Goran Dragic takes another step, Suns’ system helps

Posted by on February 2nd, 10:00 am

PHOENIX — Goran Dragic’s unassuming statistics last year and the Phoenix Suns’ depressing record made him an overlooked NBA amenity. The Suns are winning in 2013-14, so of course his blitzing aggression is getting more notice.

Recently, it’s been heightened by efficiency.

On Saturday, Dragic scored 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting against the Charlotte Bobcats as the Suns cruised to a 105-95 win at U.S. Airways Center. Over the last four games, he’s hit 39-of-61 from the field, or 63.9 percent shooting.

“I know the situation and everything,” Dragic said of why it’s come so easily. “I know how the opponent team is going to guard me. I’m just more relaxed. It feels like I’m playing basketball with my friends back home, no pressure. It’s just fun.”

It’s helped tremendously that Phoenix and head coach Jeff Hornacek have put Dragic in a position to shine. As a result, his game has blossomed and so has his confidence.

Charlotte Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said he sees the same ol’ Dragic as last year’s version — tough, versatile and dangerous. He likens his improved production to Orlando Magic point guard Jameer Nelson.

Like Nelson, Dragic has always been a talented player.

Now, he has the pieces around him to accentuate his game.

“I go back to, look at Jameer Nelson before (I) got to Orlando and he was a very good player,” said Clifford, who was a part of Stan Van Gundy’s coaching staff that took the Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals. “But (the prior coaching staff) played three out, two in with (Darko) Milicic and (Dwight) Howard. When we got there, Stan put Rashard Lewis at the 4 and instantly Jameer’s numbers went up across the board.”

See something similar in Phoenix?

Without throwing Luis Scola under the bus, Clifford beamed over the new-look Suns, who under Jeff Hornacek had Clifford reminded of his old days in Orlando. Channing Frye, Gerald Green and the Morris twins have brought shooting around Dragic, opening up the lane for drives.

“You look at how easily they score and how they do it, they play very unselfishly and they’re highly organized – they’re last in the NBA in assists,” Clifford said. “It’s a lot of one-on-one, break down their guys, which they can do because there’s so much shooting out there. If you come off to help, boom, it’s an open three. It’s a tough group to defend.”

But Hornacek would add that Dragic’s shooting in general has been the key piece to his individual improvement. Hornacek didn’t reveal any tweaks to Dragic’s jumper, even though his patented step-back went from frightening in this summer’s EuroBasket to automatic this NBA season.

“In the past when he took that step-back … you’re like, ‘He might make it, he might not’” Hornacek said. “Now every time he shoots it, I think he’s going to make it.”

“It’s probably confidence,” the Suns coach added. “He’s probably at that age, the 27 range, you’ve played enough where you’ve seen everything happen. You just feel comfortable out there. That’s just the stage he’s at right now.”

Hornacek was asked before the win over Charlotte if he’d learned anything new about Dragic, who put in 28 points against the Indiana Pacers on Thursday following a hard fall a day earlier that caused his elbow to swell.

“I don’t think we learned anything new,” Hornacek said, knowing full well why Suns interim coach Lindsey Hunter compared Dragic to a boxer last season.

The Suns didn’t learn anything new, but quite quickly, the NBA is.

Now it’s a matter of whether Dragic’s current success will lead to an All-Star spot.

“I’ve seen it in the past happen, over and over,” Hornacek said comparing Dragic’s absence on the list of All-Star reserves to Stephen Curry’s last season. “It’s usually that first year that guys, you think should make it, they end up not making it then they make it the next year.”

Kevin Zimmerman is the lead blogger and editor for Valley of the Suns. He is also editor of AZDesertSwarm.com, an Arizona Wildcats\’ blog, and a contributor at SB Nation and Pac-12.com.

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Tags: Goran Dragic · Phoenix Suns Analysis

9 responses so far ↓

  • 1 BUTLER // Feb 2, 2014 at 10:41 am

    Yes as I said before, Dragic won’t be getting All Star votes in his career despite his performance. The ASG is a popularity contest that favors those playas that ESPN and the media hypes regardless of record or even functionality (injured playas can’t be all stars but they are).

    Dragic’s foreign cadence and happy demeanor don’t score popularity points with the voters, but that’s a good thing. The ASG is the most boring NBA event and I remember how Nash loved not being an all star.

