Goran Dragic joins Hornacek, Petrovic on exclusive list


PHOENIX — Goran Dragic has received quite a bit of attention this season.

The battered point guard will sit out the Suns’ final game on Wednesday against the Sacramento Kings, according to Paul Coro, meaning his 2013-14 season ends with averages of 20.3 points, 5.9 assists and 1.4 steals per game on 50.5 percent field goal shooting and 40.8 percent accuracy from three-point range.

Dragic has been visited by European journalists and been compared to the late Drazen Petrovic, a national hero from the former Yugoslavia that in Dragic’s childhood included Slovenia.

Before Dragic, it was Petrovic — who spent four years in the NBA before tragically dying in a car accident in 1993 — joining Hornacek as the last NBA guards to average 20 points on 50 percent shooting and 40 percent accuracy from three-point range. Of qualifying three-point shooters, Dragic joins an exclusive list that includes three current sure-fire Hall of Famers — LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Dirk Nowitzki — along with Larry Bird, Dale Ellis, Kiki Vandeweghe and Chris Mullin.

It’s an impressive group in the three-point era, but fitting for Dragic that Petrovic and Hornacek were the last players to reach such marks before him.

“He was a national hero back home,” Dragic said of Petrovic. “It’s unbelievable if I can do that. It’s all hard work and it’s paying off. I cannot sleep on those numbers.

“He was unbelievable player,” Dragic added. “Back in Europe … he scored 60 to 80 points per game.”

Dragic for MIP?

So Dragic is up for Most Improved Player consideration.

ESPN’s Marc Stein has been on the Dragic bandwagon all season long and is handing the Phoenix point guard his MIP vote. Same with Grantland’s Zach Lowe, and the ESPN NBA Forecast, which is a tally from a mass of ESPN contributors, editors and reporters.

We knew Dragic’s confidence in the jump shot had opened up the game for a point guard better known for slashing off pick-and-roll plays, and that Hornacek’s system had opened up the court. From Channing Frye’s floor-spacing to Eric Bledsoe acting as a mirror image of Dragic on the other side of the court, Dragic’s numbers took a bump from last year.

Anthony Davis likely makes a strong case for most improved ahead of Dragic (he took an All-Star bid, after all). And Suns guard Gerald Green arguably took a bigger leap forward. Dragic was no slouch last year or the one before that, but the situation and the media coverage have helped his cause in a race determined by a broad set of philosophies and prerequisites.

The Suns and Dragic won’t complain with a little more hardware if it comes about.

  • EBJM

    Speaking of Channing Frye, Paul Coro reported that he is asking the Suns for an extension.

    Coro also touches on an interesting topic, can the Suns chemistry be just as good next year and he doesn’t believe so.

    So do the Suns take a step back next season to get better for the future?

    Green will also be in his final year.

    Do the Suns extend qualifying offers to the twins who want to stay together?

    P.J. Tucker?

    McD has a very tough summer coming up.

  • EBJM

    Fansided mock draft:

    14) T.J. Warren
    17) Clint Capella
    27) Jarnell Stokes

  • Foreveris2long

    EBJM, Does Frye presently earn $6m/yr? If I am McD when Frye/his attorney walks into my office requesting an extension, I would compliment him on his contributions this past season and ask him if he has a preferred destination for the trade we will attempt to make. He no doubt wants an extension because he knows there really is not a market for a power forward who cannot rebound or defend well, at least not at that salary.

    That is funny stuff. Thanks for getting my day started with a laugh.

  • Scott

    First of all, grats to Dragic for his amazing accomplishment. I have always believed he could be the sort of player he is now, and I don’t think he’s peaked yet. I think the next stage in his evolution will be to be more crafty around the basket so that he takes less punishment on drives.

    On to the draft …

    This year most of the draft’s top picking teams could use immediate help, so it’s possible some of the younger players and foreign players will drop into the Suns’ range. I doubt a player who is more ready to play, like McDermott, will still be there at 14.

