Feb 19, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic (1) controls the ball against Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo (9) at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The Houston Rockets are said to be among teams in pursuit of Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic according to Marc Stein of ESPN. Dragic will be a free agent following the 2014-15 season, and since his time in Houston the southpaw gunner has only improved, both as a scorer and a playmaker. The question to be considered here is which guard would be a better play for the Rockets between Dragic and Celtics guard Rajon Rondo.
Dragic is coming off a career season in which he averaged 20.3 points, 5.9 assists and 3.2 boards per contest. Dragic became a lethal three-point shooter last season, connecting on 40.8 percent of his triples at a rate of 3.9 attempts per night. He played big minutes (35.1 per game) and started 75 games in 76 appearances. Together with guard Eric Bledsoe, the Suns had a surprising team that was predicated upon great play from the backcourt.
But Phoenix has continued to get richer in the backcourt, and the Suns brass will have decisions to make. Tyler Ennis was acquired in the draft and Isaiah Thomas was signed after having emerged as one of the best scoring little men in the league. Gerald Green is still in the mix, and will command a large chunk of minutes.
Dragic and Bledsoe are the heart of a talented backcourt rotation, but the Rockets are making it no secret that Dragic is coveted by a team he has already played 88 productive games for in his NBA career.
In the 2011-12 season with the Rockets, Dragic averaged 15.9 points and 7.9 assists per game. Letting him walk to sign with the Phoenix Suns in 2012 stands out as a huge miscalculation, and it’s one that the Rockets want to rectify.
Feb 19, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic (1) against Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo (9) at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
But Rondo has also been tied to Houston, and the little man from Kentucky would definitely also greatly enhance the Rockets’ title chances. Rondo is more of a playmaker than Dragic, but he doesn’t shoot the rock anywhere near as well, especially not from three-point range, where Rondo is inadequate to even let them fly (25 percent over his career).
The fact is, even though Rondo may be the more talented player between the two, he may not be the better fit for Houston. Dragic is more than capable of running an offense that is heavily reliant upon a ball dominant two-guard in James Harden. Dragic is capable of finding his offensive chances, but Rondo typically needs the ball in his hands to score.
No. 9 just doesn’t have the spot up abilities that could allow for great scoring chances within the flow of a fluid half-court offense. When the games slow down, having a dual-threat like Dragic would give the Rockets two guys capable of making plays and getting teammates shots.
Beyond that, Dragic is a better free throw shooter than Rondo at 76 percent compared to just 62. While 76 percent is hardly lights out for a guard, it’s good enough that teams won’t be resulted to hacking the guy who’s going to control the ball the most.
As mentioned in the Rondo piece earlier today on Space City Scoop, Howard is already a liability enough in late game situations, and two would be hazardous. Dragic avoids that pitfall for the Rockets.
All in all, it’s tough to imagine that Rondo would be a better fit than Dragic for the Rockets. Dragic is a great finisher at the rim where he shoots 69.6 percent from within three-feet. Dragic also does a good job of getting to the basket for a guy who could easily become jumper happy. 76 percent of his field goal attempts came from two-point range last season.
Since Harden likes to launch a lot of triples, it will benefit the Rockets to have a player who operates lot within the arc. Both Harden and Dragic are capable of getting to the line; Dragic averaged 5.5 attempts per game last season.
The Rockets are definitely going to go after a point guard either via trade this season or free agency in the offseason, and Daryl Morey is wise to know how to construct this team. Fitting the pieces together is critical, and though Rondo has long established himself as a premier playmaker, the Rockets already have Harden at 2-guard, and he is the ninth highest in the NBA in usage.
Dragic will be able to thrive without the ball in his hands constantly, and Rondo would find himself estranged from the offense when Harden started to run his many isolation plays. It just makes more sense to have a lethal shooter playing alongside Beard in the backcourt, and that means Dragic.