Nash vs. Dragic 3 years in...


     Lately on BSotS, the whipping boy du jour has been Goran Dragic.  It seems that he's being blamed for the woes of the second team, given that his +/- numbers are the worst among rotation players on the Suns.  So how bad is he?

Jump over this...


     Goran Dragic is in his third year in the league.  Everyone expected big things from him after he famously torched the Spurs in game 3 of the Conference semi-finals last year with 23 points in the quarter and 26 points within 14 minutes.  But in 2010-11, he has struggled a bit more that apparently we expected.  I'll go into the reasons for that later, but my first thought about this was "How was Nash at this point in his career?"


     Nash came into the league as the 15th overall pick in the 1996 draft - an excellent draft overall.

1) Allen Iverson

2) Marcus Camby

3) Shareef Abdur-Rahim

4) Stephon Marbury

5) Ray Allen

6) Antoine Walker

7) Lorenzen Wright

8) Kerry Kittles

9) Samaki Walker

10) Erick Dampier

11) Todd Fuller

12) Vitaly Potapenko

13) Kobe Bryant

14) Peja Stojakovic

15) Steve Nash

16) Tony Delk

17) Jermaine O'Neal

20) Zydrunas Ilgauskas

24) Derek Fisher


A lot of these guys are still in the league, and have enjoyed a great amount of success, obviously.  He came onto the Phoenix team as a backup to Kevin Johnson and Sam Cassell and later, Jason Kidd.  In his first year, he put up unspectacular numbers.


     Goran Dragic came into the league in 2008 as the 45th overall pick - originally Toronto's pick, it was trade to the Spurs who then traded it to Phoenix.  It was a good draft for point guards.

1) Derrick Rose

2) Michael Beasley

3) O. J. Mayo

4) Russell Westbrook

5) Kevin Love

6) Danilo Galinari

7) Erick Gordon

8) Joe Alexander

9) D. J. Augustin

10) Brook Lopez

11) Jerryd Bayless

12) Jason Thompson

13) Brandon Rush

14) Anthony Randolph

15) Robin Lopez

16) Mareese Speights

17) Roy Hibbert

18) Javale McGee

19) J. J. Hickson

20) Alexis Ajinca

21) Ryan Anderson

22) Courtney Lee

23) Kosta Koufos

24) Serge Ibaka

25) Nic Batum

26) George Hill

27) Arthur Darrell

28) Donte Greene

29) D. J. White

30) J. R. Giddens

31) Nikola Pekovic

32) Walter Sharpe

33) Joey Dorsey

34) Mario Chalmers

35) DeAndre Jordan

36) Omar Asik

37) Luc Mbah A Moute

38) Kyle Weaver

39) Sonny Weems

40) Chris Douglas-Roberts

41) Nathan Jawal

42) Sean Singletary

43) Patrick Ewing Jr.

44) Ante Tomic

45) Goran Dragic


YEAR 1 (1996-97) Nash

     He played in 65 games, and averaged 10:30 per game, putting up 3.3 points, 1 rebound, and 2.1 assists against 1 turnover per game.  He shot 42.3% from the field (74-175) and 41.8% from 3 (23-55).  He shot 82.4% from the free throw line (42-51).

     That Suns team ended with a 40-42 record under Paul Westphal, exiting in the first round to Seattle 2-3.


YEAR 1 (2008-09) Dragic

     Goran played in 55 games in his first year, and averaged 13:11 per game, putting up 4.5 points a game, 1.9 rebounds, and 2 assists against 1.3 turnovers per game.  He shot 39.3% from the field (88-224) and 37% from 3 (20-54).  He shot 76.9% from the free throw line (50-65).  Part of the year was under Terry Porter, who gave way at the All Star break to Alvin Gentry, which was a boon to Goran - he went from 2.9 points per game to 5.9 points under Gentry, his minutes went from 12 to 14:24, shooting percentage went from 31.3% to 44%, 3 point percentage from 14.3% to 45%, and his APG from 1.7 to 2.3.  Rebounding stayed the same.

     All in all, fairly comparable.  However, Nash saw a large reduction in minutes post all star break.  Not sure why - perhaps some of the more historically minded here can fill us in.


YEAR 2 (1997-98) Nash

     In his second year, Nash's minutes went up considerably, from 10:30 to 21:53 in 76 games.  Consequently, his numbers increased, to 9.1 ppg on 45.9% shooting, 3.5 assists against 1.3 turnovers, 2.1 rebounds, and .8 steals per game.
Ranked 13th in the NBA in 3-point accuracy (.415), connecting on 81-195 with the Suns....Connected on 74-86 (.860) free throws, tops among the Suns....One of the most improved players in the NBA, Nash bettered his rookie numbers by 5.8 points, 1.1 rebounds, and 1.3 assists.


