Goran Dragic has Value, Just Not for Phoenix Suns

By Cody Williams
Goran Dragic Steve Nash
Mark J. Rebilas – USA Today Sports Images

The general consensus when the Phoenix Suns signed Goran Dragic to a four-year $30 million contract before the 2012-2013 NBA season was that the Suns had made a sneaky good signing.

There was really no reason to believe otherwise. Dragic averaged 11.7 points per game on 46.2 percent shooting, along with dishing out 5.3 assists per game, for the Houston Rockets last season. He also had the highest Player Efficiency Rating of his career at 18.03. That made it seem like Dragic had a promising future, especially being given a starting role in Phoenix.

Looking at his production this season, Dragic has been pretty solid. He’s averaging 14 points and 6.3 assists per game while shooting 44 percent and has a PER of 16.96. But for the Suns, he hasn’t been what they’ve needed.

The Suns are currently in last place in the Western Conference at 17-36, have the 27th ranked offensive efficiency and have the 26th ranked defensive efficiency this year. Really, that can be traced back to Dragic.

Dragic’s shortcomings on defense have always been his biggest criticism. He’s improved slightly, but considering how awful he had been defensively before, that’s not saying a whole lot. At point guard this season, he’s been outscored by the opposing team’s point guard by 138 points total. So even though he’s scoring, he’s so poor defensively that he normally is either matched or outscored by his opposing counterpart.

Offensively is surprisingly where he hinders the Suns the most, though. His per game averages are solid, but the way he’s playing doesn’t fit into the context of the Phoenix team around him.

Dragic averages 11.3 shot attempts per game, the second highest behind Luis Scola (11.7) on Phoenix. He also only has the 29th highest assist ratio, the percentage of a player’s possessions that end in an assist, among point guards in the league at 29.2.

Last season for the Suns, Marcin Gortat had a breakout year, averaging 15.4 points per game on 55.5 percent shooting and 10 rebounds per game as well. Gortat also led the 2011-2012 Suns in field goal attempts per game at 11.7.

With Dragic this season, Gortat’s shot attempts per game have fallen to 9.3 per game and his numbers have dropped to 11.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, despite maintaining a shooting percentage above 50 percent.

Between Gortat and Scola, the Suns have a quality frontcourt that could easily carry a team to be at least mediocre. But with Dragic, they aren’t the focus of the offense. Even averaging 6.3 assists, Dragic maintains, for the most part, a shoot-first mentality. Given the talented frontcourt of the Suns and the surrounding shooters like Jared Dudley and sixth-man Michael Beasley, Dragic needs to take on facilitator role like his predecessor in Phoenix Steve Nash did for this team to see any kind of success.

None of this is to say that Dragic isn’t a good NBA player with heaps of potential; the fact that he has so much potential is actually the most troubling part. Dragic has more than enough skill to be able to run this Suns team and make them at least mildly effective and successful. But as for now, that’s not what’s happening.

Cody Williams is a Senior NBA Writer with Rant Sports. Follow Cody on Twittter @TheSizzle20 and like his Facebook page.

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