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Goran Dragic revisited...sort of

I know what you're thinking, "two posts in two days, this isn't like you!"  Well, you're right, normally I wouldn't have the time or, quite frankly, the ideas for two stories in two days.  Today, however, is a little different.  Why?  Well, because after last night's AWESOME game against the Jazz, my email/twitter took major hits with questions about my current feelings towards Goran Dragic.  Some were more polite than others but all basically asking me to take back what I've said about him throughout the season.  My response, I'm not even close to believing this guy is a $2 million/year PG in the NBA.  Now, I know that this has been a touchy subject with a lot of Suns fans (due in large part to the Suns organizational mistakes dealing with young talent in the past) and I know most everyone here disagrees, but it is a stance I have chosen to take and one that I don't regret (partly because it lead me to where I'm at now on BSotS).  Before you jump down my throat though, I will use this space to explain why I haven't changed my mind, what I would need to see for me to change my mind and what things I think Goran should do in the offseason to make that happen.  Again, I am not rooting for this guy to fail and I have no beef with him as a person, I just don't see him being a viable NBA PG (emphasis on POINT GUARD).

Let me start by saying that Goran Dragic has been playing much better as of late.  He has the confidence to shoot and knock down open shots that he didn't have earlier this season and isn't second guessing everything he does.  Alvin Gentry has done a good job of masking the flaws in Dragic's game in this new system by allowing Dragic to play more off the ball and changing the offensive scheme when the second team is in.  Also, I feel we've been fairly lucky that other teams are not focusing on him in their scouting.  Here would be my current (condensed) scouting report on Dragic:

  • Can hit the open shot
  • Better off of the ball than running the offense
  • Has trouble creating shots for him or others off the dribble
  • Easily flustered/turnover prone when pressured defensively
  • Tends to get out of position on defense and plays on heels making it hard for him to defend a hard crossover dribble

Now, if I were a team planning for the Suns, I would pressure him 3/4 court with my quickest defender the moment he got on the floor.  I would throw hard double teams at him after any screen and try to get him as flustered as possible as quickly as possible.  You saw in last night's game, the one time the Jazz threw a hard double team at him (I believe it was either late in the 3rd or early in the 4th quarter about 30 feet out on the left side of the court)  he got incredibly flustered to the point where he was staring down Ronnie Brewer (honestly, what was his plan with that?) when the play ended.  Again, so far it seems teams are content to give him space and let him try and beat them with open shots - I'm just saying that I would go a different route. It should be noted, however, that as of right now I am not an official NBA team scout.

Anyway, back to the issue at hand.  I have long said that if Goran Dragic were to make it in this league, it would probably be as more of a combo guard needing to be matched with the right talent around him and not a point.  Now, everyone has been so impressed by his play of late, that they are just glancing over the fact that that's as much Alvin Gentry as it is anything Goran is doing.  When Dragic is in, they play a style of offense that doesn't really require Goran to run the offense.  Gentry is putting him out there with other players who are comfortable handling the duties of running the offense and allowing Goran to play more of a 2 guard style than the point.  So technically, it would seem that my argument is valid.

Now, the Suns have won 6 straight and we should all be on cloud 9 just enjoying the stretch run here (and trust me, I am enjoying it and believe that Gentry should be given the full-time job next year and that the Suns should keep this team in tact to see what it can do with a whole season because if not, we'll have about $40 million in salary to play with the next year - but that's another post for another day), however, you all asked if my opinion of Goran Dragic has changed and since it hasn't, I have to present to you my argument as to why.

In order for Dragic to prove me wrong, I would need to see a better ability to run the offense, MUCH better ball handling - especially in pressure situations and quicker decision making (on one of Dragic's fast break assists to Lou last night, you saw a moment where he was slow to decide and it almost cost him as he got too far into the lane before making a forced low pass to Amundson).  So what can he do to improve these things before next year? 

  1. Play -  He already has plans to play for almost the entire summer, this should help him improve, but won't take him all the way.
  2. Full court one-on-one - He should find somebody quick, mark off a quarter of the court and have the defender guard him extremely tight and even foul him by constantly slapping at the ball as he takes it down the court.  If he turns his back and starts backing the guy down, he would have to start over.  If he gets past the guy, he would have to stop, let the guy catch up and continue.
  3. Reaction drills - He should run through a number of reaction drills that force him to make quick decisions and improve his reaction time.
  4. Video - I would have him watching video of Tony Parker (ahhh, the sin of mentioning a Spur in this blog).  Tony Parker has a game that I think Goran Dragic could emulate if he improves in the areas mentioned above.  Dragic is not a Nash type PG, so learning strictly from Nash wouldn't be smart.  Yes, he should take some things from Nash, but he also needs to learn things from other PGs who have similar game to him and I think Tony Parker is one of those guys.
  5. Defensive drills - The dude has got to learn to play on his toes!  He is playing on his heels and it just causes so many problems with him getting out of position and not being able to respond quickly.

So there you have it (for the 1 of you who actually made it through all of that), my complete rundown of a) why my opinion of Goran Dragic as our backup PG has not changed and b) what I think he needs to do in order to change my opinion.  The chum is in the water, I know you are circling so have at it.  Just remember, the Suns are winning, I love how Gentry is using his bench (including how he is using Dragic now that he is our only "backup PG") and I only wrote this post because you all asked.

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