YEAR 2 (2009-10) Dragic

Goran's numbers also went up, to 18:00 per game. In 80 games, his ppg increased to 7.9 on 45.2% shooting, 3 assists against 1.6 turnovers, and .6 steals per game.  He shot 39.4% from 3, and 73.6% on free throws.


YEAR 3 (1998-99) Nash

     In his 3rd year, Nash was traded to Dallas.  He only played 40 games of the strike-shortened 50 game season, and started all 40, playing 31:41 per game.  His ppg actually dropped to 7.9 on 36.3% shooting, 5.5 assists to 2.1 turnovers, and .9 steals.  Shot 82.6% from the free throw line.  Missed the final 10 games of the season due to a lower back strain....Scored in double figures 12 times and dished-out 10-plus assists five times.


YEAR 3 (2010-11) Dragic

  Of course, this year is incomplete, but in his 40 games so far, he's putting up 7.9 in 18:36, 3.2 assists to 2 turnovers, and .7 steals per game.  He's shooting 41.7 from the field, 30% from 3, and 61.8% from the free throw line.


YEAR 4 (1999-2000) Nash

Another rather pedestrian year for the future 2 time MVP, with a slight reduction in minutes to 27:23, 8.6 points per game, 4.9 assists to 1.8 turnovers, and .7 steals.


Appeared in 56 games (27 starts) and averaged 8.6 points, 4.9 assists and 2.2 rebounds per game in 27.4 minutes....Played his best at the end of the season after returning from a right ankle tendon strain which cost him 25 games....In the last 10 games he averaged 13.6 ppg, 8.1 apg in 40.1 minutes....Scored in double figures in 15 of the last 20 games and 24 times overall....Had six double-doubles all of which came in the last 19 games....Played a career-high 51 minutes at Denver on 4/6/00....Posted a season-high 11 assists twice - 3/16/00 at San Antonio and 3/27/00 at Utah....Twice went 10-11 from the foul line to post career-highs in both of those categories - 3/27/00 at Utah and 4/18/00 vs. Lakers.

YEAR 5 (2000-01) Nash

Steve played 70 games this year, breaking out in a big way, scoring 15.6 per game, dishing 7.7 assists against 2.3 turnovers, 3.2 rebounds and 1 steal a game.


     So what conclusions can we draw from this comparison?  What I see is that Dragic is developing in much the same way that Nash did, so far.  It remains to be seen whether he will make that quantum jump that Steve did in the future, but I found it very interesting that Nash didn't make that leap until year 5 of his career.  Nash got a lot more starts early - he started all his games in the third year - but he definitely wasn't amazing. 

     Looking at the splits for this year, there is no trend that I can see for Goran's struggles.  Dragic actually plays better on the road, and better in our losses.  A lot has been made of his +/- stats - it's hard to tell why that has dropped so much, since he's been on the floor with so many different combinations of players.  The difference between 30% and 40% from three would be 8 total made shots over 40 games (he's 27 of 90).  His free throw percentage has suffered because of a 50% month of November, but since then he's shot over 70% from the line.  In October/November, he developed some chemistry with Childress and Warrick - but they aren't playing on the second team recently.  If you look at his last 10 games, his averages are improving and in line with his career numbers.

     This post isn't a defense of Goran - it's more of a long view.  The team this year has been a disorganized mess - we started the season with a much different line-up than we have now.  Goran is settling down, getting some consistent people to work with, and I think he'll be fine.  Last year, January was pretty much his best month - the return of LB depressed his numbers somewhat.  This year, he's been on the floor with so many different players, including Turk, Carter, and Hill (all essentially point forwards) that I think it's messed with his head some.Stats like plus/minus, even when adjusted, are measures of a group of guys, not an individual.  Last year, the higher Goran's individual scoring was, the worse his +/- was.  This year, it doesn't correlate the same way - but it's improving.  For the month of January, he's -6.1, but in the last 10, he's -3.5, all while scoring the same 8 ppg.  In legal circles, this would be called "circumstantial evidence".

     Still, he has some time - the other, more prominent pg's (like Rose, Gordon, and Westbrook) were thrown into the fire immediately, and are now prospering in their third year.  I'm glad we didn't have to do that with Dragic, because that would mean we didn't have Nash.  Other guys who were drafted ahead of Dragic (Augustin, Bayless, Courtney Lee, George Hill, and Mario Chalmers) haven't fared as well.

     Dragic is still on pace to duplicate Nash's performance - although I still hope that he's behind Nash for a few years to come.

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