Miami Heat: Goran Dragic suddenly struggling, inconsistent

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 3: Goran Dragic
MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 3: Goran Dragic /

Goran Dragic, the Miami Heat’s generally most consistent player, has been struggling recently.

So far, the Miami Heat’s 2017-18 campaign has been full of the unexpected.

First, there have been a handful of health issues, like Hassan Whiteside now being sidelined for the second time, with a bone bruise in his knee.

Then there’s the fact that gone is any trace of the 30-11 team that closed play out last year, as they sit at 11-13.

But perhaps the most surprising thing of all, is how inconsistent Goran Dragic has been lately.

Since joining the Heat in February of 2015, the veteran has been the team’s rock. Despite being thrown into an entirely new system when he first arrived in South Beach, he managed to finish his first run in Miami by averaging 16.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.1 steals a game.

He stayed solid throughout 2015-16 too, leading the team to the postseason, having averaged 14.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 1.0 steal per matchup.

Things only got better once Wade left, Dragic finally free to run the offense at his own pace.

He averaged 20.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 1.2 steals per game in 2016-17, numbers that mirrored his Most Improved Player 2013-14 run with the Phoenix Suns, headlining a Heat team that was entering a new era. And while he may not have scored 33 points in 33 minutes every night (as he did in a win over the Charlotte Hornets on April 5), he put up impressive numbers on an almost gamely basis.

However, things haven’t exactly been smooth sailing for the 31-year-old lately.

Having started off the season strong, averaging 19.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.2 assists a matchup in October, since then things have been up-and-down for the co-captain.

For example, Dragic totaled just six points on 3-of-11 shooting in 35 minutes of play in a win over the Washington Wizards on November 17. And only eight points, going 3-of-8 from the field, in 27 minutes two days later, in a brutal loss to the Indiana Pacers.

But then, just like that, he was able to turn things around. So much so that the league awarded him Eastern Conference Player of the Week. Because as Miami went on a three-game winning streak, Dragic averaged 23.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.0 steal per contest, shooting 52.4 percent (57.9 percent from beyond-the-arc).

Unfortunately though, that didn’t signal the end of the point guard’s woes. Instead of coming out even stronger after earning the honor, he scored just seven points, going 1-for-5 from the field, in a loss against the Cleveland Cavaliers on November 28. And the next game? An even worse six points on 3-of-12 shooting in an ugly loss to the New York Knicks.

So what gives?

Well, for one, Dragic hasn’t been getting to the line as often as he’s used to. In fact, there were four separate occasions in November when he didn’t earn a trip to the charity stripe once. Something that head coach Erik Spoelstra recently commented on.

"“Now, Goran gets more adjustments and hits at the rim than any player that comes to mind, and he rarely gets that call.”"

Dragic has the seventh-lowest foul rate on penetration in the league, among players who average at least 10 drives to the basket a game. And less free throws obviously mean less points. Less points and more frustration.

Which is another reason for Dragic’s recent struggles.

Having spoken about the team’s lack of energy on several occasions, it’s clear the star expects more from this roster. Because despite perhaps not being at his best so far this year, he’s still driven to do better. Driven to win. Driven to prove this group has what it takes to succeed.

Next: Miami Heat: Without Whiteside, should James Johnson start?

Inconsistency has been the name of the game for the 2017-18 Miami Heat, but there’s still plenty of time for Goran Dragic and company to turn things around.