The Phoenix Suns were, without question, the most exciting story in this otherwise banal season. Predicted by most to be gunning for a top lottery spot, the Suns instead found themselves in the thick of the playoff hunt, falling just short in the second to last day of the regular season.
And while we’re unfortunately deprived of the Suns this postseason, we can take at least a little solace in Goran Dragic winning the Most Improved Player award.
Dragic, who enjoyed his best season in the NBA, nearly led the Suns to an improbable postseason berth with 48 wins. He pulled in 65 first-place votes and 408 total points, topping runner-up Lance Stephenson who had 13 first-place votes and 158 total points.
Dragic, 27, averaged a career-best 20.3 points on 50.5 percent shooting plus 5.9 assists and 3.2 rebounds in 76 games.
That Gerald Green and Markieff Morris also received votes is a testament to Jeff Hornacek – suave, dapper, the country-club dad every recently-returned college freshman girl secretly wants to sleep with I mean what – and his ability to develop talent. Miles Plumlee went from trade throw-in to bonafide starter. The Gerald Green Reclamation Project turned out to be a resounding success. Both Morrii , transformed from models of inefficiency to lethal weapons.
In fact, it could be said that of all of Phoenix’s key players, Dragic developed the least. His statistical improvement, though significant, might be more a reflection of the growth of his surrounding talent and Hornacek’s offense. Dragic’s win speaks to the symbiotic, yet uneven relationship between coach and player. The Dragon may not have developed as much as Green or Markieff, but Hornacek’s offense allowed Dragic to play to his full potential. Thus, maybe what we’re seeing isn’t a “Most Improved” Dragic, but an idealized Dragic.
That’s not to say Dragic doesn’t deserve it. Anthony Davis’ case was hurt both by his team’s lack of success and the fact that a sophomore jump is expected of a number one overall pick. Lance Stephenson had a firm grip on the award until the Pacers’ slump. Dragic, meanwhile, kept trucking along, whirling and wheeling his way into the lane unmolested, the main author in this season’s best and most unlikely tale.