By: Jordan White / @jordanswhite
Let’s consider Goran Dragic for a moment, shall we?
Once anointed the heir apparent to Steve Nash in Phoenix, Dragic was unceremoniously shipped off last season to Houston with a first round draft pick for Aaron Brooks. At the time, the trade drew little fanfare, overshadowed by the Danilo Gallinari and Deron Williams trades.
Dragic went from the perfect situation, playing and growing under the tutelage of Steve Nash, to a less than ideal one, backing up Kyle Lowry just as Lowry started his ascension into the upper echelon of point guards, an elevation that continued well into this season. It seemed as if Dragic would have to wait even longer before a team was his to command. Once Lowry went out with a bacterial infection in March, however, Dragic found himself in a Feinstein-ian Next Man Up situation, charged with replacing an MVP-caliber point guard and leading the Rockets to a playoff appearance in the always challenging Western Conference.
Dragic responded to the challenge by averaging 15 points, 7 assists and 2 steals in March. Oh, and in April, the Slovenian point guard is averaging 21 points and nearly eight assists, with a 51(!) percent field goal percentage and 45 percent from beyond the arc.
How is Dragic doing his damage? According to Synergy Sports, Dragic gets most of his offense from three categories: pick and roll ball handler, spot up and transition, with isolation a close fourth.
Knowing how to properly operate the pick and roll is valuable to any point guard, and Dragic had the opportunity to learn from one of the best. He’s showing off the results of his apprenticeship in Houston, where he’s shooting 47.4 percent from the field in pick and roll situations in which he is the ball handler, and averages .82 points per play. When you consider that he scores from this situation 39.7 percent of the time, it’s clear that Dragic was studying Nash quite closely during his time in Phoenix.
When Dragic was first drafted, one of the main concerns surrounding his game was his shooting ability; a concern that was seemingly justified after his first season in Phoenix. By his second season, however, it seemed as if Dragic was starting to find his groove, thanks in large part to a brand new shooting motion. This season, that jumper is deadlier than ever. Dragic scores .93 ppp in spot-up situations, shooting 35.3% from the field and 37.8% from three.
It’s hard to discern, exactly, what Kevin McHale’s offense is in Houston. It’s not the triangle, it’s not seven seconds or less, nor is it the Spurs spectacular spacing. It is, however, incredibly fun to watch. One of the staples of the offense, and as it should be with this young athletic team, is an emphasis on transition baskets, something they do very well, scoring 1.15 ppp in transition situations. Dragic thrives in these situations, as running the break is where he’s flat-out lethal. Consider these numbers from Synergy: 1.333 ppp and 70.9 percent field goal percentage. Though that may only rank him 32nd overall, it’s still staggering when you consider he’s been starting for only just over a month.
Dragic’s revelatory and efficient play could not have come at a better time. He’s leading the Rockets to the playoffs, is an unrestricted free agent, and there are several teams, including Utah, Indianapolis and Portland, who will have both the means and needs to sign a promising true point guard such as Goran Dragic. It truly is the perfect storm.