Slovenia is a country with great basketball tradition (not long as independent country even; since 1991) that has produced many good players. Many of them played even in NBA. But today’s reality is a little bit different. If we look for Slovenian prospects born between 1988 and 1991, so players who are 19, 20, 21 and 22 years old, Zoran Dragić is one of rare who could become member of national team. Results on last European Championships for youth categories also show that Slovenia don’t have a lot of extremely good prospects any more.
Zoran is 1m97 and can play multiple perimeter positions from PG to SF. He is left handed which is good thing in sports in general.
So clearly Zoran Dragić is future of Slovenian basketball.
Zoran Dragić was born in Ljubljana on 26th of June 1989, as second son. First he, as everybody, practiced soccer and he turned to basketball later. He started his career in a small team from Ljubljana, but very soon he followed his brother’s steps and moved to Geoplin Slovan. Coach Alilović immediately found him to be very interesting player, some »experts« said he is not even close to his brother Goran, and put him in Geoplin Slovan’s youth teams. He was the go-to guy in youth categories and he became member of first team already in his first junior season.
Today, as he turned 21, he is leader of the Slovan team on both ends of the floor. Last season in Slovenian division one he averaged 15.8ppg, 2.0apg, 4.5rpg and 1.9spg. All these stats and his game even more pushed national team coach Memi Bečirović to call him for preparation for WC 2010 in Turkey. He practiced very good and played some prep-game on very high level (he impressed many people with his defensive skills) but in the end he was cut as 13th guy and he didn’t travel to WC. I’m sure that there was place for him but it was coach’s decision and that’s it.
He also attracted attention of Union Olimpija and Krka and many teams around Europe. In all these years he was regular member of young national teams, so he participated at 5 consecutive ECs from U16 2005 to U20 2009. At the last one he averaged 16.3ppg, 5.0rpg and 2.5stpg.
Zoran is a hard working player with good attitude and he knows what it takes to become an excellent player. He talks a lot with his brother Goran (who currently plays for the Phoenix Suns) and I’m sure that Goran is real mentor of Zoran. Zoran’s fighting character helps him to beat many problems on his way to basketball elite.
Zoran is pretty good ball handler with good court vision and great passing skills. He has great change of pace in combination with cross-over or between the legs move what gives him a good advantage in 1:1 situations. His basketball IQ is big. That’s why he likes fast break and transition game the most. He is very good in it. He brings the ball very fast on the other side of the court and more or less finds good decision in the end-to finish, pass or wait.
He can penetrate (his first step is very fast) and finish penetration even with dunks and he is very versatile in traffic where he can pass to big guys or outside to his perimeter teammates. He can play also back to the basket in case of mismatch.
And then we come to the shot which is however very poor. His percentage of free throws and field goals (two and three pointers) is very low for his whole career. He can find good spacing, he can spot-up, he can shoot from the dribble…but he hardly scores on it. So this is the thing he has to work on-he has to change technique and he has to become more comfortable in shooting. He is confident enough to do this.
On the other hand, he is also present in offensive rebounds and in defense he can pressure all perimeter players full court. His lateral speed is perfect, his hands are working all the time and his first step is fast. He can predict movement of the ball very good so he has lots of steals. He boxes out good and the number of his defensive rebounds is higher every season. I consider him as very good defensive player.
He has some disadvantages in his body structure since he is not really strong. But this is the thing he can work on it in near future. Other than that he is fast and explosive. It is clear that he is over Geoplin Slovan now and it is clear as well that he is over just playing Slovenian league. It is clear that he has to move on.
As I said he has offers from Krka and Union Olimpija from Slovenija and also some offers from around Europe. I think he has to go to Slovenian champion Krka Novo Mesto. There is good coach who likes young prospects. Krka will play Adriatic league and Eurochallenge cup, besides Slovenian league and Slovenian cup. He’ll have many opportunities to play big minutes and to show Europe what he is capable off. Maybe next year (if situation in Union Olimpija will be better) he can move back to Ljubljana to play Euroleague.
His time comes. Now it is up to him to show us that he is future of Slovenian basketball and he is one of the fewest Slovenian prospects who can make a difference in next couple of years even in national team.
He is not just a brother of Goran Dragić anymore-he is Zoran Dragić.