Here it is Brightsiders. Make your picks for this year's NBA playoffs and win the admiration and respect of your peers... or at least have something to lord over their heads next time they doubt your prognosticative prowess.

As soon as the final buzzer sounded on last night's game, and the Suns season, I know the exact question that was on every Suns fan's mind - How awesome is Archie Goodwin? Where is my playoff prediction contest?

Back by popular demand (and I use demand in the loosest sense of the word) is the (second annual) Bright Side of the Sun 2014 NBA Playoff Prediction Contest!

*This is the part where I imagine people cheering in the background as I type.

I actually won the playoff prediction contest on this site in 2012 (there may or may not have been a tie), but didn't put up a formal staff run thread until last year. That means the winner of the first annual contest was none other than the inimitable MMotherwell... who I would wager will be back this year to defend his crown (he didn't really get a crown). This could be your chance to unseat him and be immortalized in Bright Side of the Sun glory!

Here's how to play: Choose the winner of each series and the number of games each series will last. You will be awarded two points for each correct series winner and one more point if you correctly predict the number of games it took the victor to triumph. Once an entry has been submitted no duplicate entries will be accepted from different contestants.

Here are tiebreakers for the NBA Finals round (because ties suck): If two or more contestants are tied going into the Finals and picked the same team they will be asked to pick the total points scored in the deciding game on a first come first serve basis. The winner will be whoever is closest without going over. If two or more players end up tied after the Finals and picked different teams the contestant who picked the correct team will be the winner.

I think that covers it, but let me know if you notice any loopholes. I've had a rough life.

Western Conference

First Round

Spurs over Mavericks, 4-1

Thunder over Grizzlies, 4-2

Clippers over Warriors, 4-3

Rockets over Blazers, 4-2

Conference Semifinals

Spurs over Rockets, 4-1

Thunder over Clippers, 4-3

Conference Finals

Thunder over Spurs, 4-2

Eastern Conference

First Round

Pacers over Hawks, 4-0

Heat over Bobcats, 4-0

Nets over Raptors, 4-2

Bulls over Wizards, 4-1

Conference Semifinals

Pacers over Bulls, 4-3

Heat over Nets, 4-3

Conference Finals

Pacers over Heat, 4-2

NBA Finals

Thunder over Pacers, 4-2

Point totals will be updated after each round and the story will be front paged as the results are updated. Fell free to check your scoring to make sure the results are correct. Please omit the spaces between your picks to help truncate the comment section. Please be sure to make your picks lucid, as confusing or ambiguous entries may be disqualified. No entries will be accepted after the start of the first game Saturday (4/19).

I had a pretty hard time picking my teams this year. The Eastern Conference is just garbage. Miami or Indiana would probably be the sixth seed in the Western Conference and I wouldn't pick either to get past the Clippers in the first round. Instead it's difficult for me to fathom one of them not getting to the Finals by default...

San Antonio seems like the best team in the Western Conference NBA, but I think that will be a popular pick so I'm going with OKC in hopes that may put me over the top if they can pull at least a little bit of an upset. Then again, the Grizzlies are by far (in my opinion) the best 5-8 seed in either conference, so maybe I lose my overall winner in the first round. Oh well.

The Suns are in great shape going forward, with a 48-34 team and a ton of picks and cap space to add to the fun. Let's review what's to come this summer.

We have all summer to delve into this issue further, and believe me we will do just that. However, on the first day of the offseason it's time to set the stage for what's to come.

Team Recap

The Phoenix Suns finished with a 48-34 record, tied for the most wins by a team not to reach the playoffs. In the automated power rankings on ESPN that factors in recent play, strength of schedule, and offensive and defensive efficiency, the Suns finished the season ranked sixth overall.

Screen_shot_2014-04-17_at_5

But they didn't make the 16-team playoff field.

NBA Draft

Minnesota, so far, has kept their top-13 protected pick. But if the Suns somehow jump to the top of the lottery, that would push Minnesota down one rung and... the pick would go to Phoenix.

But let's assume the 98.5% chance the Suns stay right where they are.

