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The Balancing Act Between Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic

Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

Dwyane Wade is a very good basketball player. Goran Dragic is also a very good basketball player. A very good point guard playing alongside a very good shooting guard should logically form, well, a very good backcourt.

However, in today’s NBA, fit means almost as much as talent does. Dragic and Wade are an awkward fit.

Dragic likes to push the pace, probe in the lane for potential passing targets or finish at the basket himself. Wade on the other hand likes to hold the ball, survey the defense and work his mid-range magic with an array of pull-up Js or post-ups.

Via NBA.com, the Dragic-Wade pairing has a net rating of +1.4 this season, which isn’t bad, but it’s pretty underwhelming for players of their talent and collective IQ. To put that into perspective, this duo pairing ranks 12th in the NBA…among starting backcourts, that is.

No disrespect, but do you know how disheartening it was to see these two ranked behind Reggie Jackson/Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Deron Williams/Wesley Matthews? Not fun stuff.

There have been flashes of what the pairing can do when they’re clicking. There was a sequence in the third quarter of the Raptors-Heat game where Dragic attacked off of high P&R, Wade made a hard, smart cut to the basket, received a pass and then quickly lobbed the ball up to Hassan Whiteside for the slam. It was absolutely beautiful to watch:

More often than not, though, we’ve seen Dragic defer to the Heat legend — probably to a fault at this point. Whether Wade has it going or not, there’s a trend of Dragic taking a backseat in the second halves of games:

backcourt usage

Dragic was very tentative to begin the year, but even as we’ve seen him play more aggressively, Wade still beats the drum while Dragic polishes off the sticks.

To be frank, the offense flows a lot better when Dragic does a majority of the ball-handling. When Dragic is able to push the ball and run P&R while Wade works himself open with cuts or coming off pin-downs, the offense is more dangerous:

Possessions like this aren’t ideal:

Via Synergy, Wade is shooting 14-42 in isolation and 19-50 on post-ups this year — “good” for a combined 33-92 (35.9 FG%) mark on what we’ll call “individual plays.” On the other side of the coin, he’s shooting a combined 43-95 (45.3 FG%) on off-ball plays — spot-up jumpers, dribble hand-offs, off-screen scenarios and cuts.

Both Wade and Dragic have been above-average as P&R initiators this season, but Wade’s ability to produce off the ball is even more reason for Dragic to have more control over the offense.

In the short term, there shouldn’t be too much concern about Miami’s backcourt. The fit will probably never be perfect just because they’re both ball-dominant players, and Dragic’s extended three-point slump isn’t necessarily helping matters. As they continue to get used to each other, we should see better on-court synergy between the two.

To a MUCH SMALLER EXTENT, there are some similarities between Dragic/Wade and LeBron/Wade. Much like the LeBron thing played out, Wade will eventually have to hand Dragic the keys to the offense in order for the rest of the roster to be maximized. The Heat have made a rather large investment into Dragic, and with Wade on the back end of his career, the priority this season and moving forward should be to build around Dragic and his style.

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