Miami Heat

As Goran Dragic elevates his game, his trade value goes up as well

Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic goes to the basket against Knicks' Kristaps Porzingis (left) and Carmelo Anthony in the first quarter of the Miami Heat and New York Knicks game at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Tues., Dec. 6, 2016.
Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic goes to the basket against Knicks' Kristaps Porzingis (left) and Carmelo Anthony in the first quarter of the Miami Heat and New York Knicks game at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Tues., Dec. 6, 2016. pportal@miamiherald.com

Goran Dragic doesn’t spend a lot of time paying attention to the NBA’s rumor mill.

He’s got two young children, a wife and too much going on with the Miami Heat to panic when his name gets tossed around in potential trades.

But if Pat Riley is listening, he should know this: Dragic, 30, doesn’t want to go anywhere. “I love Miami,” he told the Miami Herald during the Heat’s last road trip. “And I want to stay here.”

As the Heat (9-19) continues to struggle in the post-Dwyane Wade-Chris Bosh era, Dragic’s name could end up popping up a lot more in those trade rumors —especially because of the way he’s playing lately. Since returning to the lineup on Nov. 28, Dragic has averaged 22.6 points (21st in the league), 7.8 assists (8th), 4.4 rebounds, one steal and has shot 48.3 percent from the field over his last 12 games.

For the season, he’s averaging 19.1 points and 6.7 assists and shooting 41 percent from three-point range — numbers similar to his 2014 season in Phoenix when he earned All-NBA third-team honors.

Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic had 31 points and seven assists in Sunday's loss to the Celtics on Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016.

“I feel like I’m back — back to my old days,” Dragic said Monday of his red-hot three-point shooting. “I feel like when I’m aggressive I’m at my best. I already felt comfortable last year in the playoffs after the Charlotte game. I started to feel really well. This summer helped a lot. I came better prepared. Probably, I’m in the best shape of my life physically.”

Sunday’s 31-point effort in a loss to the Boston Celtics was Dragic’s second game of the season in which he scored 30 or more points. He had a season-high 34 points in a win over the Washington Wizards on Dec. 12.

Wayne Ellington (right hamstring strain) and Rodney McGruder (sprained left ankle) are latest Heat injuries says Coach Spoelstra on Monday, Dec. 19, 2016.

There are only seven other players in the league averaging at least 19 points and six assists per game: James Harden (27.7 points, 11.8 assists), Russell Westbrook (30.4, 11), John Wall (23.9, 9.7), LeBron James (25, 9), Kyle Lowry (21.2, 7.4), Isaiah Thomas (25.9, 6), and Giannis Antetokounmpo (22.6, 6).

So why might the Heat trade Dragic?

Riley said last month Miami he was looking to add another draft pick if possible, and if any player on the roster could net a first rounder — maybe two — it’s Dragic, who could elevate a team chasing Golden State or Cleveland as a second or third option.

The Heat owned the seventh-worst record in the league after Sunday’s loss to the Celtics.

Three of the top four projected picks in next June’s draft, according to DraftExpress.com are point guards Washington’s Markelle Fultz, N.C. State’s Dennis Smith ( and UCLA’s Lonzo Ball. It’s a very strong draft overall for guards, with Kentucky combo guard Malik Monk ranking fifth among prospects along with Wildcats freshman point guard De’Aron Fox, who’s projected to go 10th overall.

Why trading Dragic might not make a lot of sense for the Heat?

His 2019-20 season salary makes him awfully affordable and cap friendly.

This season, Dragic is earning the eighth-highest salary in the league among point guards at $15.89 million. Only Memphis’ Mike Conley ($26.5 million), Harden ($26.5), Westbrook ($26.5), Portland’s Damian Lillard ($24.3M), the Clippers’ Chris Paul ($22.8), New York’s Derrick Rose ($21.3) and Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving ($17.6) earn more.

But Dragic will drop further down that list – even when his salary jumps to $17 million next season – when two-time league MVP Stephen Curry and two-time All-Star Kyle Lowry get big raises this summer.

Miami Heat guard Wayne Ellington says he doesn't expect hamstring to keep him out long Monday, Dec. 19, 2016.

Dragic, meanwhile, is getting more and more comfortable in the Heat’s offense and the team could benefit by addressing another position like power forward or shooting guard in free agency once it recoups the cap space from Bosh.

“I love the way he’s competing right now and he’s doing it as a two-way player,” coach Erik Spoelstra said after Dragic’s season-high 34-point performance against the Wizards. “So it’s not like he’s making all these plays for us offensively and resting on the other end. He’s really working at it on both ends of the court.”

Defensively, Dragic is holding the players he’s guarding to 42.7 percent shooting or 2.1 percent below their average, 35th among the 139 guards in the league who have defended at least five shots per game. The offensive improvement of late is out of necessity with the Heat needing him to be more aggressive with Dion Waiters out.

Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic had 21 points and 11 assists in the Miami Heat's 102-98 loss to the LA Clippers Friday night, Dec. 17, 2016, in Miami.

“Part of it is that Dion is more of an isolation player so sometimes we get caught standing,” forward Justise Winslow said. “But since Dion has been out, a lot of the ball handling duties have been on Goran. He’s thrived with that.

“But Goran has been great in transition like always and he’s really taking on that leadership role at the point guard position. Last year he was the point guard, but D-Wade and CB kind of held that leadership role. So he’s doing a lot more talking behind the scenes in the locker room and in the huddles that you guys don’t get to see. He’s been a great leader for us at that point guard position so far.”

Tuesday: Magic at Heat

When/where: 7:30 p.m.; AmericanAirlines Arena.

TV/radio: SUN; WAXY 790, WAQI 710 (Spanish).

Series: Heat leads 62-46,

Scouting report: Guard Wayne Ellington (mild right hamstring strain) will miss his second game in a row.

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