Every year in the NBA, there’s at least one highly sought-after role player traded away at the deadline that has no intention of suiting up for their new team. And many times, that feeling is mutual. This year that guy is Goran Dragić. He was traded from the Toronto Raptors to the San Antonio Spurs, and the word “buyout” was mentioned immediately upon the deal’s announcement. Dragić’s buyout is official now, which makes him a free agent.
A few teams are already lining up for their shot at the 35-year-old guard, who averaged just 8 points and 1.8 assists in five games with the Raptors this season. Dragić is seen as a hot commodity on the free-agent market despite his declining numbers in limited time this year. His leadership, postseason experience, and ability to play either backcourt position make Dragić a valuable piece in the eyes of a few NBA teams.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Warriors, Lakers, Bucks, Clippers, Bulls, and Nets are all interested in signing Dragić. Of the six teams showing serious interest, only the teams in Los Angeles aren’t seen as contenders for a championship this year. The Lakers are holding out hope of making a late run, but the odds of that happening get slimmer by the day. The Clippers have been without Kawhi Leonard all year, and Paul George has been out since late December. So, I’d be stunned if Dragić signed in Los Angeles for either team.
Of the other teams listed by Woj, Chicago might have the most significant need for Dragić’s services. Since January, Lonzo Ball has been out with a meniscus tear and might not return until sometime in March. The Bulls have been plagued by either injuries or COVID-19 all season. Bringing in Dragić would give them another ball-handler plus more experience to help prepare for a potentially long playoff run. It makes sense for the Bulls to bring him in as a bit of insurance for Ball. And if Ball returns to form when he returns, Dragić would add depth to the postseason roster.
Brooklyn could also utilize Dragić as another ball-handler, keeping Kyrie Irving off the ball when he’s available to play. And Milwaukee could also use Dragić, who would provide some much-needed depth in the backcourt, but he could also help with their bench production. And he’d likely be a better fit for the Bucks overall than the Nets. With the recent James Harden drama and ongoing Kyrie saga, Goran might want to steer clear of Brooklyn for now. The Warriors are also expected to make an “aggressive” run at Dragić as he would add to an already deep bench in Golden State.
Although Dragić’s overall numbers are down and is advancing age, he could still be a piece to the puzzle for one of these teams that helps get them over the hump. Wherever Dragić ends up, he won’t be expected to play major minutes or average 19 points per game like he did a couple of years ago for Miami during their run to the NBA Finals. This time around, it’s about his leadership and experience in tough playoff battles more than anything.