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Since the expected departure of Kyle Lowry in August, the Toronto Raptors have found themselves in an interesting position with newly acquired point-guard, Goran Dragic. The 13-year veteran was traded to Toronto alongside Precious Achiuwa in a franchise-changing deal that saw the GROAT sign with Miami.
Since being acquired, the news surrounding Dragic has focused much more on his future in the NBA and his desire, or lack thereof, to play in Toronto, rather than his fit with the team and the impact he may bring to the Scotiabank Arena. As Dragic gets ready for another training camp with his fourth team, numerous trade rumours have emerged this off-season, causing many pundits to believe that he will be onto his fifth team in a matter of time.
While some of these reports have been refuted, Masai Ujiri and the Raptors seem focused on their continued development and are set to play with an incredibly youthful roster this upcoming season. A roster that the 35 year-old Dragic may find hard to earn playing time in, with other guards such as Gary Trent Jr, Malachi Flynn and Dalano Banton in the fold.
While he is certainly not a long-term fit with Toronto, the Raptors will need to decide on their expectations for this upcoming season. Paired with Fred VanVleet, Dragic might be the best option to keep Toronto competitive as he has proven he can still contribute and was a large part of Miami’s run to the finals just two years ago.
With a $19 million contract adding complexity to the situation and added difficulty to any potential trade, Dragic remains with the Raptors for now, but for how long?
More left in the tank
Since being drafted in 2008, Dragic has averaged over double-digit point totals in nine of his 13 seasons in the Association, including last year, playing 50 games for the Heat.
Dragic was named Most Improved player during his second stint with the Suns in 2014 and was also an NBA All-star with the Heat in 2018. With a career average of nearly 14 points and five assists per game, Dragic has proved his ability to be a reliable point guard and ball-handler throughout the past decade.
Battling injuries, Dragic was able to play in 50 games this past season, averaging over 13 points per game, 4.4 assists and just over three rebounds, shooting 43 per cent from the field. While his efficiency has dropped in the past couple of years, he remains dangerous from beyond the arc, recording 91 three-pointers last season and a team-high 16 points per game during Milwaukee’s dominant sweep over Miami in the post-season.
In seven seasons with Miami, Dragic was a pivotal part of the Heat’s success. Entering his 14th season in the league, can Dragic continue this trend or will father time catch up with him?
Raptors Insider Stats Predictions (If he remains with Toronto)
Decrease in playing time
Dragic could very well see heavy minutes and potentially a starting role with the Raptors if they choose to keep him. With that said it is hard to see that lasting a full-season, given many of the reasons listed above and the need for the Raptors to continue handing minutes to many of their younger rostered-players.
At the end of his Suns’ tenure and the beginning of his tenure with the Heat in 2015 – some of Dragic’s best seasons – he was averaging nearly 34 minutes per game. Due to his increased age and fair share of injuries, Dragic has only averaged around 27 minutes in the past three seasons.
While remaining productive, Dragic is most certainly near the end of his basketball career and his $19 million contract, ranked 14th-highest in the league, is surely a deal that Ujiri and Co. would want to get off the books.
Desire to play in Toronto
The seasoned veteran hasn’t been completely quiet, starting quite the controversy upon first joining the Raptors last month. In an interview with Slovenian TV, Dragic was quoted saying that he had “higher ambitions,” than Toronto and that the Raptors were not his “preferred destination.”
While apologizing for his remarks, Dragic has not been a part of any recent Raptors marketing as the season quickly approaches – less than a month away. Given the trade rumors swirling around a potential buyout or a trade to the Mavericks, that is not surprising. However, the comments in August did not resonate well across Raptors fans and Dragic will have his work cut out for him to gain that trust, if he is on the roster opening night.
Many questions loom surrounding the 35-year old, $19 million point-guard. The Raptors will ultimately have to make a decision on Dragic, whether that be now or mid-season. And whether that be a buy-out or trade to unload his salary and focus on youth or a plan to experiment with the backcourt as is and keep him around as a key part of the Raptors rotation. As of now, it is anyone’s best guess.