Goran Dragic's performance at the recently concluded 2017 FIBA Eurobasket tournament has got the Heat fans excited. Dragic led the Slovenian national team to a 93-85 win over Serbia in the 2017 FIBA Eurobasket finals.
The Dragon shot 12-22 from the field, grabbed 7 rebounds, issued 3 assists and picked up two steals while scoring 35 points in the finals. 20 of his points came in the second quarter where Slovenia erased a two-point first quarter deficit and established a nine-point cushion at the half.
Dragic's 35 points in the finals was the highest by any player at the tournament and the most ever by a Slovenian player in the history of the Eurobasket. Dragic finished the tournament with averages of 22.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game. He was named as the tournament MVP following Slovenia's first ever European basketball title.
Actually, the Dragon’s magical performance at the 2017 FIBA Eurobasket was just a continuation of his stellar play during the 2016-17 NBA season. The Dragon averaged 20.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game for the Miami Heat. His 20.3 scoring average tied a career high while his per 36 minutes scoring of 21.7 was the best of his career.
Going To South Beach
Last season was also just the second 20 point scoring year of Goran Dragic’s NBA career. The last time he achieved that feat was during the 2013-14 season when he was named as the NBA's Most Improved Player and when he made the All-NBA third team. But that was in Phoenix. Dragic has since been traded to the Miami Heat. And life in South Beach hasn’t always been a bed of roses.
Dragic struggled to play along with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in his first two seasons with the Heat. But then even after Wade departed via free agency and Bosh missing the entire season with medical issues, Dragic and the Heat didn't have a good start to the 2016-17 campaign. For a while, it appeared that Goran Dragic may be on the move again, but the Heat turned their season around.
After owning the second-worst record in the league at 11-30 on January 14th, the Heat stormed back in the team standings. Behind Dragic, Waiters and Hassan Whiteside, Miami finished the season with an even 41-41 record, tying the Chicago Bulls for 8th best in the Eastern Conference. The Cinderella run would end there though as the Bulls grabbed the final playoff spot in the East by virtue of owning the tiebreaker against the Heat.
Despite that heartbreaking setback, Miami became the first ever NBA team to finish with a .500 winning mark after going 19 under during the season and the fourth team in NBA history to win 30 games during the second half of the season. A 13-game winning streak helped Miami finish strong with only the Golden State Warriors having a better record than them since January 14, 2017.
Bounce Back Year
The Heat missed the playoffs for the second time in three years but still there were a lot of positives for them. Most important of all, they finally found the winning formula they had been searching for ever since they got Goran Dragic. With Dragic finally realizing his potential on offense, the Heat started winning games. Unfortunately, they came up short by one game last season.
But with the Eastern conference weakened by offseason moves, the Miami Heat have a good shot at redemption. They added forward Kelly Olynyk from free agency to bolster their frontline and re-signed Dion Waiters who had a breakout season in 2016-17. With Hassan Whiteside continuing to develop and Goran Dragic coming off an MVP performance, the Heat may indeed be ready for a bounce-back year.
Not many are expecting Miami to go all the way through. The Heat are a +10000 ( taken from Betway ) long shot to win the title or so the oddsmakers say. But if Slovenia slayed the mighty Spanish team in the semifinals of the 2017 FIBA Eurobasket, then it's possible that Goran Dragic and the Heat can defy the odds.
References & Sources:
1) NBA: Official Website - National Basketball Association
2) FIBA: Basketball stats and scores
3) Betway: Sports betting odds & Scores