After he was rewarded for his career-best season by being named the NBA’s Most Improved Player on Wednesday morning, Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic joined the Burns & Gambo show on Arizona Sports 98.7 to talk about his recognition.
“I certainly improved some things, but at the same time, I already knew I could play in this league,” he said. “But, it’s always nice to get some awards, so I was honored to receive this.”
Dragic arguably was the only bright spot on a 25-57 Suns team two seasons ago, but he stepped up his numbers — and his leadership — even further as the Suns racked up 48 wins in 2013-14 and narrowly missed the playoffs.
The 27-year-old guard assessed where his game specifically got better in the recently completed season.
“I think I improved (with) consistency more. Maybe two years ago, I had a good game and then a bad game,” he said. “But through the whole year, I think I was consistent with all my games. I think that’s the most important thing to do — if you want to be a good player.”
His stats back up that claim, too. In 76 games, Dragic only failed to reach double-figures in scoring three times. In the last 25 games he played, he never scored fewer than 13 points. The six-year veteran’s scoring average jumped from 14.7 points per game in 2012-13 to 20.3 points per contest in 2013-14.
Another thing that became more consistent was his shooting: He put up career-best mark of 50.5 percent from the field, and his 3-point percentage jumped from 31.9 percent to 40.8 percent year-over-year.
Like a good playmaker, Dragic gave credit Wednesday to other members of the Suns organization for his improvement.
“It was the right system for me. (Head coach) Jeff (Hornacek) gave me a lot of freedom,” Dragic said. “And all those jump shots, it was much easier with Eric Bledsoe. He’d give me a lot of open shots.”
Dragic added the the Suns probably would have made the playoffs had Bledsoe — who missed 39 games — been more healthy during the course of the season.
The Slovenian guard is scheduled to make $7.5 million with the Suns next season and has a player option to continue with the team for the same salary in 2015-16.
When asked if he’s going to shop around after the 2014-15 campaign, Dragic emphasized his commitment to Phoenix.
“I love this city. I love the organization (and) the fans,” he said. “My goal is to stay here as long as I can. And, of course, Phoenix is going to be No. 1 on my list. Hopefully, I’m going to play for this franchise, for this organization for a long time.”
If Dragic puts together another season like the one he just finished, his market value would surely be much higher than his current salary, and it would make sense to opt out of the contract and either negotiate a new deal or sign with a different team.
But none of that was on his mind after winning the Most Improved Player award.
“I still have to have a good season. So, I’m not thinking about that right now. I’m just focusing on this summer, trying to get my body right,” he said. “I’m that guy who’s going step by step, so I’m not thinking about that yet.”