Toronto Raptors: What is their plan for Goran Dragić?

Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

The start of the relationship between Goran Dragić and the Toronto Raptors was awkward, to say the least.

Dragić was the matching salary needed within the deal that sent Raptors legend Kyle Lowry to the Miami Heat, which got the Raptors Precious Achiuwa in return. That left Dragić on a team that he said didn’t have “high ambitions” on Slovenian TV.

Dragić later backtracked those comments, likely because he knew he wasn’t about to be traded just yet. However, Dragić later apologized and said “I’m gonna do everything that it takes to be part of this team and to help young players to grow.”

Goran Dragic was moved to the Toronto Raptors in the deal that sent Kyle Lowry to the Miami Heat, but will he stay in Toronto?

Dragić is still a very good NBA player. Before being sidelined in the NBA Finals with a foot injury Dragić was averaging 20 points per game in the playoffs. Despite the short offseason and rehabbing during last season he averaged 13.4 points per game, 4.4 assists and had shootings splits of 43/37/82.

Any contender would love to have him off the bench, but according to ESPN’s Jordan Schultz, the Raptors have not discussed a buyout of Dragić’s $19.44 million dollar expiring deal.

If there is a buyout then it’s out of the Raptors’ hands, he moves on and they take the money on the books. However, Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster are going to explore the situation and market to get the best deal. This leads to either, Dragić being moved at the trade deadline or will end up being a key player off the bench for the Raptors — who will float around the play-in tournament.

Dragić has value, especially on an expiring deal, the Dallas Mavericks are still likely to take a swing at trading for/signing Dragić to pair him with fellow countryman Luka Dončić. Many contenders would love to have a combo guard who can shoot and run the offense efficiently for large stretches – he did it for the entire Bubble (which also unlocked Bam Adebayo) until he was injured.

It’s hard to know what the Raptors would want in a trade, at each key area (other than a second solid two-guard, Gary Trent Jr. is the only shooting guard you’d want to play currently) they have future pieces or current players they want to develop and keep.

If they traded Dragić for a player, it would have to be a guard. If they didn’t the Raptors would be playing either David Johnson (47th overall pick in this draft) or Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk. If they just want assets, they just need salary filler and picks (that would be what I’d suggest they do).

If the Raptors plan to keep him (or can’t find a good deal and refuse to buy him out) that means they at least have a guard to fill the hole behind Trent Jr., having Malachi Flynn and Dragić as your backup backcourt.

However, that’s obviously not a long-term fix. Dragić is used to playing off the bench so there could be some bench mob 2.0 potential here with Flynn, Boucher, Yuta Watanabe, Achiuwa and likely Scottie Barnes when Pascal Siakam returns from injury led by the previous All-Star and All-NBA player.

Dragić can spot up, pass and run an offense (especially the pick and roll with Boucher or Achiuwa). That allows Flynn to have some guidance and insurance with him as he takes on a bigger role this season as the lead guard off the bench.

The last option is the worst outcome for the Raptors, a buyout. It seems less likely than both the options discussed above but it’s a real possibility.

Obviously, the Raptors take some money on the books, probably somewhere between $15-10 million for a season. It’s ideal for Dragić but not the Raptors, there will be some push by Dragić and his agent to join a contender but it’s safe to bet on the Raptors making a good deal for both parties.

If you asked me, keeping Dragić and trading Dragić are both good ideas.

You have a bench sparkplug who can help stabilize the second unit and help provide mentorship to Fred VanVleet and Flynn (at Media Day he spoke about having Steve Nash as a mentor and said how he could provide a similar role to the young team), or you trade a valuable player and contract for assets.

If I had to pick one, I would say the Raptors should trade Goran Dragić. The Raptors by Dragić’s own measurement are not contenders and the Raptors are currently retooling at this stage. Get picks or young players and continue the solid foundation that has been kickstarted by landing Scottie Barnes with the fourth overall pick.

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