The Chicago Bulls hit a “home run” this offseason with the signing of Goran Dragic. The Bulls went into the offseason with a defined goal of maintaining roster continuity after two years of heavy roster turnover. They accomplished that goal by returning nine of their top-10 leaders in total minutes from last season as well as Patrick Williams whom they hope will make more than 17 appearances in 2023.
Dragic’s minutes were a hot-button issue when he first signed. Reports that he was expecting upwards of 20 minutes were based on rough translations and met with a mixture of backlash over what he has left and what it meant for injured point guard Lonzo Ball.
Ball’s health is the Bulls’ biggest remaining question mark.
But Dragic’s role could turn into a veritable boon for the Bulls regardless of how many minutes the veteran winds up playing next season.
Goran Dragic a Home Run
During the August 16 episode of the “Hardwood Knocks” podcast, hosts Dan Favale and Grant Huges graded the Bulls’ offseason. They gave them a “B-minus” and a “B”, respectively. But Favale pointed to Dragic, in particular, to talk about how sneaky of an add he was.
“I think the Goran Dragic signing was probably a home run. This is…someone who can kind of still play and put the ball on the floor. And I’m just surprised it took more to get Andre Drummond or even Derrick Jones Jr. I know Dragic is older.”
Perhaps for Dragic, age is truly nothing but a number.
“Dragic, 36, is clearly in the twilight of his career, but he still has a little bit left in the tank, as he showed with the Nets last season. In 16 regular-season games with Brooklyn at the end of the season, Dragic averaged 7.3 points, 4.8 assists, and 3.2 rebounds per game — solid production for a backup.”
Stats can certainly be deceiving.
During the regular season with a minus-1.4 net rating, per Cleaning the Glass. But Dragic turned it around in the postseason with a plus-2.4 net rating, a 3.4-point swing. But Dragic’s greatest and most lasting impact might not come on the floor.
Dragic in Bulls Locker Room
During the August 11 episode of the “Bulls Talk Podcast”, former Bulls player-turned-analyst Kendall Gill joined host Rob Schaefer and had a lot to say about the other way Dragic’s signing is a big deal.
“Another All-Star, former All-Star. Proven. I think that he’s, sort of, like an insurance policy just in case we have another rash of injuries or COVID protocols. You know, we had it with Lonzo Ball. We had it with Zach LaVine. Yeah, we got some young guys. But I don’t think those guys are ready to play significant, quality, meaningful minutes in the playoffs. And I think that’s sort of probably the thinking that Goran Dragic can fill that void just in case that happens again.”
Dragic’s age could also be a gift of sorts.
Schaefer pointed out that Dragic is a true point guard unlike what the Bulls tried to operate with last season without Ball. He added that Dragic’s reputation as a locker room presence precedes him.
The Bulls have a clear delineation between the veteran stars at the top of the roster and the readiness of its younger players such as Dosunmu, a second-team All-Rookie selection.
“Guys like that can always help young guys develop,” said Gill, “No matter how old a guy is, they’re going to watch him. If I’m Ayo [Dosunmu], I’m watching how he runs the basketball team. How a veteran does it. How he approaches the game. Sometimes you can pick up on all of the different nuances that they do defensively, offensively, things like that. That’s why it’s always valuable to have a guy around like that.”
Bulls Built Roster Depth
The common refrain from Bulls fans whenever anyone under 6-foot-7 gets signed – which has been often – is that the Bulls do not need another guard. They already have the likes of Dosunmu and Coby White as well as LaVine and rookie Dalen Terry.
There is also a sizeable number of pundits who believe that the 14-year veteran is washed.
But if he can show the younger players the way, much like we have seen from DeMar DeRozan with Dosunmu and Patrick Williams, then his addition will be a win for this team. Even if the payoff isn’t from Dragic himself, it could very well show up on the court nightly. He could prove to be another steal for the Bulls at a price tag of $2.9 million for one year.