Thrust into a new reserve role, Goran Dragic is thriving as the Miami Heat continue with their red-hot start to the season.
Just 22 months removed from being named an All-Star for the very first time, the rapid transition made by Goran Dragic to an elite sixth man has been profound. With the Miami Heat entering the season with a gaping hole in the second unit following the retirement of Dwyane Wade, Dragic has taken to his new role like a fish to water.
Overall, Dragic has been excellent across the board, averaging 15.9 points, 5.0 assists and 3.2 rebounds in his 28.7 minutes per game off the bench.
In particular, its been the efficiency in which Dragic has performed that has been most beneficial to the Heat. Launching a career-high 5.3 triples per game, Dragic has shot at an excellent 40.6 clip from long range, with the Heat posting a 6-1 record when he nails at least three 3-pointers.
Not only is he providing a terrific presence down the stretch of games, it’s been his ability to make an immediate impact that has placed Dragic among the absolute elite in the league as a reserve. This was particularly the case in the Heat’s latest win, 109-106 over the Brooklyn Nets.
In 16 first-half minutes, Dragic was on fire with 19 points and four assists, helping to keep the Heat within breathing distance of the Nets. Following the win over the Nets, Dragic explained his mindset entering the game:
“I came out aggressive, tried to make plays for my teammates … it’s all because of them, because they put me in the right positions so I can do my thing.”
Overall, his form thus far through the early portion of the seasons has been a true testament to Dragic’s character and resolve. Not only did he have to accept a demotion to the second unit, but Dragic also dealt with the real possibility of being dealt in the offseason as part of the transaction to acquire Jimmy Butler.
If not for the Dallas Mavericks pulling out of the deal at the last minute, who knows how the Heat would’ve addressed the lack of a veteran presence in the second unit.
Recently in a discussion with The Athletic, head coach Erik Spoelstra detailed the manner in which Dragic’s new role was raised to the 33-year-old:
“I wanted to get a feel for him and what he was thinking about for the season and explain to him what I was potentially thinking about and see if we could get on the same sheet of music….I didn’t know necessarily which direction it would go….When we put together the basic framework of potentially bringing him off the bench, it was not decided that day.
“It was just a discussion that this may actually be effective.”
While it’s still in its infancy, it’s hard to argue with the results thus far. Currently ranked sixth in scoring and fifth in assists among all players who have appeared in at least 10 games as a reserve, Dragic’s output, and the Heat’s 14-5 record, means the Slovenian native would surely be in the early running for Sixth Man of the Year honors.
With the Heat now about to face a daunting back-to-back on the road against the Toronto Raptors and the Boston Celtics, the veteran presence of Goran Dragic is going be needed more than ever.