We continue PBT’s 2016-17 NBA preview series, 51 Questions. For the past few weeks, and through the start of the NBA season, we tackle 51 questions we cannot wait to see answered during the upcoming NBA season. We will delve into one almost every day between now and the start of the season. Today:
Will Goran Dragic thrive with the offense on his shoulders in Miami?
The Miami Heat are Goran Dragic’s team now.
At least they are on the offensive end. Dwayne Wade took his slashing-to-the-rim game back home to Chicago. Chris Bosh will not be in the high post because he will not be cleared by Miami Heat doctors to play, leaving the two sides at an impasse.
That put’s the Heat offense in the pick-and-roll loving hands of Dragic, who along with Hassan Whiteside will be asked to lead Miami. That duo — and just re-signed Tyler Johnson — will be surrounded by a bunch of players on one-year (or one plus an option) deals such as Dion Waiters, Wayne Ellington, Derrick Williams, James Johnson, and Luke Babbitt.
Expect coach Erik Spoelstra to turn Dragic loose in an offense that may lead the NBA in drive-and-kick plays.
In the Heat’s first preseason game (which is an insanely small sample size, but it’s what we’ve got), Dragic pushed the ball in transition at every opportunity, then raced into the paint with the ball, which created open three-point looks. Dragic has to be surrounded by shooters to be successful, and in that first game the Heat were 11-of-23 from beyond the arc. The Heat were moving the ball and making the extra pass, creating good looks. Also in that game, Whiteside had 16 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks — in the first quarter. He was everywhere.
The pieces around Dragic better fit the style of play he prefers than at any point since he came to Miami, that showed in their one game. They are younger, more athletic and explosive than they have been in a few years. The question becomes can they sustain this level of play? Will they get consistent play from Waiters, Babbitt, and Williams? Will Justise Winslow show off an improved jumper? And can the Heat keep doing this when they play in meaningful games where they will see far more talent on the court (John Wall skipped this preseason game, for example)?
Without Bosh, who is the Heat’s go-to scorer?
What the Heat really need this season is the 2013-14 version of Dragic, the one turned loose by Jeff Hornacek in Phoenix who averaged 20.3 points and 5.9 assists per game. The one who shot 40 percent from three and had a true shooting percentage of 60.4 percent (well above the league average). The guy who played at an All-Star level. The one the Heat thought they signed.
That Dragic has been missing for a couple of seasons now, due to a combination of factors including having the ball in his hands less (Wade certainly required touches). At age 30, it’s fair to question if we will see that Dragic again ever.
If peak Dragic suits up in Miami this season and young players buy in, this is a team that can put up a lot of points and potentially contend for one of the final playoff slots in the East. But with so many questions in South Florida, it’s hard to bet on that happening. More than likely, they are on the outside looking in.
But Dragic may end up being a fantasy steal this season.