How Does Goran Dragic’s Injury Impact the Heat?

    The Heat will be without their starting point guard for a while. Goran Dragic is reportedly expected to miss two months due to knee surgery, according to

    December 19, 2018

    The Heat will be without their starting point guard for a while.

    Goran Dragic is reportedly expected to miss two months due to knee surgery, according to multiple media reports. Dragic was averaging 15.3 points and 4.9 assists per game. He is expected to return around the All-Star break in February.

    Miami will have to reshuffle its rotation to account for Dragic’s absence, but the Heat might not miss their guard as much as one would think. Dragic isn’t having a great year by his standards and he certainly isn’t playing at an All-Star level Miami expected of him when giving him a five-year, $90 million deal in 2015.

    Dragic was showing signs of decline heading into this season, but his knee problems caused him to miss 12 of Miami’s last 14 contests. Luckily for the Heat, they should be able to stay afloat until Dragic returns.

    Miami has one of the deepest rotations in the league, with 12 players averaging more than 15 minutes per game. Eight of those players averaging more than 24 minutes per game. Head Coach Erik Spoelstra will have plenty of options to plug in for Dragic as the guard recovers.

    The most likely scenario involves Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington absorbing Dragic’s minutes. The Heat will also give Bam Adebayo some additional run as a small-ball center. Because Miami has so many ball handlers, Dragic’s distribution skills won’t be missed as much. His tempo, however, will be difficult to replicate.

    The Heat ranked 24th in pace during the 14 games, according to NBA.com/stats. They were 11th in the league during the first 15 games, getting almost three additional possessions per game. Pace hasn’t impacted Miami’s record; the Heat went 6-9 in their first 15 contests and are 7-7 in their last 14. However, their offense and net rating were two points and one point worse, respectively, with Dragic out.

    Because the Heat have already had time to adjust to Dragic’s absence, there’s reason to believe they’ll be more efficient in the coming months. If the formula doesn’t work, Spoelstra will have to attempt to revert back to an up-tempo system. This means more opportunities for Adebayo, who is more mobile than Hassan Whiteside. Miami’s deeper rotation will also work in its favor should it decide to add pace.

    The Heat are a game back of the final playoff spot in the Eastern conference as of Dec. 19, with three games separating the seventh and 10th place. Assuming Dragic will return after the All-Star break, Miami will play 27 additional games without him. Seven of those games are against Cleveland, Chicago, New York and Washington. The Heat will go into the break on a five-game road trip, but they’ve been 8-7 away from Miami this year. The schedule is manageable to the point where Dragic’s absence won’t move the needle.

    On the other side, this surgery impacts Dragic significantly. He has a $19 million player option for next season and was almost certainly looking to cash one final big contract as he enters his mid-30s. The Heat don’t have much salary committed beyond 2020-21 and this could serve as a trial run for how the team functions without Dragic. Miami could bring Dragic back, but almost certainly not at the price they paid previously.

    Depending on how the rest of the season plays out, Dragic could opt in to his contract for next season in an effort to maximize his value. For now, Miami will continue to grind out games without its starting point guard.

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