The Dragon is a one-man fast break and one of the most exciting players in the league to watch on a game-to-game basis.
Although he wasn’t named an All-Star in 2014 despite leading the Suns to a 30-21 record entering the All-Star break—which is sad, because he deserves a roster spot—Dragic has upped his level of play across the board to ensure Phoenix continues winning games.
Since Eric Bledsoe was sidelined to undergo knee surgery, which dates back to Jan. 2 against the Memphis Grizzlies, Dragic has averaged 22.8 points, 6.5 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. Over that 21-game span, he’s shooting 53.5 percent from the field and 48.3 percent from three-point range.
He made at least one three-pointer in 18 of those 21 contests and posted a career-high 34 points in a 122-109 win over the Golden State Warriors on Feb. 8. He outperformed All-Star starter Stephen Curry in every conceivable way, scoring those 34 on just 13 shots versus Curry’s 28 points on 20 shots.
His contorted layups, spot-up threes and step-back mid-range jumpers were on full display in a masterful performance.
Truthfully, that may very well have been the Slovenian floor general’s best game as a pro. With that said, Suns fans saw flashes of greatness in the past.
How He Started
In the 2010 Western Conference Semifinals against the San Antonio Spurs—one day after his 24th birthday—Dragic scored 23 points in the fourth quarter alone of Game 3’s 110-96 road win.
He made all five of his three-point attempts, including a circus shot that culminated in a four-point play, en route to 26 points all told.
Ironically, the Spurs originally drafted Dragic 45th overall in 2008 before trading him to Phoenix. He arrived in the Valley of the Sun as a timid rookie afraid to make mistakes.
Instead of simply trusting his talents, the second-round draft pick struggled to find a groove—shooting 39.3 percent from the field in his first year (2008-09).
With time, former Suns head coach Alvin Gentry instilled confidence in him. As a sophomore, Dragic was a big-time contributor to the 2009-10 Suns team that eventually made it to the Western Conference Finals. He was part of an impressive second unit that included Leandro Barbosa, Jared Dudley, Lou Amundson and Channing Frye.
It turns out that the 26-point playoff outburst was a sign of great things to come.
See What You’re Missing
Dragic, who is averaging 1.4 steals per game in 2014, can jump passing lanes to set himself up for easy scores:
Or, as he showed in the Feb. 11 loss against the two-time defending champion Miami Heat, he can start fast-break opportunities that culminate in assists to open teammates:
The Suns floor general is even craftier in half-court sets.
He can dart to the bucket for athletic finishes at the rim—he’s shooting 49.5 percent on drives this season, per NBA.com/Stats.
And while he’s scoring more than 20 points per game for head coach Jeff Hornacek in 2013-14, Dragic loves to set up teammates. Take this gorgeous pass through DeMarcus Cousins’ legs for a Miles Plumlee dunk, for example:
His highlights simply continue to raise eyebrows. Many of them can stack up with any other star player in the league.
Dragic was upset (and rightfully so) that he wasn’t voted into the All-Star Game. New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis was chosen by new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to replace the injured Kobe Bryant.
“Oh yes, I was full of emotions,” Dragic said, per Fran Blinebury of NBA.com. “I was a little bit mad, angry, disappointed. All of those words. [...] If it happened it would have been a dream come true. It would mean a lot because I would know that I worked hard and it is way to be told I am on the right track.”
There’s certainly no doubting that Dragic is on the right track. He ranks 13th in the NBA with a player efficiency rating of 22.8, which is ahead of numerous All-Stars like LaMarcus Aldridge, James Harden and Paul George.
Even though the All-Star snub made Dragic “mad,” “angry” and “disappointed,” he remained gracious by not throwing one of his peers under the bus.
“I don’t want to complain or put myself ahead of any other player,” he said, per Blinebury’s article.
He added that the best revenge is maintaining focus on the task at hand: making the playoffs later this year.
“I am trying not to think about what happen and just trying to concentrate and win as many games as we can and hopefully make that push for the playoffs. That will be my statement,” Dragic said.
Also liked Dragic's personal spin on the worst cliche in sports: "What it is, it is," he said.— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) January 14, 2014
Even though the Suns point guard has every right to be upset about not making the All-Star team as a reserve, he isn’t dwelling on outcomes he can’t control. Instead, his focus remains on winning games—something the Suns have excelled at this season despite every expert’s predictions.
When was the last time all of us know-it-alls missed so badly with our preseason prognostications like every last one of us did on Phoenix?— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) December 31, 2013
If Dragic leads Phoenix to a playoff berth, he’ll have the last laugh at season’s end. Given how phenomenally he’s played thus far, it’s hard to bet against his Suns.
He didn’t make his first career All-Star appearance in 2014, but if you watch him play, you’ll know he deserved to be there.