The Phoenix Suns have emerged as the clear front-runner to sign Slovenian shooting guard Zoran Dragic, according to NBA front office sources.
Sources told ESPN.com that the Suns are in contract talks with Dragic and likely headed for a two-year deal to sign him away from Unicaja Malaga in Spain and land him on the same NBA roster as brother Goran Dragic.
Zoran Dragic, 25, is eligible to leave for the NBA before the league season starts in Spain as long as a buyout is completed in advance of the opening weekend for Malaga and the rest of the ACB on Oct. 4-5. The buyout figure is believed to exceed 1 million euros if Dragic wants to leave for the NBA now as opposed to waiting until June 2015, when it would be only 750,000 euros.
As ESPN.com reported on the eve of Slovenia's quarterfinal game against the United States on Sept. 9, Phoenix emerged as one of the NBA's most serious suitors for the younger Dragic during the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup, in which the 6-foot-5 perimeter specialist averaged 14.1 points in 26.3 minutes per game on 50-percent shooting from the field and 43.3-percent shooting from 3-point range.
Dragic has emerged as an NBA prospect as a hard-nosed player and tough defender who -- though presumably not quite big enough to slide over to small forward in the States -- can be effective at the top level at both ends. And signing him is a move that obviously offers potential short- and long-term benefits for the Suns in their fight to hold onto Goran Dragic, with unrestricted free agency looming for Goran in July.
If a deal is sealed with Zoran Dragic by week's end, as expected, Phoenix will have 14 players on guaranteed contracts, leaving one slot open for restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe. As covered in this cyberspace earlier this month, Phoenix faces the prospect of both Goran Dragic and Bledsoe becoming unrestricted free agents next summer if Bledsoe opts to play out the 2013-14 season on a qualifying offer, which appears increasingly likely.