While the Toronto Raptors were able to land a potential impact center for years to come in Precious Achiuwa as a part of the Kyle Lowry deal, they also brought back another aging guard thanks to the addition of Goran Dragic. The Slovenian vet averaged 13.4 points per game last year with Miami.
While the Raptors clearly have their mind set on flipping Dragic at the trade deadline for some extra assets, Nick Nurse is not going to just throw him in bubble wrap until then. In fact, there have been some rumblings that Dragic could start over Gary Trent Jr. due to Nurse wanting to utilize a system with two capable point guards together.
Dragic was able to get a test run against the 76ers, but considering the fact he averaged just 5.0 points per game on 27% shooting, he looked uncomfortable in that role. Coach Nurse refused to change his alignment for their next preseason matchup against the Boston Celtics.
Despite some rough showings against Philadelphia, Nurse decided to put Dragic in the starting lineup again with Trent on the bench. Once again, it did not go well, as he scored just six points in 14 minutes, making just two of his seven shots and posting the lowest plus-minus of any Toronto player in the loss against Boston.
This alignment can’t continue in the regular season. Dragic simply hasn’t done enough to prove that he should be in that starting unit, experience be damned.
The Toronto Raptors must put Goran Dragic on the bench.
Dragic looks like someone who is finally starting to feel the ravages of age. He looks a bit less explosive on drives, less efficient as a shooter, and still not a terrific defender. This may be a side effect of his old bones taking a while to get into a groove in the preseason, but Nurse shouldn’t give him starter minutes with the aim of hoping he eventually gets hot.
Dragic transitioned to a bench role during his final year in Miami, so moving him to the bench wouldn’t be some sort of seismic shift that completely upsets his routine at this stage of his career. Furthermore, it gives Trent more opportunities to grow as a scorer and playmaker.
Perhaps even more illuminating was the fact that Trent struggled alongside Malachi Flynn late in that game. With Toronto’s most likely backcourt combination off of the bench looking disjointed, it looks like Dragic might be better suited alongside Flynn on the bench, while Trent gets the green light to rise up from deep with the first unit.
While Nurse might want to recapture that old two-point system that he had with Lowry and Fred VanVleet, Toronto didn’t give Trent a contract like that for him to be a reserve player behind a player that likely won’t be here next year. When the underperformance is factored in, Dragic needs to be relegated to the bench.
While it’s fair to wonder if the combination of Dragic and Flynn can make the same impact from beyond the 3-point line, Toronto doesn’t have much to stand on if they want to cut Trent’s minutes in favor of Dragic. Let him be that spark off the bench, as he just isn’t meshing with the starters.