Assuming the Suns focus on keeping Goran Dragic next summer, they might be better off locking up the Morris brothers for about the same price they have offered Eric Bledsoe.

The "Eric Bledsoe situation" has made for a strange and weird summer in the valley. I have never seen an NBA player, at least who came through Phoenix, who gave the entire league the silent treatment in the very summer he's supposed to garner his life-changing contract.

"I am confused."

--Yahoo! Sports writer Marc J. Spears on AM 910 radio last weekend, on Bledsoe situation

"He needs a max game."

--Spears, on whether Bledsoe deserves a max contract

Bledsoe has lost nearly all of his goodwill this summer in the NBA. No one knows what he would settle for, other than $84 million over 5 years. Only one team can even give him that contract - the Phoenix Suns - and they don't want to. Committing an average of $18 million per year to a guy with Bledsoe's pedigree is frivolous. Doing so without any competition would be madness.bledsoe-JC-Corobledsoe-JC-Coro-2

I have been an ardent supporter of the business side of the game, and that Bledsoe's summer actions have had no bearing on the Suns as a team because it was the offseason.

Now, we are less than two weeks from training camp and Bledsoe is positioning himself to become a real distraction. If Bledsoe decides to wait until October 1 to sign his qualifying offer ($3.73 million) to play one more season with the Suns and then become unrestricted next summer, he will be able to skip 'Media Day' on September 29 and the opening days of training camp on September 30 and October 1. Training camp itself is only 4 days long, so to miss up to 2 of those days is completely unnecessary. But that's Bledsoe prerogative.

One more year

Don't expect the Suns to trade Bledsoe in the coming days. There have been zero leaks on other teams' heavy interest in Bledsoe, and zero mentions of Bledsoe even accepting a contract offer from another team since they cannot offer the whole $84 million he wants. They all want to see how he plays this year, and then just pick him up at that dreaded "market value" next summer without giving assets back to the Suns in the process.

So Bledsoe will be a Phoenix Sun for the next season. Which isn't really a bad thing on the court. He may be a distraction now, but once the games start up his teammates will focus on the court rather than the bank account. He's shown a clear drive when playing that he never shows off the court. He's been a model - if quiet - teammate and he helped the Suns win a lot of games. Expect that to happen again. The Suns are better with Bledsoe.

But don't expect him to have a change of heart and want to stay for less than max next summer. The Suns will have a handful of players on the market, and Bledsoe will not likely be #1 on that list.

Next summer

With Bledsoe becoming an unrestricted free agent next summer, the Suns will be totally flexible next summer. Talk about a true "fungible" roster.

Only a handful of players will be under guaranteed contract for 2015-16 if Bledsoe is a free agent and no one is extended.suns-2015-16-cap-sheet

The upside is the fungibility. The downside is that there are only two true rotation players on that list of guaranteed 2015-16 contracts, and neither of them projects to be a starter in 2014-15. Sure, some of the kids may emerge but at the moment that's a bare shelf for 2015-16.

Now, let's look at the cap holds - the money reserved against the cap to retain "Bird Rights" on the free agents. The "guaranteed" number assumes the Suns will decide this fall to pick up the third year options on Archie Goodwin and Alex Len.Suns-cap-holds-2015

This is where next summer gets really interesting, crazy, tricky... whatever you want to call it. Going into the summer, nearly every major rotation player will be a free agent, leaving the Suns with just youngsters led by Isaiah Thomas and P.J. Tucker.

The Suns could renounce all of their free agents to create as much as $29 million in cap space to buy new players. But that $29 million would have to buy at least 4-5 rotation players, including a couple of stars.

Or, the Suns could keep all their own free agents, which could limit the ceiling of the team because the team still lacks a championship nucleus.

Or, the Suns could pick and choose who to keep and who to let go. The timing of those moves will be very, very tricky.

But with the cap holds figured in, the Suns cannot spend a dime in free agency on July 1 without letting someone go. That means the Suns will have to make some tough choices. If they target all of their own free agents, then they will miss out on the best free agents available from other teams (including Marc Gasol and Paul Millsap, for example).

