The time is near. The NBA must right its wrong from the All-Star Game. Goran Dragic deserves to finally be recognized for his stellar play this season. He is well worthy of being named Most Improved Player and ready to hoist up the award for the world to see in all its glory.
The Most Improved Player is self-explanatory–it recognizes the individual who has noticeably improved from the previous season. This year, there is no better candidate than Dragic, whose scoring has increased by 5.8 points from last season. He has also improved his PER, which stands at 22.11–18th in the league–a dramatic improvement from last season’s 17.54, when he ranked 74th.
Paul George is the reigning recipient of the honor, and saw his scoring increase by 5.3 points per game from two years ago to last season. In 2012, Ryan Anderson took home the award. With the Orlando Magic, Anderson’s scoring rose 5.5 points, from 10.6 points per game to 16.1.
Though Dragic was one of the few players who was unjustly kept out of the All Star Game–his snub became ubiquitous throughout the Twitterverse–the Phoenix Suns guard is having his best professional season, averaging career-highs in most major statistical categories, including points per game (20.5), rebounds per game (6.1), field goal percentage (50.9 percent) and three-point shooting percentage (41.8).
Despite playing without his injury-stricken partner-in-crime Eric Bledsoe for much of the season, Dragic has led the surprising Suns to a record of 38-28, has kept them in playoff contention throughout the season, and now sit just one game back of the eight seed in the Western Conference. (To put it in perspective, the Suns would be the three seed in the Eastern Conference.) Yet, without Dragic, Phoenix would be living in the basement in the conference, just as many basketball experts anticipated heading into the 2013-2014 campaign.
Aside from the one game he played in October and the month of March, in which his monthly stats are yet to be fully determined, Dragic has improved each month of the season, increasing both his scoring and improving on his efficiency.
In February, the Suns went 9-7, the team’s second-highest mark of the season, and Dragic had the best month of his seven-year career. He averaged 23.5 points per game, shooting 56 percent from the field and 49 percent from beyond the arc. Specifically, Dragic took advantage of certain spots on the court. He made 52.2 percent of his shots between 16-24 feet, a higher percentages from the same distance than those of LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Paul George.
Dragic’s February shot chart:
The 27-year-old has also had his fair share of big nights as the season has progressed, and this is where the pressure heightens. On February 8 against the Golden State Warriors, Dragic dropped a career-high 34 points, dishing out 10 assists as well as leading the Suns to a 122-109 victory. Later that month, he scored 40 points, setting another career-high, and added five assists in the 116-104 victory against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Despite his impressive performances, there is ferocious competition for the coveted MIP award. Players such as Lance Stephenson, Isaiah Thomas, Reggie Jackson and even his own teammates–Miles Plumlee, Gerald Green and the Morris twins–are all candidates. Yet, Dragic is averaging more points (aside from being knotted at 20.5 points per game with Thomas) and assists, as well as owning higher shooting percentages than all of the aforementioned players.
It is clear the award is his for the taking but it is yet to be determined whether the voters will make the appropriate decision. This time, let’s hope they get it right.
Will Dragic be an All-Star next year?
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