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Goran Dragic, Phoenix Suns
After taking home the Kia Most Improved Player Award his last time out, Goran Dragic will look to continue his sudden ascent up the point guard ladder.
His 2013-14 campaign, his sixth in the league, encapsulated the reasons for having the award he claimed. Not only did he see a tremendous boost in quantity by posting a personal best in points (20.3), he also made significant strides in quality, setting career marks in field-goal percentage (50.5), three-point percentage (40.8), player efficiency rating (21.4) and total win shares (10.3).
Although he shared point guard duties with fellow rising star Eric Bledsoe, coach Jeff Hornacek's dual-point guard system allows Dragic to get a mention on this list. The setup hurt the Dragon's assists average (5.9, down from 7.4 the previous season), but it also allowed the Phoenix Suns to finish eighth in offensive efficiency (107.1 points per 100 possessions), via NBA.com.
With another offseason for Hornacek to fully implement his system, the stage is set for Dragic to keep climbing.
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard still hasn't completely shed the not-a-true-point-guard reputation that followed him out of Weber State, but he hasn't needed to.
Even if he's more of a scorer than setup man, he's still more talented than most at the position. He punched his first All-Star ticket last season while pouring in 20.7 points a night and helping the Portland Trail Blazers to 54 wins and their first playoff berth in three years.
"Lillard has the requisite skill and physical tools to become an elite point guard, assuming he isn't one already," wrote Bleacher Report's Josh Martin. "In a league with an analytics-driven obsession over shooting threes and getting to the rim, Lillard is already the most prolific of his peers when combining the two."
Lillard excels in high-efficiency areas of the floor, either taking aim from distance (39.4 percent shooting on 554 long-range attempts) or bullying his way to the free-throw line (5.2 attempts a night).
If his distributing skills start to approach his scoring prowess, he could vault up these rankings.
Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
It was hard to miss what Kyle Lowry did for the Toronto Raptors last season, but it feels like the basketball world managed to do just that.
Toronto's 6'0" bulldog provided 17.9 points, 7.4 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.5 steals a night. He had arguably the biggest hand in the Raptors' dramatic turnaround (6-12 out of the gate, 42-22 from that point on), yet no accolades came his way.
He was snubbed out of an All-Star spot, finished sixth in the Most Improved Player voting and did not make a single appearance on an MVP ballot. For helping snap a five-year postseason drought, he deserved better.
With a new four-year, $48 million deal in hand, Lowry could once again cement himself among the game's top signal-callers. Maybe this time around the league will better appreciate what he's doing.