Goran Dragic is the best point guard the Miami Heat has ever had. Sorry, Timmy.
While this might seem like a premature, hyperbolic reach the morning after the Slovenian gutted the stinky Sixers with 23 points and 10 assists, a sample size with his new team was always a trivial matter. Over the last few seasons he’s proven to be among the league’s most dynamic playmakers. It doesn’t matter what colors are on his jersey. In trading for Dragic without giving up any impact players, Pat Riley obtained a magical vaccine for many of Miami’s offensive issues.
As Couper Moorhead noted over at Heat.com, the infusion of Dragic makes everyone else’s job so much easier. Before the deadline, Dwyane Wade was the only perimeter player on Miami’s roster that frightened the defense with the ball in his hands. When Wade missed time, the offense teetered as defenses loaded up on Chris Bosh.
With Dragic in the fold, Wade can remain Miami’s primary source for points but at a much lower cost, leading to more efficient scoring opportunities while conserving some much-needed energy. Luol Deng can do less dribbling and more cutting, playing more to his strengths. There will be more throwdown opportunities off the lob for Hassan Whiteside. And when Chris Bosh returns (get well, CB), whenever that may be, the Dragic-Bosh pick-and-roll is going to make defenders weep.
In last night’s 119-108 Heat win against Philly, we immediately saw what Dragic brings to the table in two areas — finishing and creating.
Note: I understand this was against a team run by a GM essentially trying to lose games, but the Sixers have fared well defensively this season, consistently ranking in the top half of the league. The Dragic we saw against them was also the same guy we saw in Phoenix…
He’s the NBA’s apex finishing guard, difficult to digest considering he appears to be only an adequate athlete by NBA standards
and is white. But Dragic not only paces all guards in field goal percentage within five feet, per NBA.com (Wade ranks third), but ranks 10th in the NBA in that category overall, a hair ahead of Heat teammate and seven-foot dunk machine Hassan Whiteside. That is ridiculous.
(minimum of 3 attempts per game within 5 feet)
For those thinking fluke, he finished fourth among guards last year on a solid but not special Suns team. With Miami healthy (the basketball gods have not been kind this season), he’ll be playing on the most talented roster of his career.
Last night, he hit all four of his shots at the rim. So how does he do it?
First off, he’s fundamentally sound, possessing tools like crafty footwork, hesitation dribbles, and timely ball fakes.
He has excellent touch even with a hand in his face.
When the defense is in good position, with help lurking, Dragic doesn’t force the issue like we’ve seen Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole, and Shabazz Napier do repeatedly this season.
He remains calm and can sprinkle in a floater.
Next we have the creating for others.
Heat play-by-play man Eric Reid said it best last night when he described Goran’s style as “always probing” moments before finding Henry Walker for a wide open three.
Dragic’s head stays up and he dribbles with purpose, finding Deng in the corner.
And where most players go all-in late on an attack to the rim, Dragic doesn’t commit until he has to (You Know Who has that trait).
He waits until the last possible moment in an effort to find a better shot, something we saw several times last night.
Dragic makes the team more fun to watch with the boost in pace but, most importantly, lowers the toll on everyone else. Miami should be a top 10 offense the rest of the way, with or without Bosh, unleashing what might be the most efficient backcourt in the NBA.
Dragic even makes someone like Chalmers better. By sliding him to combo guard off the bench and catch-and-shoot man from the corner, his efficiency should rise with the more fitting role. That said, a player of Dragic’s basketball intelligence is probably going to find Rio’s tendency for boneheaded plays nauseating.
I imagine their conversation will go something like this:
Dragic: Why do you shoot bull with three men on you?
Dragic: WHY you shoot bull with THREE defender?
Dragic: WHY YOU TAKE BAD SHOT ALL TIME?
Chalmers: Ummm, I have two rings.
Dragic: And why you tackle player like American futbol?
Chalmers: I have two rings.
Dragic: You ehshole.
Although the Miami Heat would shock the Association by contending in Bosh’s absence, this franchise stole an impact player at last week’s trade deadline. We saw much of what makes Dragic special on display against the Sixers last night. It will be worth monitoring his defense going forward. He looked solid against Philly, but let’s see how he does in Miami’s system against the league’s quickest guards. Nonetheless, he was brought in because of his offensive prowess.
Although there may be some growing pains as he familiarizes himself with Miami’s new teammates and system, it’s only a matter of time before everything starts to gel. In Goran Dragic, Pat Riley not only found a cure to the Miami Heat’s offense, but acquired what should end up being the best point guard in team history.