The Suns would be straddling the fence of negotiating with their own guys AND other guys at once, while their own guys are negotiating with other teams, and then trying to work the signings and renouncements as needed. As we saw this summer with Chandler Parsons and others, incumbents don't always take kindly to not being a team's sole focus in free agency.

Another option - keep the Morrii

After the "summer of silence", it would be nice to hear some players profess their desire to stay in Phoenix. Goran Dragic has already hinted that's the case for him. He would prefer to stay, and the Suns want him to stay (though at a price commensurate with the market).

Flying under the radar is that Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris want to stay too. Though they have deep roots in the Philadelphia area, the brothers have spent the last two summers in Phoenix focused on bettering themselves.

And, as recently as March 2014 they professed a strong desire to stay together. In Phoenix.

"We're hoping that we can stay together because we play better together," Marcus said. "Hopefully, a team takes a chance on that. Hopefully, it's the Suns. We like being here. The more successful we are, the better our chances of staying are.

"We feed well off each other. The chemistry we bring is major for any team because you have two people who have lived together, played together and done everything together. We've always got that in-sync part of the game."

--Marcus to Paul Coro, of azcentral.com in March 2014

"We think about it a lot," Markieff said. "We said in the beginning that if we ever get together, we're going to stay together. We do our best to compete and show how good we are together.

"The game is more fun when I have my brother. I look forward to it every day. I look forward to getting better. I look forward to watching him get better and I know he looks forward to me improving and having good games. I'm excited when he plays good, even when I don't play good. If I see him scoring and all the small stuff to win, I'm excited and that brings me up no matter what."

--Kieff to Paul Coro, of azcentral.com in March 2014

Note that neither said they would take a pay cut to stay together. Rumor has it they said so in college, but that was before they were making the big bucks.

Hypothetical: If Kieff gets an offer of $10+ million from another team and Marcus gets an offer of $5+ million from a different team, while the Suns are offering less, why would they stay in Phoenix?

But even putting the money aside, you have to consider the roster and the future. Are Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris worth keeping for several years at, say, $14 million per year between them? What is that collective number that makes you nod your head versus shake it?

Many think the Suns will want to upgrade the power forward position next summer in order to take that next step in the playoffs, but if you're spending $14+ million per year on the Morrii, have you already put your eggs in that basket?

The rising cap

A new factor in all of this is the sure-to-rise salary cap. Rumors have already started the the TV deals will double in value in two seasons, which will make the salary cap skyrocket because the players and owners split all that money. What is a $63 million cap now could be $80 in two years, and even higher than that in four years.

The average NBA player salary could easily rise from today's $5.85 million (MLE) to as high as $9-10 million.

In that world, are two strong rotation players worth $14 million per year between them?

Extension talks

With the fiasco of the Bledsoe contract, the Suns might just want to lock up a couple of devoted rotation players right now rather than wait out the open market next summer. The Morris brothers have been in Phoenix all summer. The Suns know their dedication. They know their loyalty. The twins are not NBA stars yet, but they are good for the team and for the valley.

As you can see on the salary cap snapshot above, committing up to $14 million to the Morrii in extensions (which is likely higher than the Suns need to go) would still leave the Suns with a lot to spend next summer.

With the Morrii locked up, the Suns could recreate this summer's plan by having a mini-max salary slot open for a free agent before re-signing Dragic to a number high than his cap hold.

Let's say, for example, the Suns really want Klay Thompson to replace Eric Bledsoe. They could create the space, with a minor move, to offer Klay a deal as high as mini-max, then re-sign Goran Dragic afterward and have a lineup of Dragic, Thompson, Tucker/Warren, Morris/Morris and Plumlee/Len, with Isaiah Thomas as the supersub point guard off the bench. That's not necessarily a championship team, but I'm just illustrating swapping Bledsoe for Thompson.

The Suns will have options. But if they don't lock up the Morrii, they may have too many options (and too much risk) with only two major rotation players under contract on July 1, 2015.

Remember a year ago when many Suns fans were wringing their hands over the awful new jerseys being rolled out to the world? The whites were too bland. The orange was too orange. The sunburst "didn't go anywhere". The side stripes were nonsensical.

