Throughout the offseason, Pick and Popovich will rank the top 50 players in the NBA. To be clear, these are 50 best players for the 2016-17 season, regardless of team situation, past performance or future potential. If you’re trying to win a championship in 2016-17, these are the 50 players you’d want most.
Why He’s Great: Point guards who can finish like Dragic don’t grow on trees. They don’t grow anywhere. It’s Dragic, Kyrie Irving, Reggie Jackson, Russell Westbrook and that’s about it. He routinely makes over 55% of his shots within three feet of the basket, and though he had a down year last season, most of that was due to sharing the ball with Dwyane Wade.
When Dragic has a chance to run his own offense, he’s one of the best point guards in the league. He’s topped a 35% assist rate and even with Eric Bledsoe playing beside him he made an All-NBA team in 2013-14. He’s still that same player. He just wasn’t on a team designed to let him prove it.
In a pinch, he’s still useful off of the ball. He made 40% of his catch-and-shoot three’s in the 2013-14 season with Phoenix. But he’s a waste in a slow-paced offense. Dragic is at his best making quick decisions against a scrambling defense, one so terrified that he might pull up from long distance that they allow him to skate past them for an easy layup. He’s one of the best fast-break players in basketball, and in a system better suited for his talents he’d prove it.
Why He’s Below No. 49 (Ben Simmons):
Yes, Miami’s system hurt Dragic last year, but he’s also 30. Point guards that rely so much on speed are bound to start slowing down at around that age. Maybe he would’ve been better on a team more suited to his talents, but he also might just be slowing down at a perfectly normal rate.
And everything we’ve said focuses on offense. Dragic is not a good defender. He’s not even a decent defender. He’s bad outright. Miami’s defense was more or less the same with or without Dragic on the floor, a fact that might seem favorable to Dragic before you remember he played most of his minutes with Hassan Whiteside on the floor. He also shared more than 1,000 minutes with rookie Tasmanian Devil Justise Winslow. Were he not protected by better defensive teammates, Dragic might border on legitimate defensive liability.
And finally, Dragic’s intangibles are at least in question. He forced his way out of Phoenix and onto Miami because he wasn’t satisfied with his touches on a point-guard heavy Suns roster. Will he eventually do the same with the Heat? Only time will tell, but there’s enough of a precedent to worry.