Apr 20, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Jeremy Lin (7) dribbles the ball as Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (7) defends in game two of the first round of the NBA Playoffs during the fourth quarter at American Airlines Arena. The Heat won 115-103. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
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When I compared Jeremy Lin and Kemba Walker, it generated a lot of conversation. I acknowledge that it wasn’t the best way to look at two players since their situations were different. Moving forward, Goran Dragic, the Miami Heat‘s point guard, is more similar to Lin than Walker in more ways than just their situations. Therefore, the comparison is more justifiable.
When Jeremy Lin steps onto the Barclays Center floor as the Brooklyn Nets‘ starting point guard, his role will be similar to that of Goran Dragic’s with Miami. With the Charlotte Hornets, Lin spent time at both guard spots, but he was put on the floor to bring energy and score the ball. Dragic spent a majority of his time at point guard because of Dwyane Wade playing the two, but his light was just as green.
Dragic is a slashing guard to the fullest extent, much like Lin, and neither have fallen in love with the outside shot, despite the game becoming more perimeter-oriented.
Going through the first half of 2015-16, Dragic was far from Miami’s first option. This was not because of talent, but because Wade and Chris Bosh were more reliable than he was. The same was true of Lin in Charlotte, who, at times, was stuck behind Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum in the pecking order. Lin, however, got lucky. Being Charlotte’s sixth man, his energy and aggressiveness made him the go-to guy for the Hornets’ second unit.
As we gear up for this season, the two floor generals will bear the burden of increased offensive roles. With the Nets, Brook Lopez is the only guy ahead of Lin. With the Heat, Bosh would be the one standing in front of Dragic, but it seems that Pat Riley is unwilling to bring him back.
May 1, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (7) drives to the basket as Charlotte Hornets guard Jeremy Lin (7) looks on during the second half in game seven of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena. The Heat won 106-73. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Putting Goran Dragic and Jeremy Lin in a vacuum gives you two guys who can go shot-for-shot against each other. As I touched on earlier, both guys love to attack the rim, and they do it with splendid efficiency. In 72 games with Miami last season, Dragic attempted 35.5 percent of his shots in the restricted area, and he converted on 65 percent of those chances, according to NBA.com. Although Lin didn’t attempts as many shots as Dragic in the lane, he still converted at a relatively high clip of 55 percent.
Both convert at an above-average rate because they have the size and athleticism to absorb contact and control themselves on finishes. Each player is 6-foot-3, but Lin tips the scale at 200 pounds and Dragic at 190.
That bodes well for Lin with the Nets because Atkinson has a system that plays towards that. With a pass-heavy offense being instituted, Lin will have more opportunities to attack the basket because defenders will be off-balance if the ball is swung properly and efficiently. The Hawks last season were getting 19 points a night off of drives, and Budenholzer and Atkinson have similar systems. The percentage of shots he makes will stay in that 50-55 area, but his volume will see a change because he’s now the second option.
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Neither guy is a lights-out shooter from the outside. The difference, though, is that Lin has consistently been average from three for his career and hovers anywhere from 33-36 percent. Meanwhile, Dragic is all over the place. Last year, he shot 31.2 percent, but two years ago, he was almost at 41 percent.
Dragic counters his atrocious outside shooting with a mid-range shot that Lin has yet to develop. The in-between game is something that’s become a lost art, and it gives defenders a challenge. On shots from 15-19 feet, Dragic knocks down an impressive 46.3 percent. And he isn’t afraid to take them, either. Lin, on the other hand, is mediocre at best with a clip of not even 33.7 percent. Thus, he doesn’t give defenders anything to fear aside from driving to the basket.
The argument can be made that Dragic’s ability to knock down mid-range shots at an alarming rate contributes to his high conversion on layups–because it does.
He almost has the defenders working at his whim, because if they sag off, he’ll continuously bucket the open jumpers. If they crowd him, he’s big enough, strong enough, and athletic enough to blow by them for a layup.
Lin can exceed Dragic’s production this year because of all the work he’s put into his jump shot. If he shows improved consistency, he’ll blow away Dragic’s numbers. The two guards were almost equal in the scoring department (14.1 for Dragic, 11.7 for Lin) despite similar usage (21.9 for Dragic, 22.2 for Lin) and a disparity in minutes (26.3 for Lin, 32.8 per night for Dragic).
In the long run, Lin’s greater accuracy from deep makes him more lethal than his Slovenian counterpart. Through 59 games with 30-plus minutes played, Dragic averages 15.1 points, and Lin beats him with 18.3 despite just 19 games with that much time.
My thesis is this: over the course of a full year, when both guys are consistently playing significant minutes, Lin isn’t the most efficient, but he’s more lethal than Dragic because of a better long-range jumper.
Apr 29, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Jeremy Lin (7) defends Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (7) during the first half in game six of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Time Warner Cable Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports
Overall, Jeremy Lin is a better defender than Goran Dragic. But who does that shock? The difference isn’t by a landslide, but it’s not as close as some would think. Even with similar body types and athleticism, Lin has enough of an edge to where you won’t need to think too hard about who you want on that end of the floor.
In basketball, no matter what happens, protecting the cup is key. Not only do opponents convert more when guarded by Dragic, but they also get more shots in the paint–even with Hassan Whiteside rotating. Teams attempted 22 percent of their shots within six feet when guarded by Dragic; that percentage drops to 19 with Lin. The more jarring stat is the field goal percentage: 60.8 percent for Dragic, 55.3 for Lin.
Keeping opponents out of the paint lead to longer, more contested shots which generally keep the conversion rates low. As we move further and further from the basket, they stay neck-and-neck.
Being a lockdown perimeter defender is hard. There are so many dominant backcourt players, so even the best wings are bound to get torched from time-to-time. With that said, the most a coach can ask for is that their guys force long-range jump shots.
Lin gets a check mark in this segment because Dragic struggles to keep guys on the outskirts of the paint. The numbers, however, are a bit misleading. Opponents attempt more threes against Lin than Dragic (35 percent to 28), but that’s a product of Lin’s ability to keep offensive players out of the paint.
Yes, they do convert more of their threes, but it isn’t by much. And Dragic allowing so many buckets in the paint nearly cancels it all out.
As we get set to enter the 2016-17 season, the defensive workload that’ll be placed on Lin’s shoulders is huge. Way huger than Dragic’s, because the collective defenses behind them are on two ends of the spectrum.
Dec 9, 2015; Charlotte, NC, USA; Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (7) tries to shoot the ball over Charlotte Hornets guard Jeremy Lin (7) and center Frank Kaminsky III (44) during the first half at Time Warner Cable Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Remember when Dragic was averaging 20.3 points per game with the Suns two years ago? He’s dropped every year, which leads me to believe that the Dragon has issues thriving in offenses that are low-tempo and rely on half-court offense. That doesn’t equate to Dragic being a bad player, but he’s just not as good in Spoelstra’s system. Going forward, a significant portion of Miami’s offense will be dictated by Dragic’s playmaking ability, whether he chooses to score or not.
Lin has been able to stay consistent throughout his short time in the league, which is something to commend. His situations have changed and the only thing he has altered is how he plays the game. With Charlotte, he had a scoring and energy role because his distribution wasn’t necessary.