67RIEFNS No. 9: Goran Dragic at it again

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The NBA is full of talent, personality and suspense. During the doldrums of the offseason, It’s easy to forget how wonderful the league can be. So, I’ve assembled 67 Reasons I’m Excited For Next Season (67RIEFNS). They’ll be presented in no particular order.

I didn’t appreciate Goran Dragic enough last season.

For a while, I’ve thought Dragic was a pretty good player. He competently backed up Steven Nash with the Suns early in his career and then got traded to Houston, where he eventually became a starter. Then, he signed back in Phoenix in 2012 to replace Nash. It seemed he found a good spot and could settle in as a solid starter.

But Dragic became so much more.

Last season, he was one of the league’s best guards. He made the All-NBA third team and should have placed even higher.

Sure, he’d had moments before – most prominently scoring 23 fourth-quarter points in a playoff win over the freakin’ Spurs. But suddenly, he was doing it nearly every night.

Dragic attacks the basket fearlessly. When he gets close, he uses his craftiness to finish. He’s both flashy and fundamental, a joy to watch. An improved jumper made him only more dangerous.

And the up-tempo Suns brought out the very best in all his traits.

It’s a shame an expected wasted season in Phoenix left Dragic off the radar early in the year. By the time many – myself included – realized the Suns had real talent with high-end watchability, the season was well underway.

That won’t happen again this year. All eyes are on Dragic.

Dragic won Most Improved Player last season, becoming the fourth-oldest player to ever win the award. In fact, nobody as old as Dragic has even finished top three in voting since a 28-year-old Hedo Turkoglu won in 2008.

Unlike other Most Improved Players who win while naturally ascending at a young age, Dragic made himself better during the middle of his career. His dedication created something special – one of the NBA’s special mixes of talent, intelligence and perseverance.

If Dragic takes another step toward elite status – or even maintains his current star level – we’ll all be watching and enjoying from the beginning this time.