SportsOnEarth: Dragic Still Feels Like Underdog

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With Goran Dragic making more All-Star credentials every game, it’s easy to forget he wasn’t always pegged for success.

The Slovenian playmaker wasn’t selected until the 45th pick in the 2008 NBA draft. He averaged just 13.2 minutes per game his rookie season with the Suns. Even his 23-point, fourth-quarter outburst against the Spurs in the 2010 playoffs was met by more surprise than superlatives.

As pointed out, former guru John Hollinger once dubbed Dragic “arguably the worst player in the league.”

Don’t worry about the guard’s confidence, though. He’s used similar comments and opinions that to get to where he is now, and still remembers those early doubters as a source of motivation today.

"Every player has this kind of points in his career…My first point when I went to the NBA, people back home, journalists, they were saying what I'm doing, that I'm gonna come quickly back. I have this in my mind, back of my head, every time I practice."

It helps that Dragic has an empathetic supporter in the form of Jeff Hornacek. The Suns’ head coach was also an unheralded second-round pick, and like Dragic transitioned from full-time point guard to an All-Star-caliber combo guard for the Suns.

Hornacek gave Suns management full backing for the trade to bring over Eric Bledsoe, which helped take pressure off Dragic and free him up for more efficient scoring opportunities.

It ended up being the perfect segue after a breakout season and summer in 2013.

He feels greater confidence in his game than ever before, with a full season as a starting point guard in the league; he also had a summer filled with moments designed to humble the critics from his home country, representing Slovenia at the European championships, leading his country in scoring.

Between Slovenia and Phoenix, Dragic now has two fan bases watching him continue to prove “the critics” wrong. Against the Lakers on Wednesday, the veteran guard flirted with a triple-double, finishing with 18 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. That came two days after pouring in 28 points at Madison Square Garden.

“I try to prove them wrong," Dragic said in the piece.

Yeah, we can tell.