Goran deserved it. Goran got it. The league's Most Improved Player is now a member of the All-NBA Third Team after voting results were announced today.
Goran Dragic had quite the coming out party this past season.
After just missing out on his first All-Star selection earlier in the season, he has earned some accolades to show his coruscating performance did not go unnoticed.
Dragic averaged a career high 20.3 points per game, helping the Suns to become one of the most improved teams in the league.
Most impressively, Dragic became only the fourth player in NBA history to achieve 20+ points per game, 5+ assists per game, 50%+ FG% and 40%+ 3P%. Only LeBron James, Larry Bird and Jeff Hornacek had achieved the feat prior to Dragic.
For more on Goran's breakout season check out Jacob Padilla's Phoenix Suns Report Card: Goran Dragic unleashes the Dragon.
Here are the All-NBA teams:
Kevin Durant, F, Oklahoma City Thunder
LeBron James, F, Miami Heat
Joakim Noah, C, Chicago Bulls
Chris Paul, G, Los Angeles Clippers
James Harden, G, Houston Rockets
Blake Griffin, F, Los Angeles Clippers
Kevin Love, F, Minnesota Timberwolves
Dwight Howard, C, Houston Rockets
Stephen Curry, G, Golden St. Warriors
Tony Parker, G, San Antonio Spurs
Paul George, F, Indiana Pacers
LaMarcus Aldridge, F, Portland Trail Blazers
Al Jefferson, C, Charlotte Bobcats
Goran Dragic, G, Phoenix Suns
Damian Lillard, G, Portland Trail Blazers
Here is some quick reaction:
I think that Goran is slated right where he deserves to be and I can't really argue with any of the selections. The voting looks pretty clean to me.
11 of the 15 selections are from the Western Conference, once again illustrating the dominance of the West and putrescence of the East. The gap is kind of embarrassing right now, which was really salient in the playoffs this year. The league might want to work on that...
Melo was the first player out, failing to qualify for his seventh All-NBA team. Anthony, who just turned 30, has never been named First Team.
Dwyane Wade didn't come close to making his sixth consecutive and ninth team overall. The window on being an elite player has seemingly closed on the 32 year old.
Next year Goran might have more competition in his quest to repeat. Russell Westbrook, John Wall and Kyrie Irving all have legitimate chances to jump up the voting. Meanwhile, if Kobe Bryant or Derrick Rose can near their pre-injury production they will definitely be in consideration, especially being NBA darlings.
Anthony Davis will be on an All-NBA team next year.
The Suns hosted another workout with multiple prospects who could be drafted in mid to late first round. Here's the scoop.
Today, the Suns hosted their 6th workout with a few first round prospects, and also some with the potential to be undrafted free agents.
In this group was another six players, evenly split between the positions...two point guards, two wings, and two bigs.
The most notable prospects in attendence were Shabazz Napier (PG, UCONN), Jerami Grant (SF/PF, Syracuse), and Glenn Robinson III (SF, Michigan). Other attendees included Cameron Bairstow (PF/C, New Mexico), Joe Jackson (PG, Memphis), and Ronald Roberts Jr. (PF, Saint Josephs).
Here is what was said:
On today's group
"They looked good...It was an older group today. Yesterday we had a lot of freshman, today we had more seniors in. The guys played well...you could see the difference. Yesterday’s group, I think, you saw the potential. In today’s group we had a lot of production."
On Shabazz Napier
"I think having the ball in your hands as much as Shabazz had it in his hands at UConn is invaluable experience. I think his college career nowadays is really rare. As a freshman he was a complementary player kind of backed up Kemba Walker, this year he was obviously the guy. We place a value on winning. I think, of the guys in the draft, he’s probably one of the most ready to come in and make an impact right away."
On Jerami Grant
"I think it was hard to evaluate him as a shooter in the season, just because he really didn't get a lot of spot up opportunities. We knew he could roll and finish lobs, and finish around the rim. His length and athleticism are pretty freakish. He had some really impressive finishes over the top, today, and made a few athletic plays that no many guys can make, especially at that age. The transition from the power forward to the small forward is a difficult one, and sometimes can take a few years...but he has the physical tools. He has the length, athleticism, and bounce to make that work. "
On Cameron Bairstow
"He stood out in the workout. He was a guy who got better every year, especially this year. I saw big improvement from him at New Mexico. Just his knowledge of the game and his physicality, I think, stood out. He sets good screens. He knows when to duck in and seal his guy when he gets up behind him around the basket. He just knows how to play. He’s kind of got that Aussie toughness, too. Those guys are pretty tough dudes."
On Napier and Robinson
"Glenn can really stroke the ball...good shooting. Shabazz I thought overall with his speed, quickness, and conditioning, I thought was really good for our style...that's what we want to see."
On Jerami Grant's Shooting
"He's the first one to say 'I'm working on that part of my game'. It might take him a few years to get out there, but I think at some pointhe could even be a stretch-four guy, as long as he keeps working on that shot."
On Shooting ability:
"It definitely needs to get better...It's improving, but it definitely needs to get a lot better in order to play in the NBA, but I definitely think it's getting there."
On fit with Suns:
"I think my athleticism fits in well with the organization...being able to run the court, being an athletic wing, I think it definitely fits in with this organization."
On the Suns' staff:
"They're great...they're great guys. This is a great organization, you know, it speaks for itself...they're people who're going to push you. At the end of the day, if you believe you want to be the best at whatever you do, no matter if it's sports or in life, you want somebody to push you, you want somebody to motivate you, and that's exactly what they do."
