Goran Dragic should continue leading the Miami Heat’s offense next season

Apr 5, 2017; Charlotte, NC, USA; Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (7) reacts after making a three point basket in the second half against the Charlotte Hornets at Spectrum Center. The Heat won 112-99. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 5, 2017; Charlotte, NC, USA; Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (7) reacts after making a three point basket in the second half against the Charlotte Hornets at Spectrum Center. The Heat won 112-99. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports /

Miami Heat point guard Goran Dragic had a superb season. Will his renewed confidence and stellar play carry over into next year?

Veteran point guard Goran Dragic has been no stranger to scrutiny since arriving in South Beach over two years ago.

A trade acquisition via the Phoenix Suns (and the brilliance of Pat Riley), Dragic boasted all the qualities coach Erik Spoelstra and staff had longed for in their point guard: a supreme talent with the ability to both score and set up his teammates consistently and effectively.

Needless to say, Dragic struggled to adapt in the beginning.

While he fully embraced the Miami culture and what it meant to be apart of that locker room, his play on the court lacked behind.

Over the course of his first 98 games in a Heat uniform, Dragic put up, by his standards, pedestrian numbers.

After claiming the NBA’s Most Improved Player honors and a spot on the All-NBA Third Team in 2014, he averaged just 15.4 points per game over that stretch, but shot about 49 percent from the field.

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Some argue that he struggled to mesh with another ball-dominant wing in Dwyane Wade, as the two spent the majority of their time on the floor together.

To suggest that a player with the skill set and scoring ability of Dragic would somehow willingly take a back seat again after doing that repeatedly in Phoenix is absolutely ludicrous.

To claim that a future Hall of Famer in Wade would somehow hold a teammate back after taking a back seat and elevating the play of one LeBron James for four long seasons is assenine.

Following the departure of Wade last summer, it was very clear-cut who the leader of the offense was going to be, and Dragic delivered one of the more efficient seasons of his career.

He appeared in 73 games and averaged 20.3 points, 5.8 assists, and 3.8 rebounds. Offensively, he was as efficient as ever, shooting a healthy 48 percent from the field and knocking down his 3-pointers at an impressive 41 percent clip.

While the Heat would go on to miss the postseason for the second time in three years, there haven’t been many enduring teams quite like this one, and that memorable run they embarked on to close the season began with their point guard.

Over the course of the final 47 games of the regular season in which Miami went 30-16, Dragic turned back the clocks and never looked back, amassing 26 games with 20 or more points and knocking down the three ball at a blistering 46 percent rate.

He also distributed the ball extremely well, averaging eight assists over that stretch.

What was most impressive, to me, was his three point shooting.

In a way, he was nearly Stephen Curry-like for that period, and it was fascinating to watch.

For his career, Dragic shoots a solid 36 percent from beyond the arc, so he’s certainly no slouch from that distance, but he had never done it in quite this fashion.

In perhaps his most impressive outing of the season, Dragic toyed with the Minnesota defense to the tune of 33 points and 9 assists, hitting 7 of 9 from long range while shooting 13 of 17 on the night.

What’s even more impressive, is that despite his relatively small size and stature, he had three games in which he shot above 70 percent from the field. That’s impressive.

In fact, over the course of this whole season, Dragic logged 39 games with 20 or more points and broke the 30-point barrier seven times.

Until this season, he had only reached 20 or more 21 total times, causing many to doubt whether the investment had paid off or not.

Fast forward to now, and those who once doubted should sleep relatively well at night knowing that they do at least have one of the 10 best scoring point guards in the entire league.

Not to mention, he’s an above-average shooter in nearly every category, and the numbers are there to back it up.

While his percentage from inside the paint (specifically from within three feet) fell nearly four percent from 2015-16, his jumper was drastically better, and he still finished right around the league average in that range.

For the sake of fun, MVP candidate Russell Westbrook, best known for his athleticism, shot 57.5 percent on his attempts from inside three feet this season.

Either way you dice it, Dragic has made a name for himself in Miami, and it appears that the Heat organization are invested for the long haul.

Riley brought Dragic here to do exactly what he did this season. He scored the ball efficiently, created plenty of opportunities for his teammates, and thrived when the Heat needed him the most.

Do I expect more of the same next year? I see no plausible reason to think otherwise, and it will take a superstar addition (hint, hint) to take shots away from him and change my mind.

Until that happens, the Heat have their franchise point guard to rely on, and he’s proven he can still be effective even as he finds himself now at 31 years of age.

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He’s also as relaxed as he’s been in years, and he elaborated on that during his exit interview just over a month ago.

"“I feel comfortable,” Dragic said. “This place feels like home now. I don’t have no other distractions outside the court. I’m just thinking about basketball.”"

That’s good new for the Heat, and bad news for the opposition.