The rebuilding project the Miami Heat were left with with the departure of LeBron James last summer took on a dramatic new look Thursday.
The Heat announced late Thursday night that they had acquired brothers Goran Dragic and Zoran Dragic in a three-team deal involving the Phoenix Suns, where Goran Dragic had averaged 16.2 points and 4.1 assists a game in 52 appearances (all starts), and the New Orleans Pelicans.
Zoran Dragic played in only six games with the Suns and scored a total of six points. The two brothers grew up in Slovenia.
The Heat sent forward Danny Granger and two future first-round draft picks (2017 conditional and 2021) to Phoenix and guard Norris Cole, center Justin Hamilton, and forward Shawne Williams to New Orleans. The Suns also got forward John Salmons from the Pelicans to complete the deal.
“We are incredibly pleased to take another step in getting the Miami Heat back to real championship prominence with the acquisition of Goran Dragic,” team President Pat Riley said in a statement released by the club. “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 acquisition of Goran Dragic is another coup for Riley, who in the past stunned the NBA with signings first of Shaquille O’Neal and then in 2010 James and Chris Bosh. Those acquisitions led to three league titles and two other NBA Finals appearances for the Heat the past decade.
Goran Dragic earlier had told the Suns he would not be re-signing with them as a free agent this summer and wanted a trade to one of three teams — the New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, or the Heat.
He now will join all-star Dwayne Wade and Bosh along with Luol Deng and an emerging star in Hassan Whiteside to form one of the more efficient nuclei fin the league. ESPN reported that the Heat now have the only lineup in the league with five players in the top 90 of the NBA’s Player Efficiency Rankings.
Going into Friday night’s game against the Knicks in New York the Heat are 22-30 and tied with Charlotte for the No. 7 spot in the Eastern Conference, a game ahead of Brooklyn for the final playoff spot.
The Heat said Goran Dragic, a 50-percent shooter from the field, will wear number 7. Zoran will wear 12.