Phoenix Suns point guard Goran Dragic might not be playing in the Big Easy on the night of Feb. 16, but there's no denying the 27-year-old is playing at an All-Star-caliber level.
The sixth-year pro is on his way to career-highs in scoring (team-leading 20.0 points per game), shooting (50.5 percent from the field) and minutes played (34.3 per game). Not to mention, he's shooting 39.1 percent from three-point range, 78.0 percent from the free throw line and averaging a Suns-high 6.1 assists per game.
But arguably the most impressive trait Dragic has illustrated in 2013-14 has been his ability to lead during times of need -- no more so than in the past month sans Eric Bledose.
Since Bledsoe suffered his potentially season-ending, torn meniscus injury during Phoenix's 107-88 win against the Los Angeles Clippers on Dec. 30, Dragic has elevated his level of play to unforeseen heights.
In the last 17 games, a span which has seen Phoenix go an impressive 10-7, Dragic has averaged 22.45 points, 6.45 assist, 4.34 rebounds and 1.31 steals per game.
And following his performance in a 105-95 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats Saturday night, Dragic has a chance to do something he's never done before when the Suns take the floor Tuesday night: Score 20 or more points in five straight games.
Even more impressive is the fact that the Suns, a team most predicted would be an NBA bottom feeder, are on pace to win 50 games and earn a spot in the 2014 Playoffs.
Still, that wasn't enough to convince NBA coaches to name Dragic as a Western Conference reserve -- much to his chagrin, of course.
"I think so, yes," Dragic said when asked if the Suns' deserved to have an All-Star representative. "Especially with this kind of record. I was kind of sad, mad and just full of emotions when I found out, but that's just the way it is. We still have a small chance, but it doesn't matter.
"I just want to play hard, be with my teammates and make the playoffs. And then in the playoffs, try to be a real contender."
It's far-fetched assumption to think the Suns could be just that, especially with a poised Dragic running the show.
"I'm more relaxed, and I know the situation," said Dragic. "I know how opponents are going to guard me. I'm just more relaxed. It feels like I'm playing basketball with my friends back home. There's no pressure. I just go there and do my job."
It's safe to say he's doing his job and then some. So much so that as far as assessments go, Dragic's employer gave him as glowing a review as one can receive 47 games into a campaign.
"He's well-rested, so he's able to get up and down the court," Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek said. "For him to get some of things he does with his drives means that everybody else is playing well, too. Because, if [the defenders] leave somebody, they're going to be wide open.
"It's the togetherness of our team that everybody is playing pretty well. Teams can't just focus on Goran, because then we'll do something else, get open shots and knock them down."