Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic, left, of Slovenia, goes up for a rare right-handed layup (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

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Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic, left, of Slovenia, goes up for a rare right-handed layup (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

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Pool play is over at the FIBA World Championships, sending teams like Iran and Tunisia home and leaving the final 16 to fight for medals.

After 5 games, Goran Dragic is clearly his team's best player. Yet, he's played better against weaker competition (Croatia, Tunisia and Iran) than the strong ones (USA and Brazil).

After the jump, we analyze his tournament so far. The good and the bad. And how he can overcome a very accurate scouting report.

Ha ha - Brett Brown, the coach of the Australians, is a San Antonio Spurs assistant!

As an assistant coach with NBA club San Antonio in last season's Western Conference semi-finals, Brown could only watch as Dragic scored 23 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter of game three as Phoenix launched a furious comeback.

They would win the game for a 3-0 lead and ultimately sweep the series.

"We couldn't stop him," Brown told AAP. "He had 23 points in that period and we had no answer for him.

"The Phoenix Suns ended up sweeping the Spurs and we pride ourselves on defence.

"I have haunting memories of Dragic and all of that."

Goran Dragic has become the face of the Slovenian National Team

Overall per/game stats: 13 pts, 3.8 rebs, 3.6 assists

 

  • Team leader in: minutes, free throw attempts, assists, turnovers and points.
  • Nearly led team in: 2-pt FG % (2nd) and Rebounds (3rd)
Goran's emergence as a key player on his team has coincided with Slovenia's success on the international stage.

Last summer, Slovenia shocked Europe with a 4th-place finish in FIBA Eurobasket 2009. Goran was not the team leader yet, but still contributed 9.2 pts, 2.8 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game. The most notable game was a 4th quarter performance against Ricky Rubio's Spain team in which he spearheaded a huge comeback with 10 pts and 4 steals in that quarter alone. Slovenia ultimately dropped that game in overtime, and then Goran tweaked his knee the very night game, ending his tourney. Scrappy Slovenia ultimately sputtered in the medal round, finishing 4th.

This summer, Goran is the team's best player. Notice I didn't say leader, yet. The team's leader is still 2-time Euroleague MVP Jaka Lakovic. He's an average-sized PG with a huge heart, great shooting stroke and leadership qualities galore. He has led Euro teams into the playoffs year after year, never quite winning the title. Sound familiar?

 

So Goran spends a lot of time playing off the ball, explaining why his rebound totals are higher than his assists, year over year. The team looks good when he's running point, but the Slovenian coach still likes the veteran wiles of Lakovic, despite his diminishing effectiveness. In fact, the coach's affinity for Lakovic led Beno Udrih to leave the team this summer without a promise to start ahead of Lakovic or Dragic. Of course, you can't argue with the coach at this point. Slovenia is 4-1 in this tourney, and Lakovic had this best game in their biggest win (against Brazil, with 20 pts and 5 assists).

Another reason you can't totally rely on Goran in crunch time against good teams yet: the scouting report.

Force him to his right, and he's much less effective.

Teams with the defensive skillset to keep Goran going right (USA and Brazil) held him in check. Even when Slovenia screens his defender on a lefty drive, the opposing big man has been able to switch and show hard, forcing Goran back the other way.

Goran is going to have to figure out a counter-punch to this tactic. Of course, he's not the only person in the league who likes to drive with his strong hand. Kobe's scouting report is much the same, except with the opposite hand. So is Lamar Odom's. And Leandro Barbosa's. And Manu Ginobili's. In fact, very few players can drive effectively with either hand.

One counter-punch to the over-hard-show-on-a-switch tactic is the step-through move. Ginobili developed a dribble-through/step-through move to split the defenders. Once you split them, there's an open court for the strong lefty drive. And once you prove you can do this, their defense has to adjust by closing off the seam. Which means they can't show quite as wide or hard. Which opens up the lefty drive again.

Another counter-punch to forcing him to his right: isolation. Either before or after the switch. Just back up and get the defender in isolation with an open court. Barbosa and Ginobili do this all the time. Dragic and LB took turns doing this against the Spurs, and one of Dragic's top-10 highlights of the year was an isolation drive against the Lakers in the WCF. The downside of this is stagnating the offense. But at least you force the defense to pay for it's tactics.

