The Miami Heat are going to have to make some important decisions this offseason.
Perhaps the most important? Goran Dragic's future with the team.
Following a solid regular season that saw him receive some votes for Sixth Man of the Year, Dragic played a key role in the team's success in the playoffs, leading the Heat in scoring through three rounds. While he barely played in the Finals because of a tear of the left plantar fascia in Game 1, he enters unrestricted free agency this offseason as one of the best players available. Even with money being tight across the league, he could receive a lot of interest.
There's a chance that Dragic re-signs with the Heat on a one-year deal, but if he does choose to leave Miami in free agency, which teams should pursue him?
Let's take a closer look.
The Raptors only really make sense as a destination for Dragic if Fred VanVleet leaves the team in free agency.
As I've written before, Dragic is nowhere near the level of defender as VanVleet is, but he'd be able to fill VanVleet's void on offence, giving the Raptors a combo guard who can play next to Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam. According to NBA.com, Dragic made 38.1 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3s over the last three seasons. He was among the best pick-and-roll scorers in the league this season as well, ranking in the 77th percentile with an average of 0.94 points per possession.
The tricky part would be coming to terms on a deal that would benefit both Dragic and the Raptors. A 34-year-old coming off of one of the better seasons of his career - not to mention one that was cut short due to an injury - Dragic might be looking for one more long-term contract. In which case, the Raptors might not be a match because all the signs point towards them keeping their books as open as possible for next offseason in case Giannis Antetokounmpo becomes a free agent.
However, if Dragic is open to signing a one-year contract with a team other than the Heat, he'd make for an interesting VanVleet replacement if the Raptors can create cap space.
The Hawks tick two important boxes:
- They have money to spend. We still don't know exactly how much money they'll have to spend because that hinges on what the cap is set at, but they will likely have the cap space to sign Dragic to whatever he wants.
- They need a point guard. The Hawks have Trae Young starting at point guard, but with Jeff Teague possibly leaving the team in free agency, they could be in the market for a backup. Dragic would make a tremendous difference on a Hawks team that ranked in the bottom half of the league in bench scoring last season.
The question is whether or not Dragic would be willing to come off the bench for a team like the Hawks, who could make the playoffs next season but don't project to be much of a contender. While he came off the bench for all but three games for the Heat during the regular season, he replaced Kendrick Nunn in the starting lineup for the playoffs. With how well he played in the playoffs, he could very well be looking for an opportunity to start somewhere.
The Hawks would have the option of starting Young and Dragic together, but the two of them together isn't exactly a recipe for success defensively. The Hawks might be able to make up for it if they had lockdown defenders at every other position, but that's not the case.
Even with all that in mind, if Dragic is looking to make as much money as possible this offseason, the Hawks could be his best bet.
The Bucks don't have much money to spend this offseason outside of their Mid-Level Exception, which is expected to be around $9.3 million. Dragic will likely be able to make more with other teams, but signing with the Bucks would give him an opportunity to be the piece that pushes a championship-calibre team over the edge.
The Bucks had the best record in the league in each of the last two seasons, but they've come up short in back-to-back playoff runs for similar reasons - as dominant as they are defensively and in the open court, their offence grinds to a halt when the game slows down. Dragic would be able to solve a lot of those problems by himself, serving as both a better shooter and playmaker next to Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton than Eric Bledsoe.
The beauty for the Bucks in this scenario is that they wouldn't have to give up Bledsoe to get Dragic. (As much as Bledsoe has struggled offensively in the last two postseasons, he's one of the league's best defenders at the guard position. He's been crucial to the Bucks building the best defence in the league).
It's easy to imagine Dragic filling a similar role on the Bucks as he did this season on the Heat, functioning more as a reserve in the regular season and a starter in the postseason.
This is your reminder that the Mavericks came close to trading for Dragic last season.
Dragic doesn't quite fit the development timeline of Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, but he proved this season that he still has plenty left in the tank. He also has the potential to complement both of them well, not only as a shooter, but as a playmaker. Incredible as Doncic is, it wouldn't hurt having someone else who can make plays to take some of the offensive burden off of him.
It helps that Dragic and Doncic already have experience playing together, having been teammates at EuroBasket 2017 when Slovenia won their first-ever tournament.
Once again, Dragic would almost certainly have to take a sizeable paycut, but there aren't many teams this offseason that can offer him a better on-court fit than the Mavericks.
Los Angeles Lakers - Another option for Dragic if he's willing to take a paycut. The Lakers make even more sense if Rajon Rondo declines his player option for the 2020-21 season and signs with another team in the offseason.
LA Clippers - Yet another option for Dragic if he's willing to take a paycut. The Clippers could do with a playmaker at the point guard position.
Philadelphia 76ers - Dragic would make for a fascinating option next to Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, especially if the 76ers are committed to turning Simmons into more of a power forward.
New York Knicks - The Knicks need a point guard and have money to spend.
Detroit Pistons - Likewise, the Pistons need a point guard and have money to spend.
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