Dragic broke out as a member of the Phoenix Suns in 2014, when he won the league’s Most Improved Player award and earned third-team All-NBA honors. He was traded to the Heat a year later, and signed a big extension with the team that offseason.
Now, he’s on his way out to a team that he’s made it very clear he doesn’t want to play for. The Toronto Raptors slipped into a rebuild last year, landing the No. 4 pick, selecting Scottie Barnes in the NBA Draft earlier this summer.
“Toronto is not my preferred destination. I have higher ambitions. We’ll see,” Dragic told a Slovenian reporter after the deal.
— Zoran Savin (@Zooox) August 9, 2021
Toronto has indicated that it intends to keep the veteran point guard, and according to Marc Stein, has “rebuffed trade overtures” for the 15-year NBA veteran.
Raptors general manager Bobby Webster backed that up in his public response to Dragic’s comments:
— Steven Loung (@loung_s) August 9, 2021
Via Steven Loung of Sportsnet in Canada:
“Listen, it was translated and I think I would like to get it directly from him just to understand exactly what he meant by that. But I think that if we’re just gonna kind of talk about all of the issues, obviously, we feel like we’re gonna be competitive, we have a core — as we’ve talked about — that’s been around for a while and has won at the highest level as well. So think that we’ll just give it some time here to see how he would fit in and if he likes it here or not. I think he’s a pro and he’s been around a lot and he’s obviously entitled to wanting to make the most of his years as his career comes down here. But I don’t see it as anything controversial in the sense of if you asked every player that’s what they would’ve wanted. So I don’t think it’s in any way a slight or anything like that.”
Goran Dragic has dealt with injuries over the last few years, which cost him significant time during the Heat’s 2020 appearance in the NBA Finals. He played incredibly well in the postseason that year, averaging 19.1 points and 4.4 assists per game, but missed four of six NBA Finals games against the Los Angeles Lakers due to plantar fasciitis. He scored just 11 points in his two series appearances.
Last season, he played in 50 games for the Heat, starting 11, and averaged 13.4 points and 4.4 assists per game. It was his lowest scoring output since the 2011-12 season he spent with the Houston Rockets.
The Toronto Raptors are far from some long-moribund franchise, having just won an NBA Title in 2019. The team has fallen back to the pack, but they certainly have aspirations to get back to that point quickly. At the same time, Goran Dragic is 35 and has dealt with enough in the last few years to make it clear he’s nearing the twilight of his career. It is hard to blame him for wanting to go to a situation where he can compete for a title immediately.