According to Bleacher Report's Howard Beck, Dragic was named the recipient of the prestigious Most Improved Player award on Wednesday:
Goran Dragic named Most Improved Player by a landslide.— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) April 23, 2014
Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson finished second in the voting, but Dragic came out on top by a significant margin:
Dragic got 65 first-place votes, 408 points. Lance Stephenson finished second, w/13 1st-place votes and 158 points.— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) April 23, 2014
Per Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic, Dragic is the third Suns player to capture the honor:
Goran Dragic is the third #Suns player to win NBA Most Improved Player, joining Kevin Johnson (1988-89) and Boris Diaw (2005-06).— Paul Coro (@paulcoro) April 23, 2014
The 27-year-old native of Slovenia took some huge strides in 2012-13, and he continued to build upon that with a productive yet under-the-radar season.
Dragic averaged 20.3 points, 5.9 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game. He was also one of the NBA's most efficient scorers. Dragic became just the fourth player over the past 21 seasons to average 20 points per game while shooting 50 percent from the floor and 40 percent from long range, according to an ESPN graphic (via Quique Villalobos of BDA Sports Management):
Dragic's rapid improvement took many by surprise, including the opposition. According to Phil Taylor of Sports Illustrated, Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek believes that Dragic's game has become so complete that opponents have no surefire way to slow him down.
"Defenses can't just go under screens and play him for the drive anymore, because he'll just pull up and hit that outside shot," Hornacek said. "Now there are no easy answers against him."
Taylor also commented on Dragic's improvement this year compared to past seasons:
Running the break and getting to the basket in the pick-and-roll have always been among his strengths, but Dragic's improved three-point shooting, which jumped from 31.9 percent last season to [40.8] percent this season has completed the offensive package.
The fact that defenses also had to account for fellow point guard Eric Bledsoe opened things up for Dragic as well. There aren't many teams that employ a two-point-guard attack, but Dragic and Bledsoe made it work on both ends of the court.
Who most deserved to win the 2013-14 NBA Most Improved Player award?
Perhaps the most impressive part of Dragic's ascension is that the Suns previously gave up on him when they traded him to the Houston Rockets in 2011. Phoenix was able to reacquire him through free agency in 2012, and the rest is history.
As Dragic's teammates continue to improve and players grow even more accustomed to Hornacek's system, there is reason to believe that Dragic can get even better.
Although he didn't make the All-Star team this season, he'll have a great shot at an invite in 2014-15 if he puts up similar numbers.
Also, the Suns fell just short of the playoffs, but the upward trend of Dragic and the rest of the team suggests that they should be perennial playoff contenders moving forward.
It took Dragic several seasons to reach his potential, but he may be just scratching the surface.
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