Finally, a tried-and-true counterpunch to the over-hard show is to swing the ball back to the weak side. If the defense is doubling the pick-n-roll, that means you've got someone left open on the weak side for an easy score. This reduces the PG's "stats", but keeps the offense flowing.

Goran knows this and swings it back to the weak side all the time. And clearly this is working. Slovenia has a very efficient offense, and is 4-1 in the tourney.

The 4-1 record is extremely important to me. Goran is doing this - leading his team across the board in stats - in a winning environment. He's the definition of a PGPFWE.

 

Next Up

Now the round of 16 starts. No more creampuffs (Tunisia and Iran, for example). We'll see if Goran can overcome his scouting report and produce against better teams.

First up is Australia (link to preview). This should be a very winnable game. Slovenia played Australia twice in warmup games this summer, going 1-1. Since then, they've added Lakovic (above) and SF Bostjan Nachbar.

After that, it looks like Goran will be facing the Suns' highest-paid newcomer: Hedo TurkogluTurkey went 5-0 in the preliminary round, winning with a stifling defense. Yes, I just said that. Stifling defense.

Hedo is shooting poorly, but you can't discount the fact that his team is 5-0 and he's contributing to a very effective defense. Hedo may not be a good individual defender, but he's not a defense-killer either.

One of these guys' World Championships will be over by next Wednesday at the latest, in the quarterfinals.

And the other will likely move on to the medal rounds (final 4).

Which will it be?


After a day that saw him play second fiddle in a win over Brazil, Goran Dragic took it upon himself to lead the charge as Slovenia finished pool play with a 65-60 win over lowly Iran. Dragic did his...

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Just roll with me on this for a minute.

I've been struggling in my own mind lately with a notion that I can't seem to articulate very well, so maybe you can either help me out or set me straight.

I am caught up in this notion that I'd rather have a number of PGPFWEs (pretty good players from winning environment) than a single SSFLE (superstar from losing environment).

In order to avoid personal attachments clouding this issue ("but I really LIKE player A so I want him on my team regardless of what you call him!"), I am writing this post without the use of any individual player names.

(Hint: This is a case where the post is intended to instigate discussion more than anything)

Why do I even care about this? I'll tell you.

There's been a lot of comments and posts lately regarding this trade or that trade.

The most heated discussions generally arise from this basic problem.

Some of the BSotS folks would rather have a lot of interchangeable parts, a lot of PGPFWEs, so they can watch Alvin Gentry mix and match to his heart's content. The premise here is that if you have a bunch of smart players, enough difference-making plays will occur during the game that will result in a win.

Other folks would much rather hang their hat on a big name who can make the All-Star team, a guy who can command a double or triple team, a guy who can put the team on his individual shoulders and carry the Suns to the promised land.

Those folks would suggest a trade of 3-4 PGPFWE for a single SSFLE.

Having a superstar is certainly the proven way to go. Of the last 20 championships, 18 of them have been led by a league Top-5 Superstar at the time (Pistons and Celtics the exceptions).

The problem with this latter plan is that those winning superstars are almost never available via trade or free agency at the top of their game. This summer was an exception in Miami, but they haven't proven anything yet. Before that, it was Shaquille O'Neal to LA in the mid 90s, and then the HEAT in 2004. What other SSFWE has been traded or signed in free agency? Let me know if I'm missing something.

So, what kind of superstars ARE readily available via trade, at the peak of their careers? Malcontents already on a max contract. And those whose stats are inflated in a losing environment.

This last group of players I affectionately call the SSFLE (superstar from losing environment).

Lets vote. And talk about it.

(note: saying you'd rather acquire a SSFWE - superstar from winning environment - is NOT an option in this discussion)

Poll
WHAT would you rather have, and WHY?

  486 votes | Results


The Phoenix Suns in the FIBA World Championship just keep on rolling, as Goran Dragic and Slovenia and Hedo Turkoglu and Turkey each won a nail-biter in Wednesday’s action. Turkey’s 79-77 victory...

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]
The Phoenix Suns in the FIBA World Championship just keep on rolling, as Goran Dragic and Slovenia and Hedo Turkoglu and Turkey each won a nail-biter in Wednesday’s action. Turkey’s 79-77 victory...

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]

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