Goran Dragic: Houston’s Diamond in the Rough


Goran Dragic is a wanted man around the NBA. But should he stay or should he go?




Goran Dragic has quietly been having a good season.

It doesn’t hurt that in 2 1/2 of his three total seasons so far, he was playing under future Hall of Famer and current Phoenix Suns star Steve Nash.

Nash was a great mentor to Dragic; they weren’t just teammates, they were friends. Dragic was supposed to take over for Nash after he was gone. But one night on a flight to Toronto, Nash awakened Dragic when the plane landed and informed him he had been traded with a draft pick to the Houston Rockets for Aaron Brooks.

Dragic said that he was “shocked” when he was told the news. The Rockets brought in Dragic to back up the up-and-coming Kyle Lowry, who had recently stolen the starting point guard job from Brooks, who was struggling on and off the court and with injuries.

When the trade went down, many people thought the Suns got the better of the deal. But almost a year later, clearly the Rockets got a steal by making that trade. Dragic has been putting up great numbers for the Rockets, while Brooks is currently out of the league, waiting for his release from playing ball in China.

Dragic isn’t just having a good season. He’s showing people he can be a starter in this league, and teams like the Lakers and Hornets have shown interest in making a deal that would land them “the Dragon.” But should the Rockets trade away Dragic or keep him? Or more surprisingly, trade Lowry and give Dragic the keys to the playoff hopes?

Let’s take a look at the options

The good of Goran: If you compare Dragic’s numbers and Nash’s numbers in their first three years, they are very similar. In Nash’s third season with the Dallas Mavericks, he averaged 7.9 points, 5.5 assists and 2.8 rebounds. In Dragic’s third season, he averaged 7.5 points 2.8 assists and 2.2 rebounds. But there is one big difference. Nash averaged 31 minutes a game, while Dragic only averaged 17 minutes. This year, Dragic is averaging 7.5 points 3.4 assists and 1.9 rebounds in just 20 minutes, which is 15 minutes fewer per game than Lowry, who averages 15.9 points 7.2 assists and 5.3 rebounds.

You can argue that if Dragic took over for Lowry and got those extra 15 minutes, his numbers would be just a bit below Lowry’s. For example, Dragic averages 8.3 assists per 48 minutes and Lowry averages 9.8. The only thing Dragic has struggled with this season is his 3-point shooting, which is about 10 percent lower than his career average of 36 percent. And he has moments where he gets a little out of control with the ball, losing the handle or forcing passes/shots. But a lot of aggressive point guards have moments like that. Dragic, though maybe not an all-star caliber guard, can be a good shooter with excellent ball-handling and passing abilities.

In my opinion, Dragic definitely deserves a shot at starting somewhere, if nothing else than just to see what he is capable of and where his limits are. Why not for the Rockets? Dragic has been thrown about in trade rumors along with Luis Scola, Kevin Martin and a draft pick to the Lakers for the coveted Pau Gasol. But if that doesn’t get it done, there’s no reason Houston shouldn’t swap Lowry – whom the Lakers desperately need – for Dragic. I think Dragic is more than capable of taking over the starting position. He’s learned under Nash and now Lowry. He can feed Gasol in the post and thrive off wide open shots from Gasol’s kick-out passes.

Dragic is also great at getting in the paint and making something happen. He’s good at finding the open shooter or getting to the basket himself and finishing. He is quick enough to stay in front of other guards and big enough to not be overpowered. He can even play the shooting guard position if needed, which he has thrived in this year with Lowry at the point. His four best five-man units include two at the point and two at shooting guard. He is best when playing with Courtney Lee, Chase Budinger, Patrick Patterson and Jordan Hill. His second best is with Lowry at the point, with Dragic, Lee, Chandler Parsons, and Patterson, which is the Rockets small line-up. Dragic also only has 28 turnovers in 747 minutes.

The bad of Goran: Although Dragic has shown flashes of potential to be a starting point guard, he’s also shown he might be better suited as a combo guard who could come off the bench in either position. As mentioned, two of his best five man units are with him at the shooting guard position.

He’s a little small to play the 2, but he’s scrappy and quick enough to guard some of the opposing 2 guards. He’s great at slashing to the basket and finishing layups. With him at the 2, Dragic can do what he does best, which is create and make plays, often via scoring. If the Rockets were to trade Lowry, they might lose a true starting point guard who thinks pass first, shoot later. Dragic has to learn to make better decisions with the ball, to look more for his teammates cutting to the basket and posting up down low, instead of dribbling around and then having to take a difficult fadeaway or tear-drop shot in the lane. This is a reason why he may be ideal for the Lakers playing off Kobe Bryant. There is flexibility there that Bryant doesn’t have with Derek Fisher or Steve Blake. Dragic is a legit threat with the ball in his hands, and it’s why a lot of teams are high on him and want him included in likely any deal.

What should happen: Either way, I think the Rockets will be in a great position. But if they give up Dragic and he lives up to the Steve Nash-like hype, the Lakers might actually get the better end of the deal. As of right now, with the Rockets struggling to stay in the playoff race, moves need to be made. And if the Rockets go and get Pau Gasol from the Lakers, who desperately need a point guard, they may want to re-think their stance on Lowry not being available. In the end, they might get the better of the deal by keeping Dragic. Either way, the Rockets need to get the Gasol deal done. I think they will be fine with keeping either point guard; their weakness is inside, offensively and defensively, and Gasol can heal a lot of those wounds. In the end, I think the Rockets get desperate, especially as we get closer and closer to the trade deadline, and give the Lakers who they want (Lowry). And the Dragon will be here to stay.