NBA Trade Deadline: Luka Dončić Will Finally Have His Long-Awaited Running Mate in Goran Dragić

The Dallas Mavericks made one move at the NBA trade deadline, sending Kristaps Porziņģis to the Washington Wizards. But another deal is certainly on Dallas’ radar. Slovenian countrymen Luka Dončić and Goran Dragić are closer to a much-anticipated pairing with the Mavericks after the dust settles on Feb. 10.

The Toronto Raptors traded Dragić to the San Antonio Spurs, but the Spurs will likely buy out the remainder of the former All-Star’s contract. At that point, the 14-year veteran probably goes to Dallas for the rest of the season.

It’s a reunion for the two biggest stars in Slovenia’s admittedly brief basketball history.

Goran Dragić comes to Dallas well-rested

The highlight reel for Goran Dragić’s stint with the Raptors is not long. Acquired in the sign-and-trade deal that sent franchise icon Kyle Lowry to the Miami Heat last summer, Dragić started on opening night and played 22 minutes. He made his last appearance on Nov. 13, also a start, before Toronto permitted him to leave the team.

The 35-year-old wasn’t in the Raptors’ plans, and they weren’t in his. And now, nearly three months later, Dragić is on the verge of free agency.

The Goran-to-Dallas rumors started about 12 seconds after his trade to Toronto leaked. But the Raptors threw a wrench in the machine by keeping him on the roster.

Dragić will need time to get back into game shape, but he will provide the retooled Mavericks with another ballhandler. Dallas also acquired Spencer Dinwiddie in the Porziņģis deal, which should give Luka Dončić more opportunities to play off the ball.

But the biggest winner in this series of moves is Slovenia.

Luka Dončić and Goran Dragić teamed up for the EuroBasket title

Two generations of Slovenian basketball royalty teamed up in 2017 to bring the country a EuroBasket title. Now Luka Dončić and Goran Dragić appear destined to reunite with the Dallas Mavericks.
Two generations of Slovenian basketball royalty teamed up in 2017 to bring the country a EuroBasket title. Now Luka Dončić (77) and Goran Dragić appear destined to reunite with the Dallas Mavericks. | Salih Zeki Fazlioglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Slovenia didn’t compete on an international stage until the breakup of the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. The nation won its first medal with a dramatic run through the 2017 EuroBasket tournament. Led by veteran Goran Dragić and teenage sensation Luka Dončić, the Slovenians rolled to the gold medal with an undefeated 9–0 record.

The team stormed through group play with a 5–0 mark and blew out Ukraine before tripping up Latvia in a wild 103–97 quarterfinal victory keyed by a 27-point outburst from Dončić.

The shocker of the tournament was Slovenia’s 92–72 victory over defending champion Spain in the semifinals. Dragić scored 15 points, and Dončić racked up 11 points, 12 rebounds, and eight assists. A 93–85 win over Serbia clinched the gold medal.

Dončić was 18 at the time, a year before he was the third overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

While the veteran point guard bowed out of international play after the gold medal win, the rising star Dončić took Slovenia to the bronze-medal game in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (played in 2021 because of the pandemic), where it lost to Australia.

Now Slovenia will have an even more significant rooting interest in the Mavericks with the potential reunion of The Dragon and El Matador.

What to expect from Luka Dončić and Dragić in Dallas

The Mavericks were already Luka Dončić’s team and had been for some time. The departure of Porziņģis (as tweeted by Shams Charania of The Athletic) makes that clearer.

With the team bringing in Dinwiddie and Goran Dragić, what will the retooled rotation be? Jalen Brunson is the starting point guard, though the now 22-year-old superstar runs much of the offense. Dinwiddie could slot into a starting wing spot ahead of struggling Reggie Bullock.

Tim Hardaway Jr. is out with a broken foot, so Dallas could use the help.

As for when Dragić arrives, he’ll likely pilot the second unit. But coach Jason Kidd would be wise to overlap as much of The Dragon’s minutes with Luka as he can to maximize their chemistry.

Last summer, the veteran told Slovenian Planet TV (translation through EuroHoops.net) that he wanted a chance to play with his young countryman once again.

“Definitely,” Dragić said. “I really enjoyed playing with Luka in the European championship. We know what kind of player he is, one of the best in the world. I’d very much like to play with him again, but my career is slowly coming to an end, and Luka is still very young; he definitely has another 15 years ahead of him in his career.”

Now it seems that a much-anticipated reunion will occur in the next couple of weeks, once San Antonio works out the details of buying out The Dragon’s expiring contract, which pays him $19.4 million. Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweeted the report of the impending buyout.

They won’t be wearing the blue and green of Slovenia’s national team. But Luka Dončić and Goran Dragić are on the verge of reuniting in Dallas. That’s something for which the still-young Balkan nation can cheer.

Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference and FIBA.basketball. Contract information courtesy of Spotrac.

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