The Miami Heat’s first major domino of free agency fell Wednesday morning, with Heat and guard Goran Dragic agreeing to a five-year, $90 million deal to keep the Slovenian Slasher in Miami. Dragic averaged 16.6 points and 5.3 assists in 26 games with the Heat last year after coming over from the Phoenix Suns in a trade. From the looks of it, Dragic didn’t even meet with other teams, which signifies how in-tune and swift Dragic and the Heat were in negotiations.
Dragic, 29, represents the best point guard the Heat have had since Tim Hardaway, and after trading potentially valuable future first-rounders for him, the Heat couldn’t afford to lose him to free agency. Dragic running the pick-and-pop with Chris Bosh and pick-and-roll with Hassan Whiteside could be absolutely lethal, especially if Miami plays faster next year with a full offseason and training camp for the core to get acquainted with each other. Remember, Miami ranked 29th in the NBA in pace last year.
Dragic’s calling card is attacking the basket, where he’s the NBA’s best among point guards. Last season, Dragic converted 69.9 percent of his shots inside of six feet, first among guards, third among non-big men (behind James Johnson and LeBron James) and 10th overall in the NBA among players with 200 attempts. Dragic’s ability to get to the rack and finish isn’t only elite, it draws defenders defenders in, which opens up kickouts.
The only thing up in the air is the synergy between him and Dwyane Wade, who’s still in contract negotiations with the Heat — and Dragic even tried to give an assist in that area as well:
Before agreeing to a new deal with the Heat, Goran Dragic asked Pat Riley how he could be flexible to help them re-sign DWade
— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) July 1, 2015
Dragic certainly helped out, taking roughly $18 million less (over the life of the deal) than a full max. Wade and the Heat have been discussing a new contract all day:
Wade believed to be mulling at least 2 Heat proposals tonight. One at/near max, allows for 2016 free agency. 2nd for multiple yrs/lower avg.
— Michael Wallace (@MyMikeCheck) July 1, 2015
There have been some contentious negotiations between Wade and the Heat over the last few weeks, but while the hard-ball stance that Wade has taken against the Heat makes sense in principle, it’s unclear how he or anyone thought he had much leverage. The Heat offer a combination of talent, coaching, contention, organizational prestige and — most importantly to him at this stage of his career — money that nobody else can match on the open market.
Sure, Wade could win in Cleveland with LeBron James, but would his way of sticking it to Miami for reportedly lowballing him early in negotiations be to leave for Cleveland for the mini-MLE? The Lakers or Knicks could offer Wade an abundance of cash if they’re desperate enough to make a splash after striking out on the top-tier free agents (again), but why would Wade want to share a backcourt with Kobe Bryant and struggle in the West, or be the second fiddle to Carmelo Anthony for a fringe playoff team in New York?
With all this taken into account, it seems that the Heat are on the verge of bringing back their talented, efficient backcourt. In Dragic, Wade, Luol Deng, Bosh and Whiteside, the Heat have one of the most talented starting fives on the NBA. Assuming the Wade chip falls next, it’ll be on Miami to add more shooting to its bench. Justise Winslow adds youth, athleticism, and a solid three-point stroke, and if healthy (or even on the roster), Josh McRoberts can spread the floor and make plays off the bounce from the 4 spot. If the Heat can add more shooters off the bench, this team can be extremely dangerous next season.