When it comes to driving to the hoop, only the Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas does it more frequently (13.1 times per game) than the Heat’s Goran Dragic (12.7 times per game).
Attacking and finishing at the rim is what makes Thomas, an All-Star, and Dragic among the best point guards in the league. Only Dragic doesn’t get to the free throw line nearly as much as other rim attackers do.
Getting foul calls to go his way has been a problem for Dragic in the past and still continues to be this season – especially when you consider Thomas gets to the line 3.2 times per game on drives and Dragic only gets there 1.5 times (there’s also another 26 players who average more trips to the free throw line on fewer drives per game than Dragic).
Still, Dragic, 30, has found a way to double his overall trips to the free throw line from 2.3 attempts per game last season to 5.0 per game this season. And there’s a reason for it coach Erik Spoelstra said: Dragic’s drastically improved three-point shooting (44 percent). A season ago, Dragic shot 31.2 percent from three.
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“I think he has that opportunity way more this year because teams are picking him up further [away from the basket] because of the threat of the long ball,” Spoelstra said Wednesday before the Heat took on the Rockets.
“He’s making [the three] at a higher clip and when you give him the open look you’re going to pay for it. That was always the game plan against Goran, keep him out of the paint, give him the three. That game plan is changing this year for teams. He has an opportunity now to get that play that James Harden and players that make you guard them out there have.”
Dragic is also mastering the art of getting to the free throw line for more than just two shots. Over his last three games, he’s been fouled shooting behind the three-point line four times.
Dragic said it’s something he picked up from watching film.
“Now that I'm shooting the three well everybody is trying to bully me, go over the screens,” he said. “As soon as I feel that contact I just stretch up and usually it's a foul.
“I’m more aggressive. Last year I didn’t get a lot of calls on my shooting though. I didn’t pump fake as much this year. Maybe it’s because of that.”
The Heat rank second only to the Brooklyn Nets in drives to the basket (34.9 per game), but rank 15th in trips to the line on drives (5.9) and 25th overall on free throw attempts per game (21.4). Miami has been the worst free throw shooting team in the league all season (69.3 percent).
Still, Spoelstra likes the Heat’s overall aggressive approach and wants it to continue.
“Our identity all year long was to be an aggressive attacking team and that’s when we are at our best,” he said. “When you’re aggressive and doing it by sharing the ball you tend to get defenses out of position, and able to get to the line.
“All season long we’ve been working on our free throw shooting. That’s all I ask. It doesn’t guarantee anything.”