Maybe that was just a case of not liking new things. Maybe we're just a bunch of old dogs.

A year later, the website 'Suit and Nut' has ranked the Suns jersey kit (white, orange and purple) as the 3rd best looking jerseys in the NBA today.Suns-jerseys-3Suns-jerseys-3a

Not surprisingly, the Rockets' jerseys are dead last, while the Warriors' jerseys are #1 overall.

Celebrate, fans. The Suns are elite at something, anyway!

The 2014 NBA draft class is being hyped as one of the best classes to come into the league in a very long time. From Andrew Wiggins to Julius Randle to T.J. Warren to Doug McDermott, the talent is...

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Phoenix Suns' three dynamic point guards are all considered Top 100 players in the NBA this upcoming season.

In an ongoing feature piece on the Top 100 players in the NBA, the Phoenix Suns' dynamic backcourt trio of Eric Bledsoe (33), Goran Dragic (35) and Isaiah Thomas (90) all make an appearance. They are the only Suns to appear on the list, which ostensibly rates players based upon both their recent past performances as well as their likelihood to contribute at a high level this season.

I could spend an entire article discussing the merits of the ranking system SI uses...and I will!

In the grand scheme of things, I think slotting Bledsoe and Dragic around the 30s is probably fair.  One can quibble with Bledsoe being rated more valuable than Dragic, given Bledsoe's inability to maintain his health, but both are borderline All-NBA players when they can stay healthy.

What I can and will quibble with are Dragic and Bledsoe's rankings relative to others.  We can only make some comments about this, since the article has only released through player 21. But ahead of both Dragic and Bledsoe are Kyrie Irving (21), Damian Lillard (22), Derrick Rose (23), Kobe Bryant (24), Andre Iguadala (29) and Kyle Lowry (30).

Lets get the most obvious complaints out of the way: Kobe and Derrick Rose are not Top 50 players right now. There are too many questions about the health of both, and Derrick Rose looked improved, but not Top 50 as of the FIBA World Cup.

The other big problem I have with the rankings is Kyrie Irving's position. SI as much as admits that he probably won't have a dynamite season, exclaiming 'How insignificant does Irving's flat-line 2013-14 season seem in comparison to the promise of the next half-decade of Cavaliers basketball?' Well, it does kind of matter when you're discussing how to rate players. If anything, Kyrie's numbers are going to flat-line again this season, if not regress, with the majority of touches going to Kevin Love and LeBron James.

Finally, while I love me some Iggy as a UA alum, Iguadala is coming off arguably his worst season and might even be moving to a sixth man role this year.  Its really hard to argue he was better than Dragic and Bledsoe last season, and even harder to make that argument this year.

Moving on to Isaiah Thomas' ranking, I feel quite firmly that he got hosed here. Thomas, who ended last season with 7.7 Win Shares and a PER of 20.5, falls behind guys like Jose Calderon (6.3 and 15.2), ranked 88, Ricky Rubio (5.9 and 15.4), ranked 87, Tyreke Evans (3.1, 18.4), ranked 84, Bradley Beal (4.0 and 14.3), ranked 74, and Monta Ellis (4.9 and 16.8), ranked 66.

Now, I can understand feeling like Thomas might decline a bit from his level of production from this past season given that he will now be a bench player, but to see him fall SO far is ridiculous. As the SI writers note, "...Thomas put up career-best numbers that rivaled those of just about everyone at his position." If that's the case, why is he so far behind other guys that put up worse numbers?

I'll let Thomas speak for himself as to why he needs a better ranking:

@Ronnie2K avg 20 & 6 last season lol only 6 other guys did that and they "Superstars" I think least 84 would be coo.

— Isaiah Thomas (@Isaiah_Thomas2) September 15, 2014

Alright, so he wasn't talking about his SI Ranking, but instead his 80 rating in NBA 2k15 (which is also too low, mind you), but the point stands. He put up numbers only matched by 6 other guys in the league last year. That is worthy of a little more respect than is currently coming Isaiah's way.

Anyways, that's my take. What do you all think?

Bright Side of the Suns enjoyed great coverage of the FIBA World Cup with special reports and game coverage of Suns players Goran Dragic and Bogdan Bogdanovic. Read on for the recap of their incredible summers.

