The Baby Dragon: Who is Zoran Dragić?


Last week the Miami Heat completed a blockbuster trade at the deadline, acquiring the 2014 All NBA Third Team Point Guard, Goran Dragić. All the buzz has been about the new number seven in South Beach, but the Heat also gained his younger brother, Zoran Dragić, leaving many Heat fans wondering, ‘Who is Zoran Dragić?’

Born June 22nd 1989 and growing up in Ljubljana, Slovenia with Goran, Zoran recalled recently in his first press conference as a member of the Miami Heat that he and his older brother would play one on one, and both having that competitive drive to win they would want to kill each other, often ending up fighting and having to be separated by their father. 

"“We still feel like that, its brothers love” Zoran said, “when we were kids, when we played some sports against each other (and) we always end up fighting, our father came between us but five minutes after, we were the best brothers again, we love each other.”"

Zoran’s professional basketball career began in 2004 playing in minor Slovenian leagues until 2006 when he joined the Geoolin Slovan team in the Premier A Slovenian Basketball League (abbreviated as 1. SKL) where he played for four years.

In 2010 when he joined KK Krka Novo Mesto for two years achieving success in the form of two 1. SKL Championships (2011 & 2012), was the MVP in the 2011 Finals Series and won the Euroleague Challenge. Over these two years, Zoran (nicknamed “Ziko”) averaged 10.3 points per game (51.6% FG, 25.2% 3FG, 61% FT), 4.7 rebounds and 1.6 steals.

2011 SKL Finals Highlights

It wasn’t until he started representing his home country on the international level that Zoran started getting noticed. In 2009 he represented the Slovenian team in the FIBA Europe U-20 Championships, leading the squad with his shooting of 16.3 points with 50% from the field, grabbing 5 rebounds (1.3 offensive) and picking 2.5 pockets in the 6 games the team played.

Two years later in 2011 he joined the senior national team with brother Goran for the 2011 Eurobasket tournament where Slovenians finished 7th overall with a 6-5 record with Ziko playing 25.1 minutes with 8.1 points (66%), 4.4 rebounds (1.1 offensive) but it was two years later that he really began to shine.

Eurobasket 2013 Highlights

As you can tell, Zoran isn’t afraid to get in the paint on a drive or to grab a rebound and his favourite fake of pumping right and going left and in transition he just flies down the court (see 2:02 – 2:06) especially with his brother by his side, something his new coach preaches to all his players, pace. Zoran would increase his stats from the 2011 Eurobasket Tournament, +2.5 points and an extra rebound.

The 2014 FIBA World Cup was his break-out in the eyes of many NBA teams.

"“We actually scouted him quite a bit this summer, not thinking that it would lead to anything really,” Erik Spoelstra said in the press conference to introduce the new Heat players. “But one of our scouts kept on saying ‘hey, you have to check out this Dragić brother, he’s having a fantastic summer.'”"

For his home country, he helped them advance to the quarter finals with his strong defensive play (1.4spg 4rpg and winning “Best Block”) and a healthy 12.9 points per game and shot an impressive 43.3% from three point range, well above his career averages.

Of course, we shouldn’t expect him to step onto an NBA court and have an immediate impact. As of writing he has only appeared in 7 NBA games, logging 2.2 minutes per and has said, “the game is totally different,

Goran added “it’s always tough when you come from different environment, I think that transition was good for Zoki.”

"“I think he did a good job, but his game is a high energy guy, you know, always have a motor, always going to run, and he’s always gonna attack the rim and get offensive rebounds. Back in Europe he was known as pretty good defender, he was always guarding the best guys, he’s always on attack mode.”"

Zoran stands 6’5” and weighs in at 200 pounds and is versatile enough to play both wing positions and judging  from YouTube clips (and his brother’s word of mouth) defense is the strongest part of his game, a trait missed on this Heat team outside of Luol Deng, he loves to get out on the fast break and is improving his jump shooting, a necessity in the NBA.

So where does Zoran Dragić stand in terms of Miami Heat basketball? Right next to Tyler Johnson, James Ennis and Shabazz Napier, all players Miami are looking to develop. Given the Heat have very little in the way of first round draft picks over the coming years, the team is committed to improving from within with the use of the Sioux Fall Skyforce and the D-League, that could be a good place for Zoran to adjust to the American style of game play without the pressure of being on an NBA team that demands results.

So, welcome to Miami, Zoran! All the hype may be around Goran, but this a player that shouldn’t be slept on because he could prove to be quite a steal as well.

All quotes via Stats courtesy of Draft Express and FIBA Archive