Raptors: Could Goran Dragic start over Gary Trent Jr. this season?

Sep 27, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Toronto Raptors guard Goran Dragic (1) Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 27, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Toronto Raptors guard Goran Dragic (1) Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

The Toronto Raptors welcomed a new guard to the fold when they acquired Goran Dragic from the Miami Heat in the Kyle Lowry swap. Dragic is joining a pretty crowded backcourt, as Fred VanVleet and Malachi Flynn will both feature prominently while Gary Trent Jr. returns to Toronto on an expensive three-year contract.

The Raptors likely have four of the five spots in the starting lineup already sorted out when healthy, but the second guard spot might be something Nick Nurse wrestles with. Does he go with the finished product that has experience in Dragic or the upside that comes with putting Trent on the floor?

Per Eric Koreen of The Athletic (subscription required), Nurse was quoted as saying that  could “very easily see [Dragic] in the starting lineup, alongside Fred, playing similar to the way we did in the past.”

Is Nurse going to change our expectations and put Trent on the bench, starting two point guards in Dragic and VanVleet? While that could lead to a reduction in minutes for Trent, it’s not the most farfetched idea.

Will the Toronto Raptors start Goran Dragic over Gary Trent Jr. this year?

On one hand, a player like Dragic, who averaged 13.4 points per game last year despite his age, is a better passer when compared to Trent, and if Nurse wants to avoid completely changing what he does from a schematic point of view, he could make Dragic a starter and turn Trent into a Sixth Man of the Year contender off of the bench.

On the other hand, Trent was a -45 in just 29 minutes as a reserve in Toronto last year, scoring nine total points in two games. He’s a microwave scorer who needs time on the floor to get in a rhythm, and it may be hard for him to do that should his minutes end up getting reduced by Nurse.

Unfortunately, putting Trent in the starting lineup might not be a 100% winning formula either. Toronto is invested in the development of Flynn, but he may have to share the floor (and ball-handling duties) with Dragic for heavy minutes in this arrangement.

Having tons of guards is a good problem for the Raptors to have, but Nurse has to come up with a situation that benefits all parties.

If we could snap our fingers and pick our ideal starting lineup, Dragic would be on the bench and Trent would be in the starting lineup, as Trent is both younger, a better scorer at this point in time, and a part of the long-term plan. Still, it would surprise no one if Nurse started one of the few older veterans on this team over the younger player.

Ultimately, this arrangement will depend on VanVleet and how he adapts to the point guard role full-time. If he needs a second ball-handler and passer, Dragic could see more time. If he takes to the role and is better off with a 3-point sniper behind him, look for Trent to benefit.

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