    The Suns should use their first pick on whichever player drops out of the top ranks. It seems there’s almost always someone. In past years it’s been Kawhi Leonard or Jared Sullinger. Some think this year it might be Aaron Gordon, but it’s too early to really say right now.

    With their 2nd pick, if the Bulls don’t take him first, the Suns could take Clint Capela and leave him in Europe for a year or two. He’s only 19.

    I think the bottom of the 1st round will see a ton of juggling between now and draft day, so it’s hard to predict who will be available for the 3rd Suns pick. I could see the Suns taking young Serbian center Nikola Jokic (19 y.o.) and stashing him overseas. He’s currently rated as a mid 2nd round pick on DX, but if there are no hidden flaws his stock should rise. It sounds like he has an excellent b-ball IQ.

    In the late 2nd round, it’s very difficult to predict who the Suns would take. One possibility (just to name someone) would be Thanasis Antetokounmpo (another brother).

    If the Suns keep all their picks (i.e., don’t use them in trade), I could see them using them this way to take young overseas players with potential and only keeping like maybe one or two for regular season play. Then they might look at college seniors who aren’t expected to be drafted (like Mike Moser) or NBA guys who have been playing overseas to round out the roster. One guy I’d like to see a pitch made to is Goran’s brother, Zoran.

    In terms of free agency, my impression is that the pickings are slim and McD would have to think outside the box. So I could see the Suns trading a future draft pick (like the Minnesota pick) to the Bulls for PF Nikola Mirotic, if due to salary cap problems the Bulls can’t hang onto him. The Suns would be able to comfortably fit Mirotic onto their payroll with no problem, and his play style sounds like it fits the Suns.

  • Foreveris2long

    I would vote for Dragic as most improved over any reserve due to the fact his improvement came playing against other starters. AD will likely be Dragic’s stiffest competition. Dragic deserves some hardware for a great season in being instrumental in the team getting almost 50 wins.

  • http://ultimatesimbaseball.com Brenton

    AD missed too much time, IMO. Which will probably be the story of his career(unless this was strategic tanking by the pelicans).

    As for Frye, he continues to lead the Suns in +/- and real plus/minus, which while baffling, means that some team will want him despite his horrific play.

    I thought Frye was in the last year? Or is next year his last year…? I might cry if there is another year of Channing Frye in the Suns future.

  • 848
  • Foreveris2long

    848, Great stuff. yeah Frye is scheduled to make as opposed earn, $6.8m next season. Do not hold back the tears Brenton as Frye will likely be back next season with the Suns.

  • Roger

    Frye is a good back-up, extend him for 2 yrs say $6-7m total. Trade him later if our rookies and sophomores exceed their development.

    Gerald Green, Ish Smith and Marcus Morris should be traded.

    S. Napier would be my Indiana pick target.

    Adriene Payne for Wizards pick.

    Nick Stauskas with their own pick if Suns can’t sign Gordon Hayward. May require Sign&Trade Suns pick, Gerald Green+other assets.

    Sign Jason Smith as another center back-up to combat big bruisers in the West. Jason has really good mid-range game for PnR/PnP which was lacking this season.

    Plumlee and Len need to spend this summer practicing 10,000 jump shots from 12-14 ft.

    Of course sign Bledsoe and extend PJ Tucker.

    Possible Starters:
    Bledsoe, Dragon, Hayward (or Stauskas), Markieff and Plumlee
    Bench:
    Napier, Payne, Tucker, Frye and Len
    Depth:
    Marcus (if not traded), J Smith, A. Goodwin, Randolf, 2nd rd pick

  • EBJM

    Scott the issue with Nikola Mirotic is that he is under contract to Real Madrid through ’15-’16 and isn’t in a big hurry to come over before then.

    Secondly the Bulls are real high on him and he is their plan “B” if they can’t sign Carmelo if he opts out.

    He and Carmelo are the reasons the Bulls traded Deng and are expected to amnesty Carlos Boozer this summer. They are retooling on the fly and are doing a great job of it.

