PHOENIX — He wasn’t an All-Star, though perhaps he should have been.
He was not able to lead his team to the playoffs, though no one expected that anyway.
No, what guard Goran Dragic was able to do was to take his game to another level and in the process elevate the Suns out of the abyss they had sunk to the season prior with 48 wins, one shy of making the postseason.
He never scored better, never rebounded better and never shot better in his career than he did in 2013-14, and was thus appropriately named the NBA’s Most Improved Player.
On Wednesday, Dragic, 27, added another accolade to his resume: All-NBA Third Team, as voted by a panel of 125 sportswriters and broadcasters who cover the league.
“We’re really happy for him, really proud of him,” GM Ryan McDonough said. “To make one of the top three All-NBA teams that’s essentially saying he’s one of the best 15 players in the league this year. That’s quite an honor, especially when you look at the other names on that list, the other great players on that list.”
Dragic, who received one First Team vote from Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix, was joined on the Third Team by Portland guard Damian Lillard, Indiana forward Paul George, Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge and Charlotte center Al Jefferson.
Dragic and Jefferson were the only two non-All-Stars to make an All-NBA team.
“He deserved it. He played great this year,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said of his point guard. “I think people around the league saw what kind of player he is and will be for years to come.”
It’s Dragic’s first career All-NBA team selection and the first for a Suns player since Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire were both named All-NBA Second Team in 2009-10.
Dragic averaged a career-high 20.3 points with 5.9 assists, while shooting 50.5 percent from the field and 40.8 percent from three, joining Hornacek, LeBron James and Larry Bird as the only four players in NBA history to exceed 20 points and five assists a season while also shooting at least 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range.
Numbers aside, Dragic “just kind of willed us to victory; carried us a lot of nights” said McDonough, who planned to call and congratulate him later.
Added Hornacek, “(Dragic is) only going to get better because he’s the type of guy that is going to go out there this summer and work on a lot of things that maybe he thinks he can be better at. He’s always pushing himself.”