A breakout year from Team Slovenia’s Goran Dragic with the Houston Rockets deserves a look – and some embedded YouTube clips. Today, Sam Chadwick takes that look on BallinEurope.
Developing in the cool climate of Ljubljana, Slovenia, Goran Dragic’s rise to basketball success was a game of waiting. After a Slovenian league championship in the 2007-08 season the San Antonio Spurs took notice and drafted the point guard 45th overall by the same team who has regularly and successfully stashed draft picks in Europe for years waiting for the right time to sow the crop: Ryan Richards, Tiago Splitter, David Bertans, Tony Parker, Luis Scola and even Manu Ginobili.
That same draft saw Derrick Rose going at no. 1 and Michael Beasley second; it was the same year guards like Jerryd Bayless, J.R. Giddens, Mario Chalmers and Kyle Weaver were all selected before the 40th pick; these four currently struggle to make the regular rotation on teams like the Toronto Raptors and Utah Jazz.
Despite the ability shown and the Spurs’ need for a Tony Parker backup, the Dragon was traded to the Phoenix Suns, were he would learn under the guidance of Steve Nash, one of the best point guards to ever play the game. In his second NBA season, Dragic was averaging a quiet 7.9 points, 2.1 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game; nothing spectacular, but glimpses of excellence were beginning to show. In his two starts, Goran achieved one double-double and an average of 12.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 6.0 assists, showing his desperation to break out of his shell.
In the 2009-10 season his numbers stayed similar to those of the previous season at 7.5 ppg, 2.0 rpg and 2.9 apg; however, in the same season, Dragic totaled four double-doubles with averages of 13.4 points, 7.8 rpg and 7.8 apg, with an assist-to-turnover ratio second only to Chris Paul at a whopping 3.9.
These five double-doubles were spread across two teams, thanks to a mid-season trade which saw Dragic traded from the Suns to the Houston Rockets, joining a rotation of guards which included Kyle Lowry and Johnny Flynn; the Suns received Aaron Brooks in what seems now to be a lopsided trade considering that Aaron has yet to suit up for the Suns in 2011-12 even with the Chinese League capped a few weeks ago with a Stephon Marbury Championship.
Soon, the Dragon would achieve his first NBA career triple-double with an 11-point, 11-rebound, 11-assist outing against the Minnesota Timberwolves in a blowout win for the Rockets.
This season, Dragic’s numbers have continued to improve; his 11.3 ppg, 2.5 rbg and 5.1 apg across 61 games may not stand out, but since the loss of Kyle Lowry and in 23 starts Dragic has averaged an astounding 18.2 points per game, 3.5 rebounds and 8.4 assists, notching six double-doubles and improving his shooting percentages to nearly 50-40-90 levels. As a starter he has an average of 2.81 assists per turnover, comparable to All-Stars such as Tony Parker, CP3, and his mentor Steve Nash. Dragic also added an NBA Western Conference Player of the Week to his ever improving CV.
While what seemed like the whole universe settled on Linsanity and drew comparisons to Steve Nash, in my opinion Goran Dragic has put himself up into consideration for those comparisons.
If you go and watch Goran Dragic highlights on YouTube, don’t be surprised by his precise behind the back passes, perfectly placed lobs and dishes that make you think they come from a guy named Ricky.
Goran Dragic is possibly the second-best guard born in the 1980s to come out of Europe – behind Tony Parker – but with just three years of NBA experience under his belt, expect Dragic to be dominating for some time yet.
When Lowry went down with an injury, it seemed the Rockets season and hopes for the playoffs were over. Instead, Dragic has led the way as the Rockets continue to battle for the final playoff position – how fitting that the battle be with Steve Nash’s Suns.
Sam Chadwick is the co-head coach of the Solent Kestrels U14 basketball team, along with dividing the remainder of his time among an assistant quantity surveyor job, university studies and sportswriting. Chadwick is now a contributor at BBLfans.com, and you can follow him on Twitter at @chadwick9.