    If the Bulls can’t lure Carmelo expect them to make a big push to get Mirotic over here early.

    Brenton, Frye enters his final year next season but he wants to capitalize on what many others view as a very successful season for him. He is from Phoenix and has been there for the past five seasons I believe.

    He has his own family and doesn’t want to have the thought of being traded hanging over his head next season.

    I seriously doubt AD gets MIP over any of the Suns, especially Dragic. I think Dragic would get the nod as a make-up for getting snubbed with AD for the All-Star game.

    Statistically Gerald Green is probably Dragic’s greatest competition followed by Miles Plumlee.

    Speaking of Miles and brothers, Mason sure is playing like the Suns got the worst brother again. Ever since Kidd was forced to play him due to injuries to Brook and Garnett he has really played like an experienced veteran.

    He is part of their top five man unit along with Livingston according to 82games.com. Unlike his brother he can actually shoot the ball. One-third of his shots are jump-shots that he hits at 50%. Only a quarter of his shots come off of dunks.

  • EBJM

    Forever Frye already told the Suns he has every intention of picking up his player option. He LOVES playing in Phoenix and wants to finish his career there.

  • EBJM

    I can’t believe the lack of love for Gerald Green. Sure he is flawed defensively and occasionally takes a bad shot now and then BUT as Dirk Nowitzki said; “Gerald Green, if he’s hot, he can score with the best of them in this league,”

    The guy scored over 19 points per game filling in for Bledsoe and can drop 30-40 on any given night. For a Suns team playing their brand of basketball, running and gunning threes, how do you guys dump Green so easily?

  • Roger

    I love Gerald Green when he’s clicking but he’s not consistent on scoring or defending on a nightly basis. There are better options besides he has great trade value right now. Why not cash this asset to trade for a better player like Gordon Hayward. I suggest Sign & Trade for Gordon with our pick + Green + other assets.

  • Roger

    Another thought.

    If Nash is bought out by Lakers, why not bring him in as a part-time consultant to mentor young players just like Horny did for Jazz before he became an asst coach. Nash has great relationship with Sarver, I think he’ll do it if Suns ask.

  • Foreveris2long

    Has anyone seen Clint Cappella play or at least recent video clips? Other than the fact he is a thin 6’11″ power forward who plays overseas, I know nothing about him.

    EBJM, I agree with you about G. Green. While he is not untouchable it would take a really good deal to trade him. D’Breezy I believe yesterday commented about his defense and that could cause the Suns to explore options. I agree with him that he probably is not untouchable but IMO I probably would only include him in a deal that brought us back a good power forward as opposed to another wing. I say that because if his relationship with Coach is as good as I think it is he will work hard on improving defensively.

    While Gordon Hayward is a nice player who had a suspect season, the Suns need immediate help at the 4 spot. I hope McD does not spend $10m plus on Hayward. I could be wrong but I think the $ can be better spent shoring up an obvious deficiency at the 4 spot. If G. Monroe was not in play for the Suns and P. Gasol would accept $10m/yr I would explore that option over Hayward. While Gasol is not a good defender, at least he can score on the low post and most importantly can average double figures in rebounds while we groom a young player to play the 4 spot. 1

  • CarlyJoni

    Didn’t Gerald come over at the behest of McD, who saw his potential while in Boston? He’s Ryan’s project and I don’t think he’s finished with him yet.
    The Drogon for MIP hands down. Every sportswriter knew he should have been an All Star, but politics indicated it had to be the hometown Davis for the Pelicans this year.
    Question, will Horny take COY over Pop? Spurs kept it together with a litany of injuries, but they have stars and superstars to begin with. Hornacek started with no names and an unproven roster.

  • EBJM

    I’ve been following the Popovich for COY on other sites and the majority seem to think he deserves it this season over Hornacek for a couple of reasons.

