The Miami Heat return to the court for the start of training camp on Sept. 26. Today, we start ramping up our coverage with our position-by-position breakdowns. We start with point guard and shift to a different position each day this week.
Goran Dragic, 6-3, 190.
Tyler Johnson, 6-4, 190; Josh Richardson, 6-6, 200; Larry Drew II, 6-2, 180; Derrick Walton Jr., 6-1, 185.
The Heat enter training camp with the same rotation at point guard as the one we saw last season. The position is Dragic’s, the team’s leader and most consistent player last season. Dragic flourished a year ago, leading the Heat – and equaling his career high – with 20.3 points per game and averaging a team-high 5.8 assists. And now he is coming off a storybook summer in which he led his national team, Slovenia, to its first European Basketball championship while being named the tournament’s MVP. The Heat went with a backup by committee behind Dragic last season, using a host of versatile players capable of playing the point. Tyler Johnson played the position more in 2016-17 than he had at any other time in his career and saw an increase across the board in his numbers, including boosting his assists by nearly one a game to 3.2. But Miami has several other players capable of facilitating the offense, including Josh Richardson, who can play any one of three positions, and its most versatile player, James Johnson, who thrived as a point forward. Miami will have two other true point guards on the training camp roster, recently signed Larry Drew II and Derrick Walton Jr., who signed a two-way contract and is expected to spend most of the season with the Heat’s G-League team in Sioux Falls.
What to watch for
A couple of things: Dragic credited his improved play last season to playing internationally the previous summer. He said it prepares him for training camp which then allows him to carry that over into the season. This summer, he started preparing for the European championships in early August and played in nine games with Slovenia, going 9-0. The balancing act will come in training camp which should be no problem. Nobody will be in the kind of playing condition as Dragic so look for coach Erik Spoelstra to use him judiciously throughout camp. Also, it will be interesting to see how Spoelstra handles the backup point guard spot. The Heat have never seen the need to keep a true backup on the roster and, for the most part, have gotten away with that. Tyler Johnson typically replaces Dragic early on but then others slide into the position throughout the game. Although Miami still has room to bring in a couple of players for training camp, it appears as if Miami will use the same philosophy behind Dragic again this season.
Larry Drew II. The depth chart is pretty well set at point guard so the one player with NBA experience to keep an eye on is Drew. The 27-year-old has played in just 10 NBA games but there is something about him the Heat like bringing him back for training camp for the third time. Drew has shown an ability to pass the ball throughout his career setting the G-League single game assist record of 23 in 2014 while playing for Sioux Falls in a game against Rio Grande and establishing the UCLA single-season assist record of 256 as a senior, which was broken this year by Lonzo Ball, who had 274.
Can Dragic, at 31 years old, continue his ascent in a Heat uniform, take it to another level and possibly make a bid for his first All-Star team? The point guard position is the deepest position in the league and Dragic will have a tough time cracking the top six or seven leaguewide. But he was among the most consistent and dependable players at his position last season.