The Goran Dragic situation this off-season is quite complicated. This isn’t just an ordinary team option that can be explored as freely as a guy like Andre Iguodala.
For one, the ties to the organization over the last few years make it hard for them to easily move on, but clearly if the right deal comes along, it’s necessary. The reason that I said it’s complicated is due to it being more than a organizational relationship: it’s actually the bond with the team’s best player, Jimmy Butler.
Decisions are being made through Butler, since that was made clear when he first arrived here in Miami. And over the last two seasons, Butler has made it known how much he loves playing with Dragic in Miami.
The Miami Heat lack a ton of salary fillers at this time, which means they must take advantage of the ones that they have, considering the most likely route that they end up going will be the trade market. As mentioned earlier, both Iguodala and Dragic have a team option, and currently are the only two players with that much money value to equalize a trade.
Anyway, we will have to see what happens with that off-season stuff once we get there, but for now, let’s take a look back at Dragic’s season. Even when many of us thought he had fully tailed off at certain parts of the season, he then showed a huge positive flash to make you think differently.
He caught some momentum to finish the season, which made many people hopeful of another post-season display. He did just that in game one, but clearly couldn’t produce as the series progressed with everybody else’s struggles. But aside from the playoffs, how did the primary areas of his game look?
Shooting From Deep
The three-point shooting is an important element to harp on for a 35 year old Dragic. If he can consistently hit the spot-up three ball, his game will age rather nicely.
When looking back at the shooting this year, the catch and shoot numbers beyond the arc made a huge jump. He shot 40% on spot-up triples after shooting 35% the year prior. As expected though, pull-up threes dropped from 37% to 32% this season.
I’m going to discuss his exact role in another section, but the lack of a true point guard didn’t allow him to play that spot-up role that he seemed to fit so well at times. Per usual, he was forced into a set runner and facilitating role, forcing him to take more shots off the dribble than he probably wished.
There was only one positive part of that off the dribble stuff, and no, it didn’t occur from beyond the arc…
Sustaining Elbow Pull-Ups
In some ways, that mid-range pull-up saved his offensive game this season. At many points of the year, he lacked a ton of burst to get to the basket and the three-point pull-ups just weren’t falling. So, that left him with only one of the three levels in a half-court offense: the mid-range.
It’s an exposable offensive tactic against drop coverage, which was a sticking point in their first round match-up with the Milwaukee Bucks. Dragic was the only one to take advantage of that spot of the floor to begin the series, leading to a situation that was less than ideal from a team perspective.
Aside from that, I can’t say that I expected a frequency increase from that spot of the floor this season, combined with a slight jump in percentage from 43% to 44%. All of this was done after an uneven start to the season with contact tracing, not playing back-to-backs, and just poor offensive play at times.
It was clear that running the same old sets for Dragic all year would absolutely plummet his effectiveness later in the season, which led to Spo tinkering for their veteran guard…
The internal question for the Heat about Dragic early in the season seemed to be: how can we maximize his play, keep his minutes down, and put the ball in his hands primarily every night?
Well, the answer to that question was some interchanging looks.
If I went through them all, this piece would probably be much longer than you’re willing to read, so I’ll limit it to the one that I didn’t see coming. He began to get some work in the high post when facing smaller guards, which fits Dragic’s offensive build so well.
It’s pretty obvious that Dragic is a physical offensive player who likes to draw contact whenever he can. The issue is that the lack of burst that I’ve discussed limited that downhill scoring. Putting him in the post like they did against Minnesota allowed him to do all of the things they need from him: physicality in a unique way, facilitating from the weak side, and of course, different ways to score.
When I asked Dragic about generating offense from the high post after this game, he responded, “Spo said the other day that in the second unit they’re going to try to give me some post-ups, and I took advantage of that.” This statement didn’t feel like a spontaneous task for Dragic to take advantage of the smaller guard, it actually felt like a season long process to find sustainability for him offensively.
The issue is that the roster’s skill-sets forced Dragic to carry the weight in certain areas that he definitely shouldn’t have been carrying…
His Unfortunate Role: Fill Weaknesses
In simple terms, Dragic was basically given the role at times to fill the weaknesses of others. The issue with that isn’t just that he was 35 years old, it’s that those aren’t his strengths either.
As discussed throughout the season, most of Miami’s guards shared the same type of play-style. Offensive players who need a screen above the break to get downhill, or spot-up opportunities to catch some rhythm. Combine that with the team’s two best players being non-shooters who primarily like to play-make, and you have a veteran point guard forced to do things that he should not be doing.
Take a look at this clip above as an example. It’s the play I always come back to when discussing the team’s needs heading into the off-season. They were facing a depleted Chicago Bulls team, and somehow, they’re down 4 with 1 minute to go in need of a bucket.
The play consists of a Butler drive into a kick-out to reset the offense in the hands of Dragic. 9 seconds on the shot-clock and a similar theme is occurring: all eyes on Dragic. They seem to be waiting for him to make a play, like he did so many times in the past, specifically in the bubble.
He flows into a PnR, snakes inside, and throws up a wild scoop that misses badly. That’s not on Dragic. That’s on the team.
Evaluating Dragic this season is an interesting thing to do since I believe he was forced to adjust more than anybody, mostly since they trust him so much to do so. But if they do end up keeping him for the 2021-2022 season, that just can’t be the case.
No more subbing him into the starting lineup when things get tough. No more relying on him late in games when the team needs a bucket. Those are things the team must fill this off-season in order to compete next season, and well, if Dragic can be a part of the supporting cast with no additional tasks, then he will thrive in his role no matter the circumstance.