    Their core of Duncan, Parker and Manu are no longer in their prime but he still won 62 games. Well Parker is only 31 but the other two are close to retirement.

    He did this despite the heart-breaking loss in the Finals last season. For his ability to limit the big three’s minutes. His ability to continually rotate in new players and not miss a beat.

    I counter with Hornacek did far more with far less and he is only a rookie head coach. Pops has already won two COY awards and is a lock for the HOF. So isn’t his performance expected for a HOF coach who has a HOF talent evaluator in R.C. Buford bringing him excellent players to plug into his system?

    The odd man out is Dwanye Casey who has done a similar job as Hornacek in Toronto. Some mention Jason Kidd but despite being given four veterans past their prime and losing Brook to injury he still had Joe Johnson and Deron Williams.

    Terry Stotts in Portland is also getting mentioned but he has Lillard and Aldridge.

    IMO Popovich leaks the word that he would be furious if the give him the award thereby giving Hornacek the award with Casey coming a close second.

  • Scott

    @Forever -

    Capela is not perfect, but he should be a good value considering where the Suns are picking (kind of like Goodwin).

    Clint Capela on DX (scouting video + interview):

    http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/Clint-Capela-6359/

  • Scott

    @EBJM -

    Mirotic is happy where he is, but he would come to the NBA if A) he was getting paid well, and B) he was likely to get good minutes.

    The Bulls have been trying to bring Mirotic over, but he’s got a stiff buyout from his Euro club. When Mirotic was still constrained to an NBA rookie contract, there was no way he could use his rookie salary to buy out his Euro deal. But now that the rookie pay scale requirement has expired, he can accept more money in salary and complete the buyout.

    However, the Bulls can’t give Mirotic more money without running afoul of the cap. So for some people that’s where the Boozer amnesty idea comes in.

    But if it turns out that Chicago isn’t acquiring Melo and isn’t ready to amnesty Boozer (a fairly expensive proposition), then they probably can’t take Mirotic either.

    The Suns, however, have cap space and picks, so they could offer the Bulls something like the Minnesota pick in exchange for Mirotic, and then sign Mirotic to something like $5m so Mirotic can complete his buyout (with assistance from the Suns, as permitted by NBA rules).

    Mirotic is 23, 6′ 10, 230 lbs, he shoots the 3, he makes his FTs, and he gets about 1 rebound every 4 minutes. He’s won Rising Star and Spanish League MVP awards. He’s not an elite athlete, but he can spot up from 3, shoot off the dribble, and play pick and pop. He’s a consistently accurate shooter as opposed to being a streaky shooter.

    When inside, he plays below the rim but is crafty, using scoops and hooks, shooting 63%.

    Other than that, he plays hard, plays D, has a high IQ, passes well, and makes good decisions.

    He’s not a complete answer to the Suns’ needs at PF, but he could be a step in the right direction as he’s clearly a guy who comes to games with the intention of winning them.

    I don’t know if the Suns can acquire Mirotic, but it is worth the inquiry. He’d play well with Dragic.

  • Scott

    Probably a good way to describe Mirotic is as a cross between Frye and Scola, taking their best qualities, and he’s only 23 years old.

    That probably sounds like damning with faint praise – as many fans have a dim view of Frye and Scola – but it’s really not that bad. ;)

  • bill_thomas

    @Scott: Please get off this Mirotec play, he is completely worthless. Please find some other Eastern European Saviour. (Caps Intentional).

  • bill_thomas

    Gerald Green not consistent????

    You are prolly smoking something. He is extremely consistent in his INCONSISTENCY

  • bill_thomas

    A good way to describe Frye would be a cross between LMA and a Made Sissy !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • bill_thomas

    Chicago won’t amnesty Boozer ????????????

    Well that decision will afflict them.

  • bill_thomas

    I hope Frye opts out, cuz that Dildo will never get another offer over $5 Mil.

  • bill_thomas

    @Scott: Frye a cross between a Made Sissy and a Cabbage. Am I not right ????????????????