Goran Dragic may be the answer, but it may not matter


Miami was down 20 points late in the second quarter before coach Erik Spoelstra subbed in Goran Dragic with 4:01 to go before halftime. Dragic, held to two points prior to that moment, started to go to work: jumper, jumper, stop-and-pop, followed by a layup. Leading up to the first half’s final possession, the Toronto Raptors’ lead was down to 10, and the Raptors had the ball. What followed was uncharacteristic for a Heat team that was giving up buckets like KFC; the Heat smothered DeMar DeRozan at the top of the key, forcing him to drop the ball and concede the half’s final possession. On top of that, the Heat forced a third (3-of-9) of the Raptors’ turnovers in that last 2-minutes stretch.

Miami had just put an exclamation point on a 10–0 run. But how? It seemed … easy. Well, Goran Dragic made it look easy. Dragic made it look “easy” by running, pulling the trigger and doing so hastily. This introduces and unpopular popular point: Dragic needs more touches, even if it means Dwyane Wade gets less. Sorry, Mayor of South Beach, it might be time to delegate some of your duties.

In the 2016 Playoffs, among players that have average at least 25 minutes per game, Wade owns the fourth-highest usage percentage at 32.5 (which his higher than Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, James Harden, Paul George, etc.). And that usage percentage is fine, if you’re Stephen Curry and even your bad looks are your good ones. But if that 32.5 usage percentage is because half of your offensive possession are clear-out post-ups that result in contested mid-range, fall-away jimmies, it’s time for some reassessment. And this doesn’t mean locking Wade up in Dade County, it means sometimes giving the keys to a member of the Heat who will push the pace and create shots. Namely, Goran Dragic.

But, here’s where it gets tricky. If you go and look at Wade’s and Dragic’s on/off numbers and points per possession/drives/pick-and-roll ball-handler statistics you’re going to end up confused and come to assumption that Wade is putting up better numbers than Dragic, thus he’s the better option. Well, kind of, but wait there’s more! If you go dig up the Heat’s points per possession with Wade on the floor (0.991), you’ll find, at 1.212 points per possession, the Heat are “better” when he sits, per nbawowy.com!

Well … those numbers skew the picture, too. Sometimes in basketball we focus on the trees and not the forest, which can hinder a grander view. Basketball teams are better in open space, where they can penetrate into the paint and swing the ball around. They just are. Hero ball has it’s place, but there’s nothing more efficient than driving the ball, sucking in the defenders and kicking to an open gunner.

And here’s where it get’s even more complicated: Efficiency is all good and well, but when Hero ball works, it … works. Meaning, the basketball gods don’t judge how the orange ball whips and swooshes through the net, only that it does. So when Dwyane Wade, a three-time champion, makes two 3s on the strength of his unwavering confidence, alone to win Miami a Game 6 in Charlotte with the highest degree of Hero ball, all the basketball gods could do is smile; the ball went through the hoop.

When you hear the Heat are averaging the second-lowest catch-and-shoot points per game (the best looks/points in basketball) at 17.1 , in the playoffs (less than the Grizzlies) and only besting the team they eliminated in Round 1, and that the Cleveland Cavalier (40.3) and Golden State Warriors (35) are averaging the most, you see a correlation: Not enough open guys, not enough space, not enough ball movement, not enough penetration, that being the main culprit of the first three.

If you watch the Heat play, you know that a larger dose of Dragic might be the only answer. Or it might not be, but Miami’s offense for the last five games has been teetering between “kind of passable” and “worse than sludgy.” 

It’s ironic to think that the Heat’s demise could be Wade’s 3s in that Game 6 in Charlotte. Well, actually, it’s more than that. It’s all the times Wade has pulled some David Blaine-like victory out of his shooting sleeve. All those shots Wade made, they leave everyone: fans, Wade’s teammates and his faithful coach waiting for their three-time champion to save the day. But it’s not 2009 anymore and we can’t hold our breaths for Wade to drain a pair of 3s like he did in Charlotte.

Wade has been awesome this postseason, so it’s hard to say that he should give up some touches to a guy who can’t keep his teeth in his mouth, even if it could help the team; even then, coach Erik Spoelstra has been noted saying that he is going down with the S.S. Wade taking the final shot (as it Wade).

Well, on Friday night in Game 6, in Miami, coach Spoelstra & Co. may have to.

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