The Toronto Raptors acquired Goran Dragic along with Precious Achiuwa in the sign-and-trade that sent Kyle Lowry to the Miami Heat in the offseason.
While the relationship between Dragic and Toronto got off to a rocky start, both sides were able to put that misunderstanding behind them as the 2021-22 season approached.
Dragic settled into the starting point guard role for the Raptors during preseason but only averaged 8.0 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 18.6 minutes per game. Even with a quiet stretch of exhibition games, head coach Nick Nurse still slotted Dragic into the starting lineup on opening night, where the veteran guard went for nine points and four assists in 22 minutes of playing time in a decisive loss to the Washington Wizards.
Following the loss, Nurse elected to move Dragic to the bench to give 22-year-old sharpshooter Gary Trent Jr. a chance in the starting lineup. With the emergence of Trent's development on the defensive side of the ball, it's no surprise Nurse took a liking to him in the starting unit, never reverting back to the opening night starting five.
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Dragic still played sparingly over the next three games, but with averages of 5.0 points, 2.0 rebounds and 0.7 assists while shooting 26.7 percent from the field and 14.3 percent from 3, his offence wasn't enough to keep him on the floor, and he's never been known much for his defence.
As a result, the 35-year-old guard has registered seven consecutive "Did Not Play - Coach's Decision," the longest stretch of his career since he was backing up Hall of Famer Steve Nash as a rookie with the Phoenix Suns in 2008-09.
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When Nurse was asked if Dragic was understanding about his first DNP following the team's win over the Indiana Pacers on Oct. 27, the Raptors head coach stated plainly, "Yeah, sure," according to TSN's Josh Lewenberg.
He went into further detail, explaining his decision to go to second-round pick Dalano Banton off the bench over the 13-year veteran.
Nurse mentioned a couple things that went into the decision to go with Banton over Dragic tonight. The first is obvious, he's been impressed with Dalano and wanted to get him more run. But also, he wanted to get Boucher going and liked that pairing with Chris/Dalano.- Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) October 28, 2021
The following day, ahead of the team's close win over the Orlando Magic, Nurse touched on the situation a little bit more.
"(Dragic is) a very approachable guy, very professional guy. I talk to him every day and I pretty much just tell him to stay ready," Nurse said, according to Lewenberg. "We'll see where it goes from there."
Since then, Banton has appeared in every single game, providing the Raptors with another high-energy, versatile defender who can also create for himself and others on the offensive end of the floor.
We didn't see Dragic touch the floor once over the Raptors' five-game win streak and we didn't see him in their last two losses.
With Pascal Siakam back in action, there will be fewer minutes available for everyone on the roster, something that doesn't bode well for Dragic's chances at getting back into the rotation.
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Will the Raptors wait until they can reach an agreement on a buyout with the one-time All-Star? Dragic entered this season owed $18 million for the final year of his contract. Between that and his decrease in production, it's hard to imagine Toronto could find a trade suitor once he becomes eligible to be moved on Dec. 15.
Until then, Dragic will have to do as Nurse said - stay ready for whenever an opportunity may present itself to get back on the floor.
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