More photos » Paul Connors - AP
6 months ago: Phoenix Suns guards Goran Dragic, left, of Slovenia, and Steve Nash, right, high-five one another after Dragic scored a field goal against the Golden State Warriors in the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 23, 2010, in Phoenix. Dragic scored 20 points while Nash scored 23 as the Suns won 112-103. (AP Photo/Paul Connors)
Goran's greatest strength is mental toughness. Every time he got shown up by another player on the court (ball stolen, fast-break dunk, between-his-legs dribble-drive, 3-ptr), he would man up and RETURN THE FAVOR, most times on the very next possession. Maybe he looks like Luke Skywalker for a reason - the force is with him.
He is no Steve Nash, and after a failed half-season of trying to be, he's decided just to be Goran Dragic. He has stop-and-go moves, step-back 3-ptrs, drive-and-dish, and that killer instinct.
This season, I anticipate further improvement on defense, more consistent shooting and finishing at the basket.
But if I have one concern, it's the arrival of Hedo Turkoglu and his impact on Goran's aggressiveness.
The Goran and Hedo dynamic
Turkoglu can be great in this offense, I believe, if he's given free reign in some lineups to be the ballhandler. When Hedo is dialed-in, he can be very effective. A game-changer even. But if he's relegated to Frye-like spot-up opportunities, he probably won't openly sulk (especially if the Suns are winning) but he might become a less-effective player. And the Suns need to maximize everyone's play.
Hedo is a 10-year veteran who is most effective with the ball in his hands with an opportunity to create.
Steve Nash is a 2-time MVP who is most effective with the ball in his hands with an opportunity to create.
Goran Dragic is a promising 3rd-year point guard who is most effective with the ball in his hands with an opportunity to create.
Guess who's the odd man out, IF HE ALLOWS IT? Goran.
Remember when Leandro and Goran played together? He would hand off to LB, drift to the corner for spacing, and never see it again. Until Gentry yelled at him to be more aggressive, that is. Will Gentry give him the same commands when the alternate ball-handler is Hedo, instead of LB? Will the ever-humble Goran recede into a shell and try to morph into a spot-up shooter "for the good of the team"? I hope not. I hope Goran is beyond the wallflower stage.
Here's how it can work with 3 primary ballhandlers, 2 of them sharing the court at all times
But then I think of the second unit's MOST effective stretches. And that was when Goran and Grant Hill would take turns with the ball handling, each taking the ball at the opposite high angle of the 3-pt line and working their side of the court. To properly defend an angle pick-n-roll, a defense must commit 3 players to the two designated p-n-r guys on offense. One to cut off the roll, one to defend the pop/outlet pass and one to defend the ballhandler's dribble-drive.
If the defense loaded up to one side, as would inevitably have to happen, the ballhandler would swing the rock quickly to the other side. I can see Goran and Hedo owning this offensive set better than Grant and Goran ever did. Hedo is a master at the angle and side pick-n-rolls. For that matter, I can see Nash and Hedo doing the same when they share the court.
We'll have a veritable pickandrollapalooza.
Of course, you're thinking the Suns without Amare will be shooting blanks on this set. No such thing. The key to good p-n-r is the ballhandler. Now the Suns have 3 of them, with the ability to play 2 at all times. Plus, Warrick is known as a great "roll" guy, and Robin is developing that as well. And don't forget that the PG can be the "roller" while the other can "pop" a jump shot. Frye does this well, as does Warrick (surprised?), and all 3 ballhandlers are good at getting to the basket for points.
Chemistry, Trust and Mutual Respect
It all depends on how well these guys mesh together. Emotionally, for the most part. If someone (Hedo, Steve or Goran) gets too greedy and stops sharing the ball, then resentment will grow and/or one of them will shrink into the background. This is NOT a good use of the team's talents, and it's Gentry's ultimate reponsibility to make sure this doesn't happen.
A year from now, I don't want to see a story headline like 'What happened to Goran?' or 'Stop blaming Hedo'.