Phoenix Suns: 7 Reasons Goran Dragic Will Exceed Expectations Next Season
Goran Dragic has some big shoes to fill.
Dragic has the task of making Phoenix Suns fans forget the memories of one of the greatest players to ever wear a Suns jersey, Steve Nash.
Nash, a two-time MVP, ran the point for the last eight years in Phoenix and was the catalyst during the golden age of Suns basketball.
Dragic knows how important Nash was in Phoenix, mostly because he has played the majority of his NBA career in the Suns Franchise.
The Suns sent Dragic away in a trade two seasons ago for Aaron Brooks, and is now making his return to the desert under a new set of circumstances.
Dragic now has a chance to return to the franchise where he was once the understudy to Nash, but now as the No.1 point guard.
There is a lot of pressure on Dragic to perform well during the 2012-13 season as the Suns usher in a new era.
However, Suns fans may end up being pleasantly surprised by the Slovenian point guard.
Here are seven reasons why Dragic will exceed expectations in his first year as the Suns' starting point guard.
When Goran Dragic was backing up Steve Nash, he was simply trying to manage the game and not make any glaring mistakes.
Dragic being traded to the Rockets may have been the best possible situation not only for Dragic, but for the Suns as well.
"When I went to Houston I got a lot of opportunity, I was playing 30-35 minutes as a starter,'' Dragic said in a Sports Illustrated interview.
"My confidence went way up. I was not rushing my shots. I was just patient to try and run the team. I think that is the main reason that I am a different player than I was before, because I got opportunity. I don't have any hard feelings for this organization because I left. I think that was good for me to show a lot of people what I can do and I'm really happy to be back.''
The Suns now get a point guard with starting experience, who will be confident enough to lead the team in clutch situations.
Better Basketball IQ and Scoring Ability
Goran Dragic was a good backup during his time in Phoenix, but when given Kyle Lowry went down with an injury in Houston, Dragic thrived in a starting role.
Dragic started 28 games last season. In the games he started Dragic averaged 18 points, 8.4 assists and 1.82 steals per game.
It takes time for young players to mature in the NBA and even longer at the point guard position. Suns head coach Alvin Gentry has seen Dragic take huge strides as a floor marshal.
"You've got to understand that it is the most difficult position in the league to play, so the maturation process takes a little longer sometimes for that position,'' said Gentry. "You look around the league, some of the guys it takes two, three, four years before the confidence is there and just the ability to verbally run a team. I think Goran has made a tremendous jump in that area.''
The time Dragic spent as a starter in Houston will prove to be invaluable. Dragic will not make the mistakes he made during his last run in the orange and purple. He is now the new and improved Goran Dragic.
He's Now the Teacher, Not the Student
Goran Dragic was mentored by one of the best point guards in history when he played behind Steve Nash.
In a Star Wars-like situation, Dragic now the master, not the apprentice.
In a Sports Illustrated interview Dragic said Nash always told him, "`Kid, just wait for your opportunity. You're going to have one or two opportunities and you have to take advantage of that.'''
Dragic will now mentor rookie first-round pick, Kendall Marshall.
While Dragic will be expected to perform on the court, what may be most valuable is his experience.
Dragic will pass down what he learned from Nash to Marshall, and hopefully develop the North Carolina alumni into a solid second option for the Suns at point guard spot.
Not all contributions can be measured through a box score.
Last year Goran Dragic ranked 12th in steals among point guards with 1.3 per game.
Before last season he never averaged more than 0.8 per game.
A defensive presence at the point guard position is something Suns fans have not seen for a while. Steve Nash was great on the offensive end, but was clearly a liability defensively.
In a division where the Suns will see Nash, Chris Paul and Stephen Curry, defense will be essential to the team's success.
Dragic will provide a healthy dose of pressure on the oppositions guards and hopefully develop his defensive prowess even further.
New Number, New Mindset
Goron Dragic wore No. 2 on his jersey during his time behind Steve Nash.
He will now be bearing the No. 1 to signify that he is the starter.
"I'm a new guy now,'' Dragic said. "I'm a different player, a different person from when I was here and I want to have a fresh start here. That's why I take a different number, No. 1. I think that's a good number for me."
While a number change is not a huge deal, what it symbolizes does.
The offense will go as Dragic goes now, and he is keenly aware of that. Expect Dragic to thrive in his first full year as a starter.
Chemistry with Luis Scola
The move back to Phoenix became even sweeter for Goron Dragic when he found out the Suns acquired former Rockets forward Luis Scola.
Scola and Dragic were teammates in Houston, and he was ecstatic to find up they would be teaming up in Phoenix once again.
“I’ve known Scola since I played with him when I was 17 years old in Spain,” Dragic said. “We were playing together then, and more recently we played together in Houston. He has a lot of experience, and I think that he’s a great fit for our team.”
With their history as teammates, expect to see good chemistry between Dragic and Scola. This should lead to easy baskets down low and in transition, like in the play featured in the video of this slide.
Dragic's Got Some Tricks Up His Sleeve
Suns fans may remember when Jamaal Tinsley tried to show up Goran Dragic by dribbling between his legs for a score in 2009.
Dragic did not forget what Tinsley did, and later in the game went between Tinsley's legs for an easy bucket.
Dragic has some great hands, and uses his skills with the ball to create easy shots and open passing lanes.
While fans can expect Dragic to do the basic things like hitting open three pointers (33.7 percent last year), shoot well from the line (80.5 percent) and distribute the ball (5.3 per game), Dragic will also make some very athletic plays that will be Sportscenter Top 10 worthy.
Dragic will deliver in a big way for the Suns during the 2012-13 season. Expect to see more and more No. 1 jerseys around US Airways Center as the season progresses.
"I was a lost kid from Europe,'' Dragic said. "I didn't speak English so well. It was a lot of things. But now everything's different.''
How do you think Goran Dragic will do in his first full year as a starter? Will he exceed expectations, or be a disappointment? Let us know in the comments below!
Follow me on Twitter: @john_degroote
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!