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.

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