The Toronto Raptors recently acquired guard Goran Dragic from the Miami Heat in the Kyle Lowry swap, and it appears as though Dragic is going to be a key member of the rotation to start the season. However, both the Raptors and Dragic seem unlikely to extend this partnership past the trade deadline.
On top of the fact that the Raptors are likely going to be outside of the championship contender bubble this season and would like to get their young players some minutes, Dragic will likely look to seek a move elsewhere, as he wants to get a ring on his finger before he hangs it up.
Dragic also didn’t start off on the right foot thanks to his “higher ambitions” quote that will live in infamy. To his credit, he has done everything in his power to limit the damage and help Raptors fans get behind him.
Dragic continues to work to endear himself to the organization, teammates, and fans during his media day interview:
"“Everything that happened in the past, you know, it came out wrong. I did apologize and I want to apologize right now, too. It was not my intention. The organization and the players have welcomed me. It was really nice, all the guys are nice. They want me to feel comfortable and I do feel comfortable here…For me, like I’ve said before, it’s just about being here for them. I’m a professional, I’ve been playing in this league for 14 years, so I love basketball. I’m gonna do everything that it takes to be part of this team and to help young players to grow. So that’s the most important thing.”"
The once-hot trade rumors of Goran to Dallas (or other less obvious landing spots) was all prepped to starting dying down, but according to TSN’s Josh Lewenberg, Toronto is still heavily interested in an asset-gathering move:
"“How long will Dragic be in Toronto? That remains to be seen. By all accounts, the team is still hoping to move him ahead of the trade deadline, extracting an asset or two from a club that’s gearing up for a title run.”"
Nick Nurse has talked about Goran’s place in the Raptors organization and has even mentioned Dragic potentially starting. However, if Toronto is interested in moving Dragic at the deadline, does it make more sense to have him play a hybrid starting role alongside Fred VanVleet, or as a sixth-man super-sub running a young Raptors bench squad?
How will the Toronto Raptors use Goran Dragic?
From a value standpoint, Goran’s best suited as a sixth man. The more of a focal point Dragic appears to be when he plays, the more valuable his play is going to appear to teams like Dallas when they come calling post-All Star Break.
Playing third or fourth fiddle to VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, and OG Anunoby won’t highlight Goran the way Toronto wants. Elevating young players as a veteran floor general might be the kind of role that playoff-bound teams will love as they look to build a tight postseason rotation.
On the other hand, from a rotational standpoint, Dragic will leave a much bigger hole as a departing sixth man than a starter. If Dragic gets traded and the starting 2 spot is suddenly open, Gary Trent Jr. can slide right in.
Toronto knows he can do it, and Flynn will have been getting run time as the bench point guard all year. However, if Dragic suddenly steps out of the bench leader spot, does that stunt bench production?
Weighing the two, if the Raptors are trading Dragic at the deadline, they are likely more committed to retooling than winning this year, so they should focus on value. Let Dragic play fewer minutes to stay fresh, have more time with the ball, and keep proving his worth as a veteran rotation player.
Toronto Raptors: What Is Goran Dragic’s Trade Value?
Dragic’s value is obviously going to be anchored in how plays and how he stays healthy after having suffered quite a few injuries these past couple of years. With that said, the NBA trade market can be a bit tough to predict, but the best gauge is comparing to the year before.
Looking at the 2021 deadline, the two trades that most closely relate to a Dragic move are the Victor Oladipo and Evan Fournier trades. Oladipo was traded to the Heat for Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley, and a first-round pick swap, while Fournier garnered Jeff Teague and two future second-round picks.
Where does Dragic fit in that scale? Closer to Oladipo than Fournier. Dragic has the All-Star resume of Oladipo, but also carries an injury history that will make teams a bit more wary to pull the trigger. His age is also a factor.
Ideally, the Toronto Raptors should try to pull a first-round swap and a young guard. Realistically, either a first-round swap and a couple of low-end role players OR a young player with potential and a couple of second-round picks might be the package they get.
Ultimately, the Raptors need to maximize the return on Dragic. Now they just need to decide on how to do that and commit to it.