The FIBA World Cup of Basketball is THE international competition that determines the best basketball country in the world every four years and no surprise but the USA won this one big time. Team USA has now become the only country to win four straight worldwide international basketball events - the 2010 and 2014 World Cup, and 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

For most countries, the World Cup is bigger than the Olympics. You might not know it from this year's competition as Team USA dominated every game despite not even sending their best players, but most countries look to the World Cup as their holy grail for international basketball dominance.

Countries like France, Spain, Lithuania, Serbia, Brazil and Mexico fight to qualify for the World Cup in their regional competitions (Eurobasket, FIBA Americas Cup, etc.) the year prior, hoping to score a good result in the WC against their international brethren.

This year was a bit of a dud though. Spain and France's stars - studded with more than half dozen current and former NBA players each - flamed out prior to the Finals while Team USA ran roughshod over everyone. France was missing Tony Parker and Joakim Noah, but relied on heavy doses of Boris Diaw and Nicolas Batum among others. Spain was anchored by the Gasol brothers. Brazil had the big men Anderson Varejao, Nene and Tiago Splitter (as well as meep-meep Leandro Barbosa).

In the end, the Team USA "mostly under 23" squad took the gold behind stellar performances from WC MVP Kyrie Irving and "The Manimal" Kenneth Faried.

But two players tied to the Phoenix Suns did very well for themselves this year. Let's get some first-hand input from our international BSotS correspondents, kajkejti and Jogi.

The Goran Dragic Report

--by kajkejti

Starting off, we thought there wouldn't be one. With his season exhaustion and ankle issues Slovenia basketball fans were holding their breath for a while there. When Goran Dragi? left Phoenix in April everyone, including the Dragon himself, was under the impression he'd skip this World Cup. Circumstances changed, his ankle was healing nicely, he got some rest and was already itching to get back out there after a month away. When the added bonus of spending more time with his family while playing for Slovenia came into play, the decision was made and Slovenia was happy. And to keep the Suns from worrying too much he managed to get everyone to agree on a plan they were comfortable with.

After 4 months away he started his first game back a little nervously; forcing some shots, trying to get some feel for the game and his teammates. The pre-World Cup warm-up games were exactly that for the Dragon - warm-ups. He even said it himself, he was not going full force, wary of unnecessary injuries. In the 5 preparation games he played he averaged 13.2 points (24/45 2PT, 4/23 3PT, 6/9 FT), 4.8 assists, 2.4 rebounds, 2.4 turnovers and had a total of 3 steals and 2 blocks. Not a brilliant stat line but not an awful one either (except the dreadful 3) considering it was done in 26 minutes average playing time. Before leaving for Spain Goran was not particularly optimistic about how far the team would go. Given the enormous pressure and expectations the whole of Slovenia had for him, he was trying to be realistic, afraid to lift our spirits too high, only to be crushed shortly after. Should have trusted himself and the team more (which he has since admitted).

When Slovenia played their first World Cup game Gogi went into Dragon mode immediately and managed to infect players around him as well. In the first 4 games of the tournament his efficiency was insane: playing approximately 23 minutes per game, his stats jumped to 18.8 PPG on 69% shooting (59% from 3) while still dishing out 4 assists. For the opponents it was the Goran Dragi? show every night. He was the focal point for every defence and was harassed on every possession, which contributed to his tournament turnover average of 3.6 per game.

He finally cooled down in the 5th game against Lithuania. Playing 33 minutes and going 5/14 for 12 points, missing all of his threes. It is impossible to blame him for the loss, but this (collective) freezing cold strike came at the worst possible moment for Team Slovenia. By losing to Lithuania they felt like they were already out of the tournament and the only things keeping them going against the Dominican Republic were pride and the fans. Gogi's 3 point shot would not return for the rest of the tournament.

Of course we all know what happened when Goran played team USA. Again guarded like the secret Coca-Cola recipe, he managed to get 13 points on uncharacteristically low 40% shooting, making only 1 of his 5 tries on 3. Slovenia finished 7th in the tournament and ultra competitive Gogi was again left with the bitter taste of getting eliminated early by a title contender/recipient.

