If you believe that you can use statistics to compare players to one another than the Suns proclamation that Goran Dragic was the 2nd best point guard in his draft is looking good.
Goran is ranked 20th (16.29) among all point guards in PER and 2nd from his draft class behind only Derrick Rose (17.61). Look at the list of names that Goran is ahead of: Stucky, Gordon, Bayless, Westbrook, Brooks, Curry, Hill, and many many others who get far more recognition.
Who's the moron now?
Dragic is playing great defense for the Suns and shooting the ball extremely well (47% from 2 and 42% from 3). His assists aren't impressive which may come from the types of sets the Suns run when he's in and he certainly isn't helped by setting up guys that don't hit shots. Consider for example, that Nash benefits from getting the ball to Stoudemire who is one of the best finishers in the league just as Stoudemire benefits from Nash passing him the ball. While Goran isn't yet playing that kind of ball, the potential is there and I except his assist numbers to creep up over time.
Dragic has got a lot of room for improvement and isn't ready to lead a team on his own but there's no doubt that he's at least meet all expectation if not exceeded them.
The Suns organization deserves a lot of credit for Dragic's development over the last year and a half. They believed in him and remained patient. "If they (the organization) have faith in you then every day you come to the practice happy and just work hard and try to repay them on the games, so that mean a lot to me. I know David Griffin and Steve Kerr when I have bad games they stood behind me. They said, 'Hey kid, just keep your head up and just play hard and it's going to come and you're going to play great.' Now is this time and I'm really happy and thankful for that."
Goran said he changed his game a lot from when he played in Europe against guys that couldn't block his shot. He's added more mid-range and three-point shooting and feels that he is a more complete player. Defensively the game is very different as well with a bigger court and less physical play allowed on the perimeter.
Suns assistant coach Igor Kokoskov credits Goran's work ethic but also points out that he's fortunate to be in a position where he's getting consistent minutes and has a defined role on a team that has complete faith in him. I asked Coach Igor if there was any one turning point in Goran's development and he said it doesn't work that way. It is a combination of all the hard work and time leading to gradual improvement.
So while NBA fans around the country are just now paying attention to a kid who they otherwise knew little about, what they are seeing isn't some kind of sudden revelation as much as the result of a long hard process. The same is true for Robin Lopez and the team hopes that formula will also prove effective with Earl Clark.
While it's not realistic to expect Goran to continue to progress at such a rapid pace as we've seen since he's come to the NBA, there's also no reason to think this hard-working kid won't keep getting better each season. It's hard to know where his ceiling really is but we are far from it and that should be exciting for Suns and NBA fans.
Goran again agreed to come on Bright Side of the Sun for a live chat. This had previously been scheduled but I had to cancel due my availability. We will shoot for the 8th or 9th around 1pm AZ time.
Now for the practice notes part of the Practice Report
- Steve Nash sat out again today with a lower abdominal or upper groin strain that isn't though to be serious. Coach Gentry expects him to play on Sunday. The Suns would be in a bind if Steve can't play because they only have two point guards available with Leandro out due to his wrist surgery
- Leandro Barbosa was a practice today. His right wrist is in a cast and he said he's about a week away from being cleared to begin exercising on a bike. He's in pain from the surgery but is happy with the decision. He said this is the first time in his life he's been "put to sleep" for surgery and joked about getting old. He's 27
- Gentry said he tried to sit Grant Hill out of practice just to rest him but he kept sneaking back in
- If you are looking for signs of what the Suns might do differently you can add more post-up play for both Robin and Amare especially when teams switch. This will also give the second unit more offensive options and take the ball out of Steve's hand a little during the course of the game so he can be fresh of end of game situations
- Robin has been working hard with both the coaching staff and today against Jarron Collins on a variety of post moves. This is the first time this season I've seen this much attention paid to Robin's back to the basket game. Going 1:1 against Jarron he seemed to have some success about 60% of the time by rough estimate
- Gentry is still not happy with the free throw shooting from Goran, Jared and Lou. All of those guys should be better free throw shooters and Gentry says they need to stop thinking and just walk up to the line confident and shoot the ball. The Suns are 13th in the game at 77%
- Gentry said Earl just needs to continue to get playing time and get a feel for the game
- Gentry said Houston plays hard and refuses to lose. The Suns have to match their energy level