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What's Wrong With Goran Dragic?

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Nothing is terribly wrong with Goran Dragic, actually. He's putting up decent numbers this season and is actually among the more efficient Rockets on the current roster. He also put Russell Westbrook on his backside.

That said, there's a drop-off from last year's Goran, the feisty lightening rod that we used to know. Something about him is different. To borrow from Jason Friedman, we've seen far too much of his depressing, AutoCorrect-inspired alter ego, Groan Tragic.

Dragic's surroundings have certainly changed. The minute Dragic came to Houston last season, he found himself right at home with the Rockets' pass-heavy, run-heavy, "F**k it, we'll do it live!" second unit. The Dragon doth detest any sort of delay or slow pace (my Old English is a little rough), so naturally Houston's fast pace to contributed to Dragic's nifty season.

This year, under a new head coach, the pace has slowed... a lot. The Rockets are 20th in the league in pace. As a result, Dragic's numbers have slowed as well*:


*Last year's numbers are solely from Dragic's time spent with the Rockets.

On the surface, like I said, there doesn't appear to be a problem. Dragic's points per game are relatively unchanged. But look closer and you'll see some major differences.

Note: Dragic's best games this year came when he was with the first unit in place of an injured Kyle Lowry. That's not where he'll be playing for the majority of the time, meaning the numbers here are a bit skewed.

Three Pointers

The most glaring difference in Dragic's game is his huge decrease in his three-point percentage. I realize it's unrealistic to expect a player to shoot 50 percent from beyond the arc for a season, so a drop-off was expected. But this is more than just a down-to-earth recession. If you couldn't tell, Dragic isn't much of an isolation guy. He's really good on the catch-and-shoot. The numbers back this up: Last season, Dragic shot a whopping 60 percent on catch-and-shoot three-pointers. This year, he's still shooting well in those situations (47 percent, according to Synergy).

Dragic's isolation numbers? They aren't pretty. He's 1 for 7 on pull-ups from behind the arc and is 2-14 in isolation inside the arc. Were it not for his excellence in transition (12 for 17 on the year), Dragic's overall field goal percentage would suffer, too. As it stands, he's shooting about the same from the field as he did last year.


Adjusted Player Efficiency Rating is a creation that is based on John Hollinger's famous formula. I tend to use it more than simple PER because it involves more efficient play-types, such as charges. As you can see, for the season, Dragic's efficiency has taken a big hit. This is evident in his play -- he looks incredibly uncomfortable in the half court and the offense has slowed when he takes the floor.


Percent of Baskets Assisted is a clever stat that speaks for itself. Clearly, Dragic is making far more of his shots on his own under Kevin McHale. Under Rick Adelman, he didn't have to do as much to find an open shot. Which brings us to our conclusion.

To me, there are two factors clearly impacting Dragic's production:

1) He's still getting used to playing under McHale.

As evidenced by Lowry's numbers increase, the point guard is handling far more duties under McHale than under Adelman. Dragic was able to play a lot more off-ball last season, especially with Brad Miller passing in the second unit. Now, he's being forced to run the show and create for himself in the half court and that's simply not his strength. So what could help?

2) Courtney Lee's return will help.

Dragic and Lee form a dynamic backcourt off the bench, as both can shoot from outside and slash to the basket. They're also used to each other's tendencies. Once Dragic gets his running mate back, I suspect the second unit will loosen up and increase the pace.

There's nothing wrong with Goran Dragic. He's no longer in the comfiest spot of his life, so one would expect an adjustment period. Check back with Dragic in March -- hopefully he'll have returned to full form with the added time.