Individually, Goran Dragi? had an excellent performance in the FIBA World Cup. In the 7 games Slovenia played his averages (per game) read 16 PT (55.4%), 4.3 AS, 2.9 REB, 1 ST. This stat line is very similar to the one he had last year at Eurobasket2013 where he played an average 2 minutes per game less than in the WC (26min). Keep in mind the pace of the game for Slovenia has slowed down considerably under Jure Zdvoc's coaching, going mostly for longer attacks. Had they kept the same system I believe these numbers would be higher. What I mostly wanted to point out is the FG% improvement: a measly 39.4 percent compared to the shining 55.4 from this year. He finished at number 8 in FG% among all players in the tournament (2nd if you count only guards), he was 11th in points per game (3rd among guards), 3rd in 2ptFG% (1st among guards) while also being 8th in assists.

During this World Cup run Dragi? has established himself as the team's leader and captain. Improving most of what he promised to improve despite being pressured from all sides. He was way more vocal on court (and of court) about what needs to be done to play the right way. Directing players into positions and making sure the team was focused when on court. He incorporated a nice looking floater into his game and I fully expect it to become another of his scoring weapons when with the Suns. He also seemed to learn some new assist tricks or was at least trying them out. Some looked outright dazzling and were sometimes just badly handled by teammates. The only black dot (though it's more grey) in Goran's WC game were the free throws. His 60 percent is surely something he is dissatisfied with and will probably be the first thing he fixes when the NBA season starts.

All in all Goran Dragi? had a great summer with the National Team; raising his game a bit more, getting some playing time with his brother and as always leaving it all out there for the fans who are just proud to have him represent Slovenia. He will return to Phoenix more dragony than ever.

The Bogdan Bogdanovic Report

--by Javier Pastore

"A STORM IS COMING..."

PREVIOUS INTERNATIONAL PLAY

Before the 2014 FIBA World Cup BB Gun had played one international senior event - 2013 EuroBasket - where Serbia ended at the seventh spot behind France, Lithuania, Spain, Croatia, Slovenia and Ukraine.

His averages through 11 games: 9.4 PPG, 4.3 RPG and 2 APG

Link to BB Gun stats at the 2013 Eurobasket

2014 FIBA WC

As the competition was getting started, Bogdan was expected to be among the leaders for team Serbia along with Teodosic, Raduljica and Bjelica and he did just that... and sometimes even more!

There were two phases for him in the tournament - both literally and figuratively. He was the starting shooting-guard in the preliminary round (first five games against - successively - Egypt, France, Iran, Brazil and Spain) before moving to a sixth-man role in the elimination round (next four games against Greece, Brazil, France and finally USA in the finals).

In the former phase he played a mixed bag of teams. He did fine in limited time against much lower opponents (Egypt, Iran) and mostly contributed as a facilitator in those two games. He's been a bit more inconsistent against stronger competition though (Spain, Brazil and France).

He did shoot with above-average efficiency overall (2's and 3's) and wasn't turnover prone at all but he didn't assert himself enough to be a dangerous weapon from game-to-game, quarter-to-quarter and was a bit inconsistent. For instance he had a GREAT first couple of minutes of the game against France in the qualification round with 8 points and 1 assist in less than 2'30'' to start the game but only scored 4 points and 1 other assist the rest of the way!! Proof of his inconsistent play early on was the fact he was often alternating games with either 0 FT attempt or 4 tries! He did play well as a facilitator on offense though and played some good D too!

However, he was consistent on defence as he showed hustle, good rotation/positioning, some defensive rebounds here and there. On offense I saw him play his "facilitator role" pretty darn well. He provided Raduljica and Krstic (Serbia's centers) with really good balls inside for them to post-up and score. Defensive assignments couldn't leave him open to double-team and it clearly provided spacing for them to go to work.

Shooting-wise he sometimes had a tendency to take (and often miss) "hero shots" in the fourth quarter while defences keyed on him. That was one of the main reason he had 4 games with 8 points or less.

