Could Goran Dragic be the Heat’s point guard of the present and future?

Goran Dragic has been in attack mode all season for the Heat and his numbers are rise. (AP Photo)
Goran Dragic has been in attack mode all season for the Heat and his numbers are on the rise. (AP Photo)

MIAMI – Erik Spoelstra has a vision of his ultra-competitive point guard from the Heat’s last road trip out West.

Spoelstra recalls seeing 30-year-old Goran Dragic sitting by his locker following a close win at Utah with both feet in a bucket of ice and ice applied to both knees, his elbow and his shoulder.

“I call it the vision of a warrior,” Spoelstra said. “He was just a body of ice. He gave everything to that game, with no guarantees. We won by one and you give yourself to competition – your heart and soul – and that’s what Goran does. He puts it all out there.”

Goran Dragic is getting better with age, at least when it comes to his time with the Miami Heat. Not only are Dragic’s numbers up across the board in his second full season in Miami, but the last 11 games he has been Miami’s best player on the floor along with being its leader.

Dragic is averaging 21.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 7.8 assists in the last 11 games, or since returning from a two-game absence because of a strained left elbow. He is shooting .474 from the floor and .860 percent from the line.

In his first 11 games he averaged 15.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 5.6 points while shooting .418 from the floor and .762 from the line.

Included in this recent stretch is his Heat high of 34 points Monday in a victory over Washington. He had 21 points and 11 assists in Friday’s loss to the Clippers.

“We tried to go small, we tried to go big and we switched a lot and he was just in attack mode and he was making jump shots,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said.

Dragic has taken over as Miami’s (9-18) scoring leader with 18.5 points per game, recently passing Hassan Whiteside. He also enters tonight’s 6 p.m. home game against Boston (14-12) leading the Heat with 6.7 assists.

He joins John Wall, LeBron James and Kyle Lowry as the only players averaging at least 18 points, 6.5 assists and shooting 45 percent.

“Right now I’m aggressive,” Dragic said. “I feel like I’m at the best of my game, passing, scoring. … just try to get the best available shot at that time.”

Dragic is an attacking point guard who would nicely fit into Dwyane Wade’s “fall down 7 times get up 8” commercial from back in the day. But at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, he does not fit that mold.

“Goran is one of the most unique players I’ve been around,” Spoelstra said. “For somebody who’s not the most physically imposing player, he is extremely aggressive and physical.

“He finds a way to live in the paint and the way he’s shooting the ball now with confidence, it makes it tough.”

[Clippers coach Doc Rivers on Whiteside-Jordan matchup: ‘This wasn’t Ali-Frazier’]

[Erik Spoelstra remembers getting to know Craig Sager as young NBA scout]

In this day and age of players looking to take mini-vacations during the season, Dragic credits his improved play to taking off less time.

Dragic played much of the summer with his Slovenia national team preparing for and playing in the FIBA EuroBasket 2017 Qualifiers. Slovenia finished 6-0 in the tournament and Dragic led in scoring and assists. He arrived in South Florida about a week before training camp started.

“It kind of prepared myself for this season,” Dragic said. “Last year was the first time that I didn’t play for my national team and I kind of missed it. It’s hard to prepare yourself when you’re alone.”

Dragic said playing for the national team most summers keeps him sharp.

As the Heat enter this rebuilding phase in the post Wade-Chris Bosh era, Dragic was widely believed to be major trade piece as the Heat attempt to clear cap space.

And although that possibility remains, the question must be asked if an upgrade at that spot is possible. The draft is loaded with young point guards, but players like UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, Washington’s Markelle Futz and NC State’s Dennis Smith are mostly projected as top 5 picks and may all be off the board by the time the Heat draft.

And unless the Heat can convince a Stephen Curry or Chris Paul or Kyle Lowry to jump teams, Dragic may be the best option. And with salaries rising dramatically – $36 million to start for players with at least 10 years of experience – Dragic could be a bargain next season at $17 million.

“Goran’s such a good teammate,” Spoelstra said. “He wants everybody to feel comfortable and so we were trying to develop roles while at the same time keeping Goran a focal point.

“Now with some guys out, it’s a little bit more definitive and established that he has to make a lot of plays for us.”

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