    Dragic is better served by simply continuing to slit throats and stab hearts on the court. His powers do not know restraint. He cannot be reasoned with, he doesn’t feel fear or remorse!

  • 2 EBJM // Feb 2, 2014 at 11:56 am

    I’ve been “trolling” other sites advocating for Dragic to be named to the All-Star game and I’m SINCERELY shocked at the lack of respect Dragic receives everywhere outside of Suns sites such as this one.

    The biggest disparity is when the Anthony Davis fans chime in. Granted Davis is probably the best PF in the game today or at a minimum in the top five but that doesn’t diminish what Dragic has accomplished.

    Like I pointed out about the fans voting in Kyrie Irving on the East squad that cost Kyle Lowry his spot, Blake Griffin or Kevin Love has done the same thing to Davis OR the coaches should have taken him over Nowitzki.

    While I pick on BCrayZ for his obsession with the plus/minus stat, it prepared me to use it to advocate Dragic over Davis for the last selection. Love and his Wolves are hovering at the .500 mark and they are the only team close to having a losing record with an All-Star in the West.

    The Pelicans were preseason picks to make the playoffs after acquiring Holiday and Tyreke Evans to go with Eric Gordon. No disrespect to Frye but some might even consider Ryan Anderson to be a better stretch four.

    Doesn’t matter because my point is if Davis is all that why are they in 12th place and the Suns in 6th? I know the Pelicans have had injuries but hey, that is part of the game. Suns lost Bledsoe but Dragic is still willing the Suns to impressive victories.

    It seems everyone outside of Phoenix has forgotten the 23 Dragic dropped on Duncan and Parker in the 4th quarter of the playoffs a couple of years ago, marking his coming out as a future star. Has Davis even played in a playoff game?

    Irving has been “pouting” all season and literally every opposing PG has had a career night against him. Lillard is young, the coaches could have made him pay his dues to recognize an in his prime Dragic.

    Davis is a phenomenal player but to get selected ahead of Love, Griffin, and Aldridge the Pelicans need to win some games.

    Just my homer opinion.

    I hope Adam Silver doesn’t start off his reign by disrespecting the Suns.

  • 3 Anonymous // Feb 2, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    What’s up with the web site? Always seems to be down.

  • 4 EBJM // Feb 2, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    Sponsors forgot to pay the bill.

  • 5 Smovich // Feb 2, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    Thought I was banned lol

  • 6 Porto Suns // Feb 2, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    Dragic deserves the ASG! But not much else he can do! Management should give him the million dollar, because he surely has earned it! That’s a step to get people on board! Congrats Dragon and we remember the epic 4th quarter EBJM referred! We (should) know what you can achieve!

  • 7 GoSuns // Feb 2, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    Soooo… Gasol?

  • 8 EBJM // Feb 2, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    Yeah Smovas, I thought you managed the ultimate coup de grace! I was able to post on my mobile, so first thing that came to my mind after John and others were talking about I.P. banning was that S.O.B. got me again!

    Phew!!! Here to post another day with time to reflect on being a bully! I thought what a miserable way to go out after talking to guys for what? Eight years now?

  • 9 BCrayZ // Feb 4, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    EBJM -

    Believe it or not, I actually agree with all that you’ve said THIS TIME. Love Frye, as a valuable contributor to our team & a home town hero. Ryan, nonetheless, is a very good stretch four.

    Also, I agree with what you said about Pau. When the year is over, we can reevaluate. Does Pau help us win more than he helps us lose? What is his health like? Does he want too much for next year? Will he go for only a year at a time? Will the Suns have better options then? Do we want to bring Eric back & at what cost? Will we have traded some of our picks for a young promising (healthy) star? Will we bring Barbosa back for another year? Hope that we do. He won’t cost very much. Here & now? Will our “Blur” even be able to play in tonight’s game? Jeff did not use him, even though he has had a hot hand, in our last game’s 2nd half. Is he too hurt to play? Suns have won 7 out of 8, since Barbosa came back from being out with his separated shoulder to play. If healthy, he will contribute much more with more playing time. Make it so Jeff.

    MUST start & ALSO finish with LB. Let’s go SUNS!!!!

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