Before the game against Greece in the "Sweet-16", Djordjevic (Serbia's head-coach) decided to bring BB Gun off-the-bench probably to lessen the pressure on such a young man (in comparison to his more experienced teammates) and be able to provide an offensive spark along the bench unit as a "Ginobili-type" sixth-man. And it worked pretty well!!!

Bogdanovic and Serbia literally crushed Greece and then Brazil - one of the favorites to win a medal - to advance to the Semis and play the other "feel-good story" and underdog of the tournament: France! But that's for the next paragraph :)
In these two games, BB Gun had himself two really good games doing the right play on numerous occasions, both offensively and defensively. He was efficient, very unselfish and showed great motor!

In the semis, France came up a bit sloppy in the first half, maybe a consequence of the excessive emotion that followed their own upset of Spain in the quarterfinals 2 days before that. Anyway, Teodosic went supernova in the first half of that game and France didn't ajusted to him before the second half, when the latter made a FURIOUS rally behind 35 points from Batum (20 in the fourth).

But it was Bogdanovic who threw the daggers (a bit schizophrenic situation for me as both a French citizen and a Suns fan lol) late in the game! He was all over the floor! Difficult shots (2's and 3's), great court vision/passes inside etc...

Serbia eventually won the game mostly behind the strong early play of Teodosic and late play of Bogdan "leading the horde".

The game against the USA was a slaughter, as expected. Bogdan was doing quite well before coach K put Klay on him. BB Gun started to sink like the rest of the Serbian team and couldn't make much of his long-distance contested shots (he was 1/9 from 3 in the game!)

If it was not for this awful 1-of-9 BB Gun would have boasted a TS% superior to 60% on a high volume of threes (more than 1.5 makes per game in less than 27 min).
He rebounded some (2.5 rbds/gm), assisted some, facilitated and defended well thanks to his hustle, relative quickness and huge wingspan (think D-Wade-wingspan here, and standing at 6'6 to boot). Overall Bogdan didn't disappoint at all and has given proof he can be considered one of the finest prospects of his generation.

BB GUN STATISTICS FOR SILVER MEDALIST SERBIA

SOME (SUNS) PERSPECTIVE

As I already said in one of the threads BB Gun is gonna be at least a good rotational player for us in a couple of years (hopefully if the Suns keep his rights until then). But in my humble opinion (very humble I'm no prophet at all lol) he has star-potential.

He can do it all! He is still young thus has room for improvement and shows the right demeanor on and off-the-court. What is it not to like? The way he played with Raduljica I'm EAGER to see what he can possibly do with Len, Plumlee and/or Keef, especially Sir Lencelot. I imagine BB Gun's ceiling as being somewhere between our own Dragon and Kyle Korver. What'd be his floor in the NBA? I'd say a nice spot-up shooter off-the-bench. Whatever happens in the next two years I think this guy DEFINITELY has (and à fortiori will have) the required abilities and mental toughness to play with the big boys...

To sump his game, I'd say each time I watch him upcourt I have the same feeling:
- If he has a clear shot he'll take it! Even from 30'!!
- If not, he has a gnack for reading the defence and either slash to the rim, play the P&R or settle nicely a teammate for a post-up.

He showed he knows how to work with a low-post presence and his bball IQ seems to be pretty high! He has the physical tools to succeed but still in fact lacks... physicality! He needs to bulk up (especially the upper body) and strengthen his game a little bit or he'll get killed by the Wes, LeBrons and Kawhis of the league. He's measured at 6'6 an d 205 lbs. If he can add 10 or 15 lbs to that frame within the next couple of years he should be fine...

BB GUN IS GONNA BE A HELL OF A PLAYER FOR US!

ENJOY SUNS FANS THE STORM IS COMING!!! :)


(PS : Besides, guys, there's something else also...

I think this guy is going to beat Wes for MVS! (Most Valuable Smile))

Wrap up

The World Cup was also dominated by former Suns (Boris Diaw, Leandro Barbosa, Viacheslav Kravtsov to name a few) as well as a hopeful soon-to-be Sun Zoran Dragic.

Feel free to use the comments section to discuss the two players currently under the Phoenix Suns umbrella as well as any of the former or potential Suns you might have seen.

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