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Phoenix Suns' Goran Dragic faces 'brutal competition' to be an All-Star

(AP Photo)

PHOENIX -- There is no question Goran Dragic is having an all-star season. The question is, is he an All-Star?

The numbers suggest he is. But numbers may keep him off the Western Conference team.

Let's explain.

Guards Stephen Curry and Kobe Bryant have been voted in by the fans to start the game on Sunday, Feb. 16, at New Orleans Arena. The reserves, as voted by the coaches, will be announced Thursday.

Here is Dragic's main backcourt competition:

PlayerTeamKey Statistics
James HardenRockets (29-17)23.7 points, 5.5 assists, 4.9 rebounds
Damian LillardBlazers (33-12)20.7 points, 5.7 assists, 41.9 3FG%
Chris Paul*Clippers (32-15)Row:3 19.6 points, 11.2 assists (leads NBA)
Tony ParkerSpurs (33-11)18.1 points, 6.3 assists, 51.4 FG%
Russell Westbrook*Thunder (36-10)21.3 points, 7.0 assists

*injured

Dragic's stats (19.4 points, 6.1 assists, 49.5 FG%) compare quite favorably to those five players; yet, there's not enough room on the West's roster for all tof them.

"If (making the All-Star team) is going to happen, of course I'm going to be the happiest guy in the world, but it's a brutal competition," Dragic said.

Dragic is in his sixth NBA season; and he's finally getting some national recognition for his play.

"I would like to thank Grant (Hill). He put my name out," Dragic said, pointing to a special one-hour edition of "TNT NBA Tip-Off" that was broadcast last week. "It feels good when they mention your name with all those stars.

"That's a recognition that I'm on the right path. That I'm working hard. That I develop my game every year and try to get better."

Dragic is scoring and shooting better than he has at any point in his career. And he's really stepped up his play in the 14 games since Eric Bledsoe has been out, averaging 21.4 points, 6.6 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 1.4 steals in 34.6 minutes while shooting 51.2 percent, including 42.9 percent from 3.

Those numbers are a big reason -- if not the main reason -- why the Suns have been able to steady the ship in Bledsoe's absence. Since the calendar flipped to 2014, the Suns are 7-7, including wins in five of their last seven games. And Tuesday's victory at Philadelphia was No. 26 on the campaign, surpassing their win total from all of last season.

"To be mentioned in those names, of course it's a great honor, but I don't know what (coaches, fans and media are) looking (at). If they're looking statistically, if they're looking at what kind of record we have. If they look at the record, then probably I should be there," Dragic said smiling.

He then turned serious again to add, "It's really hard to say because I'm not that guy that I would push myself...the other people have to decide that."

Even if Dragic does not hear his name announced Thursday, he still could be headed to New Orleans as an injury replacement.

Bryant said immediately upon his selection (his 16th, second all-time) that he was not deserving of a spot having only played six games because of injuries. Paul (shoulder) and Westbrook (knee) are also hurt and may not be able to compete if chosen.

Dragic would certainly accept an All-Star invitation no matter how it's received. But "if not, I'm going to have probably the nicest five days off in my life."

There is no question he deserves at least that.

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