Goran Dragic isn’t right.
Anyone who has watched the Miami Heat at length in their first eight games can see it.
It’s not like his mere presence is hurting the team. The Heat outscores opponents by 8.8 points for every 100 possessions with Goran in the lineup, which ranks fifth behind Justise Winslow, Tyler Johnson, Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside among the regulars. But his efficiency is down and so is his usage. His true shooting percentage (takes into account 2s, 3s, and free throws) is at 51 percent, his lowest since his rookie season, and his 18.5 usage rate is the lowest mark of his career.
Assuming there are no physical or mental issues plaguing the Dragon, though some have questioned if he started the season in shape, a clear way to help Miami’s $85-million point guard can be boiled down to pace.
For all the talk in the offseason of playing fast, Erik Spoelstra’s team ranks 28th in pace so far.
Dragic excels in the open court where he feasts on backpedalling defenders in transition. Aiding him is his elite ability to finish at the rim, where his 68.2-percent shooting within five feet last season trailed only LeBron James for non big men.
— Mike AKA NOT Pitbull (@iRepTeamHEAT) November 6, 2015
The Heat has played quality basketball on both ends so far, ranking second in defensive efficiency and 11th in offensive efficiency. Their net rating of plus-8.9 per 100 possessions is tops in the Eastern Conference. So Spo may not want to tinker too much with something that isn’t broken but the Heat can play faster with Goran in spurts by a simple manipulation of lineups. And as we’ve learned, Spo isn’t afraid to experiment, especially early in the season.
Give him him more court time with explosive youngins’ Justise Winslow and Tyler Johnson, and less time with the paint-suffocating Hassan Whiteside and the plodding Dwyane Wade (please don’t hurt me), with the latter also dipping heavily into his usage on the perimeter.
The Dragic-Winslow-Johnson trio has only logged 22 minutes this season but is Miami’s fastest 3-man lineup in regards to pace (minimum of 20 minutes). They are a plus-8 in that limited sample size. Throwing in an athletic floor-spacer like Gerald Green could also help the cause. An intriguing five-man lineup as it pertains to Dragic offensively would be a small-ball attack featuring Johnson, Green, Winslow, and Bosh. That group would FLY and score, the question is whether they would defend.
It’s not implausible for the Heat’s point guard of the present and future to improve organically as he grows more comfortable with his teammates — this is only his eighth game playing with Chris Bosh — but Goran has proven he’s most lethal on the run with the ball in his hands.
Ramp up the pace and the Dragon will find his way.
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