Is Goran Dragic Worth the Price for the Miami Heat?
The Miami Heat are back.
Not those Miami Heat, but the team is gearing up for a run at the Eastern Conference crown.
Dragic, 29 years old, got a contract that mirrors Kyrie Irving's deal (also five years and $90 million, according to Spotrac) and rivals that of Derrick Rose (five years, $94 million) and John Wall (five years, $85 million).
Is the Slovenian point guard really worth that much?
Misused in Phoenix
Dragic was one of the biggest All-Star snubs in recent history in 2013-14, when he averaged 20.3 points and 5.9 assists while maintaining an Effective Field Goal percentage (eFG%) of 56.1%.
Dragic's scoring was marginally better per-36 minutes with the Suns (17.5 points) than with the Heat (17.2), but he averaged more than a full assist in Miami per 36 minutes (5.5 compared to 4.4). However, his Assist Percentage (the percentage of teammate field goals on which he assisted) rocketed from 20.2% to 27.8% with the Heat, according to Basketball Reference.
The bump in Assist Percentage was a result of switching back to his natural point guard position. Only 7% of Dragic's minutes with Phoenix came at the point but 58% in Miami were at the head of the offense, per Basketball Reference.
But do these marks seriously warrant the same type of deal that Kyrie, Rose, and Wall have?
During the past two seasons, Dragic has secured 17.1 Win Shares, the same number as Irving, which ties for sixth in the NBA among guards.
Here are the top nine guards in terms of Win Shares during the past two seasons, with Rose tacked on to make an even 10. The list is sorted by our own nERD metric, which indicates how many wins above or below .500 a team could expect to be with that given player as a starter based on his efficiency.
Yes, Dragic is near the bottom of the list, but he's entrenched by the three other point guards with similar contracts, though you can't truly include Rose in the comparison because of how inefficient he has played during his time on the court in the past two seasons.
Dragic notched a nERD of 9.7 last year, which ranked him 14th in the NBA, regardless of position. He was fifth among guards behind Chris Paul (14.7), James Harden (14.7), Stephen Curry (14.6), and Kyle Lowry (10.3).
Among the 10 guards above, again those are the top nine guards in terms of Win Shares from 2013-14 and 2014-15 plus Rose, Dragic ranks fourth in Offensive Rating (116) but also last in Defensive Rating (109).
He's also last in Assist Percentage (25.5%) but last in Usage Rate (23.2%) as well. That Assist Percentage was decimated in the early portion of 2014-15, as his number in the three years prior has been 32.0%, which would have ranked fifth among the 10.
Dragic isn't yet a household name, but based on a close look at the numbers, his contract is justified. His marks compare well to guards with similar deals, even budding superstars in Irving and Wall.
Dragic could have demanded upwards of $100 million based on his situation but put the team first. Now free to run the run point for Miami, that same team-first mentality will show up in his assist rate, and the Heat will have a cornerstone point guard for the first time in a long time.