On advantage of experience:
"The four years gave me the most experience that I can say that no one else has in this draft. I was there for the good times and the rough times...As a point guard, you're the general on the court so you can emphasize whether you win games or lose games, so you experience a lot."
Another workout coming tomorrow...stay tuned.
How can the 2014 Phoenix Mercury get out of their own way unlike the previous incarnations from 2010-2013?
The sum of the parts will always be more important than the individual parts themselves. An age old adage that has meant more to the Phoenix Mercury in the past few years than other any other period in franchise history.
Individually they have had great talent in Diana Taurasi, DeWanna Bonner, Candice Dupree, and the most recent addition, Brittney Griner.
There has always been quality in those individual parts like an amazing steak served up with a perfect crust, seasoning, and tenderness that keeps you coming back for more. The steak the Mercury are able to serve up in Taurasi, Bonner, Dupree, Griner, and back from injury Penny Taylor is on par with any All-Star Team in WNBA history. Yes, they are that good as a collection of individual talent.
Where the problem has always lied was in the surrounding pieces. The house salad always had wilted leaves, the potatoes were lumpy, and the veggies were over-salted.
The team was never put together in the fashion that, say, the Minnesota Lynx or other contenders were in recent years. There is no denying individual talent as the Mercury proved last year with an underwhelming season, coach, and overall product still reaching the Western Conference Finals, but there is a glass ceiling on a team that relies so heavily on a few while the sum of the parts provides so little.
So having said that, this spring the team went about putting a roster together different than they have done in recent years; with more of a clear direction. Gone was the concept of, "Taurasi will carry us, just get some defenders, shooters, and bigs in here to fill out the roster." That concept and ideology died with four years of either not making the playoffs or getting swept in the Western Conference Finals. The team, or Taurasi, simply ran out of energy and sputtered to the finish line and the Mercury have learned from their mistakes.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over-and-over expecting different results. This Mercury team checked out of the insane asylum after looking to the most stable basketball franchise over the past 18 years.
"This team is stacked," Mistie Bass on team identity. "We are trying to be somewhat like the (San Antonio) Spurs where we have lots on the bench and we are coming hard. On a team like this you have to find what you are good at. Find your niche."
Since the 1997-1998 season the San Antonio Spurs have won 50+ games each year except for the 1998-1999 season where they won 37, in a strike shortened season, where they on pace for 50 wins, and won the NBA Championship. They model consistency. In the earlier years success was predicated on the star power of Tim Duncan with terrific support players surrounding him. That evolved into a "Big Three" with All-Star talents emerging around Duncan in Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili putting more pressure on teams leading to five more trips to the NBA Finals (including this year) and three NBA Championships.
They got better with time, which in large part was due to the construction of the roster outside of the Big Three. They were there and they were going to do their thing regardless, but to win on a championship level again they needed the right supporting cast.
Enter in the youth of Kawhi Leonard, Patty Mills, Tiago Splitter, and Danny Green. Pepper in some veterans like Boris Diaw, Marco Belinelli, and Matt Bonner. Mix that altogether with the Big Three already in place and there is quality, depth, balance, and a team that can win in a multitude of ways on the basketball court.
During the regular season the Spurs played at the 10th highest pace, executed the 6th rated offense and defense, and were the 7th and 3rd best in offensive and defensive rating respectively. Balance.
No one player averaged 30+ minutes a night and eight different Spurs played at least 20+ minutes a night. Balance.
Role players like Belinelli, Diaw, Leonard, Spiltter, and Patty Mills give the team that balance, but more importantly they give them depth. They allow the more labored legs of Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili to play 28-29 minutes a night in the regular season and take select games off for rest. Now those rested legs are marching into the NBA Finals for the second straight year with an offensive explosion (106.5 PPG) and surgical like precision that they displayed along the way taking apart the Dallas Mavericks, Portland Trail Blazers, and Oklahoma City Thunder in 18 games.
While the Mercury have as many trips to the Conference Finals (three) as the Minnesota Lynx in the pasy four years, they have no WNBA Championships to show for it, while the Lynx have two.
Getting over that hump required a change in the chefs' mentality on the importance of the side dishes.
Yes, the Mercury have a potential G.O.A.T. in Taurasi with Bonner and Griner forming a Big Three for them. They also have Dupree and Taylor who are very high end, top shelf, role players. Building off of that was the next step in the evolution of the team and they did it very Spur like with a combination of youth and veteran experience.
Tiffany Bias, the young rookie, has provided a spark for the team with her energy in practice and on the court when she gets a chance, even if those are few and far between right now.
Veterans Mistie Bass, Eshay Murphy, and Erin Phillips all add an element to the team that was sorely lacking over the past few years. Bass has been getting her Lou Amundson on here in the Valley with her energy, rebounding, effort, and defense. She may not be the most skilled or athletically gifted player on the roster, but her energy is contagious.
"Energy is one of those things, whether positive or negative, is infectious," Bass on bench energy importance. "I just have to make sure with my energy, because it is so big, that it is always positive."
With Murphy coming off the bench the Mercury have sustained shooting and more energy with her effort on both ends of the court. The glue that ties the starting line-up together is Phillips. She brings the shooting and secondary ball-handling that the team has been trying to find year-after-year with players like Samantha Prahalis, Alexis Hornbuckle, Alexis Gray-Lawson, and so on and so on.
This is a deep team now that is more about the overall quality of the depth rather than the simplicity of a star studded Big Three. The house salad, potatoes, and veggies are all prepared to compliment the steak making this a complete meal. Elbows off the table, enjoy.