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Suns’ Goran Dragic prepared to make All-Star leap

He was the first player mentioned by name by new general manager Ryan McDonough.

“Goran Dragic is a very good, tough point guard; a player I’ve liked for a while,” McDonough said at his introductory press conference.

In a Suns season that went very much wrong, Goran Dragic did a lot right.

He led the team in scoring (14.7), assists (7.4) and steals (1.6), setting career highs in each category. He also averaged a career-high 3.1 rebounds.

“I thought the first half of the season he probably was from about 15-20 in the rankings among point guards. I think he jumped probably close to top 10 in the last 41 games,” interim head coach Lindsey Hunter said following the season. “Hopefully that will catapult him to possibly being an All-Star.”

If Dragic can duplicate his second half numbers (16.1 points, 9.5 assists in 36 minutes per game) into the first half of next season, then yes, an NBA All-Star Game appearance may be in his future.

“Every player has his goals, including me,” said Dragic, who had 15 of his 20 double-digit assist games post All-Star break. “My goal is to someday hopefully play in an All-Star game. That’s my goal, so every season I try to get better and better.

“This was one of the best seasons in my career, but it’s not good because we didn’t make the playoffs. We didn’t have a good year.”

Dragic, who turned 27 this month, has already put last season behind him. He’s back home in his native Slovenia getting ready for the European Championships, where he helped lead Slovenia to a seventh-place finish two years ago.

Leading his country’s national team can and should help Dragic become the floor general point guards are expected to be in the NBA.

“That’s something he realizes that he has to continue to work on,” Hunter said. “He’s such a fiery-natured, tough kid that he often explodes instead of talking through things — and that’s part of him maturing. But I think he understands he has to work on that and he continues to try to do it.”

In his first year as a full-time starter, Dragic played 77 games, more than doubling the amount of starts he made during his first four years in the league (36). He missed three games because of injury and two games because of team-imposed rest.

“Especially the second part of the season, I ran the team better,” Dragic said. “I knew where all the players were going to be. I was trying to get everybody involved. But at the same time, I think I can do better in some things, try to be more vocal, try to be more as a leader. Hopefully I’m going to improve that next year.”