would continue to impress in the backcourt, and the team would obtain pieces that could aid its winning efforts in the future.
Quite frankly, the only way Phoenix fails is if Dragic stays for the year and ultimately walks away in 2015. It is still fairly early in the season, but it is important for the Suns to at least consider placing the 1-man on the trading block.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.
Josh Haar is an NBA Contributor for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JHaarNBA.