How Goran Dragić Helps Fix the Broken Brooklyn Nets

With several contenders lurking, the Brooklyn Nets swooped in and grabbed the prize of the somewhat sparse buyout market. According to reports, veteran guard Goran Dragić is joining the Nets for a prorated veteran’s minimum deal.

The 14-year veteran played just five games for the Toronto Raptors this season before they traded him to the San Antonio Spurs at the Feb. 10 deadline. The Spurs agreed to buy out the final year of his contract, valued at $19.4 million. Dragić gave back a little more than $800,000 to facilitate his release.

Brooklyn arrived late to the party; the Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls reportedly had the most interest in the 35-year-old. But the Nets had an insider that helped swing the deal their way.

What does Dragić bring to the struggling club?

Goran Dragić has a relationship with coach Steve Nash

Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash and newly acquired point guard Goran Dragić were teammates with the Phoenix Suns from 2008–11,
Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash (13) and newly acquired point guard Goran Dragić (2) were teammates with the Phoenix Suns from 2008–11, | Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Coach Steve Nash reportedly played a vital role in recruiting Goran Dragić to the Brooklyn Nets. Marc Stein reported via Substack that The Dragon was considering several options.

But Nash played with Dragić when the Slovenian star came to the NBA in 2008, with the pair serving as the starting and backup point guards for the Phoenix Suns for parts of three seasons. The Hall of Famer mentored the youngster in his formative NBA years.

Shams Charania of The Athletic tweeted the decision.

Dragić was an All-Star with the Miami Heat in 2018 but battled injuries and transitioned to a reserve role since then. Miami sent him to Toronto with young big man Precious Achiewa in the sign-and-trade deal that sent Kyle Lowry to South Beach.

Toronto didn’t have a role for the veteran, and the parties agreed to go their separate ways in late November. Dragić hasn’t played since Nov. 13. Brooklyn opens the stretch run on Feb. 24 when it hosts the Boston Celtics, which Kyrie Irving is not eligible to play.

Irving’s status as a part-time player prompted the Nets to pursue another point guard option with James Harden traded to the Philadelphia 76ers at the deadline.

The Brooklyn Nets needed a second playmaker

With Harden gone, Irving working as a temp, and Patty Mills more of a combo guard than a playmaker, the Brooklyn Nets have struggled to find continuity on offense.

The arrival of Goran Dragić addresses this need. Per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Brooklyn is waiving guard Jevon Carter to open a roster spot.

The Nets acquired Carter last summer from the Phoenix Suns for Landry Shamet. In 46 games, he averaged 3.6 points and 1.0 assists in 12.0 minutes per game. He lost his shooting touch en route from Arizona; the fourth-year veteran hit just 34.0% of his two-point shots and 33.1% on 2.8 triple tries a game.

While Brooklyn had a wealth of combo guards in Mills, Seth Curry, and two-way player David Duke Jr., Irving was the lone facilitator remaining on the roster after Harden left town.

Dragić averaged 13.4 points and 4.4 assists in 26.7 minutes a night for the Heat last season and dishes 4.8 per game for his career.

Because of New York City’s vaccine mandate, Irving can’t play at Barclays Center. That’s problematic for the Nets because they play 13 of their final 23 games at home. The seven-time All-Star also can’t play when the team visits the Knicks on April 6 or during a March 1 trip to Toronto.

The addition of The Dragon allows Mills to play a more comfortable role.

Goran Dragić is chasing a ring but has playoff experience

Now 35, Goran Dragić came to the Brooklyn Nets to pursue a championship ring. The 14-year veteran has played in the NBA Finals just once, with the Heat in 2020, but was a vital part of Miami’s run that year.

In 17 games, 16 of them starts, he averaged 19.1 points and 4.4 assists in 32.5 minutes per game. Brooklyn won’t ask for that level of productivity.

But he’s a solid pick-and-roll ballhandler and retains the ability to snake his way through traffic to get to the rim. Despite his slight 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame, Dragić shot 58.8% in the restricted area last season and hit 57.1% during his cameo with the Raptors.

Brooklyn has a variety of bigs to partner with The Dragon. Nic Claxton and Day’Ron Sharpe are young and bouncy, while Andre Drummond has the size to bully his way to the rack.

LaMarcus Aldridge is an ideal pick-and-pop partner for mid-range looks, while Blake Griffin can do the same behind the arc. Griffin has struggled from deep this season, making just 24.0% (more of a pick-and-brick, if you will), but teaming with Dragić might be the cure.

The Brooklyn Nets are 31–28 and in eighth place. They face an uphill battle to escape the play-in tournament in the Eastern Conference. Adding Goran Dragić brings them a steady veteran with big-game experience.

And there are no eligibility questions attached to this point guard.

Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference. Contract information courtesy of Spotrac.

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