Barry Jackson

Dragic producing one of best seasons ever by Heat point guard

Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (7) and forward Willie Reed (35) celebrate after Reed scores in the second half as the Miami Heat host the Philadelphia 76ers at the American Airlines Arena on Sat., Feb. 4, 2017.
Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (7) and forward Willie Reed (35) celebrate after Reed scores in the second half as the Miami Heat host the Philadelphia 76ers at the American Airlines Arena on Sat., Feb. 4, 2017. adiaz@miamiherald.com

As Goran Dragic keeps tossing in three-pointers with the ease of uncontested layups, and lowering his shoulder and driving to the basket with razor-sharp efficiency, this much is clear:

In the 29th year of the franchise, Dragic’s 2016-17 season belongs in the conversation of best seasons ever by a Heat point guard.

Dragic has been exemplary during this 12-game winning streak, averaging 23.1 points and shooting 56.3 percent overall and an absurd 56.2 percent on threes (27 for 48).

“He’s been absolutely amazing,” forward Udonis Haslem said.

And with the Heat looking to push its winning streak to 13 at Brooklyn on Friday, consider what Dragic is doing:

• Aside from Mike Bibby’s 22-game stint in 2010-11, when he shot 45.5 percent on threes, no Heat point guard has ever shot threes more accurately over a season than Dragic, who’s at 44.3 percent. That three-point percentage ranks second in the league, behind Washington’s Otto Porter.

• Dragic’s 48.2 overall shooting percentage is tied with Sacramento’s Darren Collison for the NBA lead among point guards and behind only Portland’s C.J. McCollum (48.8) among all guards.

• What’s more, Dragic’s 20.0 scoring average ranks second for any Heat point guard over a full season, behind only Tim Hardaway’s 20.3 average in 1996-97.

A strong case can be made that Hardaway’s brilliant work that season – the scoring and clutch threes, coupled with an 8.6 assist average – stands as the best season by a point guard in Heat history, partly because Hardaway and Alonzo Mourning led Miami to a 61-21 record and the franchise’s first Eastern Conference Finals appearance.

But aside from that season -- which was Hardaway’s first full season with Miami after a midseason trade the previous one -- what Dragic is doing wouldn’t take a back seat, statistically, to any other full season by a Heat point guard.

That’s impressive considering Hardaway played 5 1/2 years in Miami and considering the distinguished point guards who have donned Heat jerseys, from past-their-prime-at-the-time Gary Payton and Rod Strickland, to Jason Williams, to Dwyane Wade, who started at point guard in his first season with the Heat before shifting to shooting guard.

As a rookie, Wade averaged 16.5 points, 4.5 assists and shot 46.5 percent from the field and 30.2 percent on threes.

Dragic’s numbers top all of those, including his 6.5 assist average.

Haslem, who joined the Heat with Wade in 2003, said Dragic’s season is unequivocally the best by a Heat point guard since Wade.

“I can't remember anybody shooting the ball like that,” Haslem said. “He's operating on all cylinders right now.”

Even after missing his only two three-pointers on Wednesday against Milwaukee, Dragic has made 13 of his last 18.

At 44.3 percent, he has distance to make up to crack the top three three-point shooting seasons in Heat history: Jon Sundvold’s 52.2 in 1988-89, Jason Kapono’s 51.4 in 2006-07 and Rasual Butler’s 46.3 in 2003-04.

"Name a starting PG with a better percentage from three this season than Goran Dragic. Put him in the 3-point contest,” Hassan Whiteside tweeted earlier this week.

But Dragic’s excellence goes far beyond three-point artistry. He’s had 24 assists in the past three games.

"His confidence level has grown," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "But his game has also improved now. The growth in his game --- it's tremendous player development and expanding his off-the-dribble game."

Guard Wayne Ellington notes that “some point guards are more scoring point guards and some want to get guys involved more. Goran has done a really good job for our team balancing it. He picks and chooses his spots where he wants to attack and be aggressive and getting to the basket or scoring for himself and he gets other guys involved, too.

“I just love how much of a warrior Goran is. He's a great teammate. I love that he's such an attacker.”

So ask Spoelstra if Dragic is giving the Heat its best point guard work in a long time, he says simply: “If it continues to translate to wins, I wouldn’t argue that.”

This is my third Heat post in the past two hours. For the others, including a look at why Heat players appreciate Pat Riley, Riley’s message to fans, a player with another team who interests the Heat, Tyler Johnson’s explanation for his shooting slump and more, please click here on my column/blog page.

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