Can Goran Dragic Fill the Steve Nash Void for Phoenix Suns?

Ethan Sherwood StraussNBA Lead WriterSeptember 14, 2012

PHOENIX, AZ - FEBRUARY 09:  Goran Dragic #3 of the Houston Rockets during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on February 9, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Rockets defeated the Suns 96-89. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Goran Dragic once stepped up and filled Steve Nash's shoes—quite dramatically, in fact. It was back in 2010, when the Phoenix Suns were on the cusp of finally getting one over on the San Antonio Spurs. Steve Nash was on the bench, which usually means "the floor" for the balky-backed floor general. He never really had to come back in because Dragic took over the game. 

Dragic killed the slow Spurs on pick-and-rolls to the tune of 23 fourth-quarter points. This was the passing of the torch. A star was born. Goran had arrived.

Not quite. Goran Dragic never had another moment quite like that one. Though fine as a Steve Nash backup, he wasn't the dual threat Steve was. Goran can slash and score. He can also run pick-and-roll, and hit an open man. What he can't do is create passing lanes where none seem possible, or hit shots with astounding regularity. In Phoenix, he was mistake-prone and his shot often missed the mark. It seemed for a while that this Spurs moment was more a mirage than a presage of greatness. 

Off to Houston Dragic went, traded for Aaron Brooks. It was there that he discovered a point guard's game. It was there that he honed his pick-and-roll skills en route to 17.7 points and 8.0 assists per 40 minutes. 

With the Rockets, Goran's game was also helped by improved shooting from various areas of the court. According to Hoopdata, Dragic improved from the season before to last season by 1.6 percent at the rim, 7.2 percent from 3-9 feet, .2 percent from 10-15 feet, and 5.7 percent from 16-23 feet. He shot slightly worse in 2011-12 from three, but improved vastly on his Phoenix numbers from 2010-11. With the Suns, Dragic hit about 27 percent of his threes that year. Last season, he bounced up to nearly 34 percent.

You might surmise that Goran Dragic improved because he was out of Steve Nash's shadow and had his own offense to run. That might not be the whole reason, but it would seem to factor into why Phoenix is happy to have the Slovenian back. 

Suns fans cannot expect another Steve Nash, even if they can be excused for badly wanting one. Nash was possibly the best passing/shooting combo player in basketball history. Dragic cannot simply fill those shoes through hard work and training. 

What Suns fans can and should expect, is a better Goran Dragic than the one who was traded from Phoenix. At age 26, Dragic is in his prime, and more than ready to run his own show. With Luis Scola to run the pick-and-roll with, this should be a fantastic opportunity for Dragic to finally grab the reins. The Suns will not be "good," but it's quite possible that Goran will be.