The Suns will enter 2014 NBA Draft season with three picks in the first round:

  • #14 overall (their own)
  • #18 overall (Washington's)
  • #27 overall (Indiana's).

Last night, Washington jumped into 5th in the Eastern Conference thereby dropping the Suns' pick to 18th overall. The Pacers finished first in the Eastern Conference, but give the Suns the 27th pick because three Western teams had better records.

The Suns also are one of only a small handful of teams that still have 2013-14 cap space that can be used to absorb salaries during the draft in trades.

Screen_shot_2014-04-17_at_7

The Suns still have up to 3 first round picks in the 2015 NBA Draft to use in trades as well.

Lots and lots of assets!

Now let's move on to July 1...

Restricted Free Agency

Going into the summer, the Suns will have two starters enter restricted free agency: Eric Bledsoe and P.J. Tucker. Each player will have a 'cap hold' against the Suns' salary cap until they sign a contract with someone, anyone.

Screen_shot_2014-04-17_at_6

That's just over $11.4 million in cap holds - money they cannot spend in free agency even though the players are not under contract.

The only way that number changes is when (a) Bledsoe and/or Tucker sign an offer sheet or contract after July 1 and/or (b) the Suns trade one or more of the picks.

Other potential cap holds

Unless the Suns renounce the rights to Emeka Okafor, they will have a cap hold - money they cannot spend - of $19.18 million this summer. Expect the Suns to renounce his rights.

If Channing Frye opts out of his final year at $6.8 million in order to secure a longer-term deal, which he just might do, then the Suns will incur a new cap hold of $9.6 million - a net increase against their cap of $2.8 million. That cap hold of $9.6 million will stay in place until Frye signs a contract or the Suns renounce their rights (his Bird Rights).

Frye just might opt out, with the intention to sign a longer-term deal that just might be less per year than $6.8 million in exchange for security. He talked about that this week - wanting security. He did not mention accepting less, money, but that's usually how it goes.

If that happens, the Suns cap space shrinks until his contract is signed, which cannot happen before the moratorium ends in July 11 at earliest.

Non-guaranteed deals

Dionte Christmas has a deal for $1.15 million that is not guaranteed until July 31. He just might be used a salary filler in a trade in July, where the receiving team can release him after the deal is done.

Or, he might just be kept on the team as a great, great 12th man. There isn't a better cheerleader and locker room presence as 12th man out there.

Ish Smith and Shavlik Randolph are not under contract yet for next season, but the Suns do have the right to give them a contract for the minimum next year just by exercising an option.

Guaranteed deals for 2014-15

The Suns have 8 players on guaranteed deals, including Frye, for the 2014-15 season. Below is a breakdown, in order largest salary to smallest salary of the Suns cap situation, per shamsports.com

Screen_shot_2014-04-17_at_7

These numbers are a bit misleading, as they include Eric Bledsoe's $3.73 million contract which he will never sign. Bledsoe does have the option to sign that deal and become unrestricted next summer but no player ever does that unless no one wants them and that's their last resort.

As far as guaranteed deals go, including Frye's player option, the cap total is only about $30 million.

Screen_shot_2014-04-17_at_7

But even then, the Suns do NOT have more than $31 million to spend in free agency. You have to discount the cap holds as well.

Here's the bottom line, including Frye's $6.8 million.

Screen_shot_2014-04-17_at_7

So, that's just about $20 million to spend while Bledsoe and Tucker are still just cap holds. Once they sign contracts, their cap number will change accordingly.

It's possible the Suns would sign a free agent for up to $20 million before Bledsoe and/or Tucker sign contracts/offers.

There you go, Suns fans. Not only do the Suns return their 48-34 pieces, but they can add up to $20 million in new pieces PLUS three more draft picks.

Rosterbate.

Disappointment lingered heading into the Phoenix Suns’ last game of the season, but Archie Goodwin made the smiles from the bench reappear one last time. Jeff Hornacek’s team beat the...

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The suns won their 48th and final game of the season thanks to their smoking hot rookie, Archie Goodwin, who scored 29 points off the bench in his first major NBA minutes of the season.

The Suns started out with their normal starting unit, save for Gerald Green replacing Goran Dragic, as expected.  The first quarter began with both teams playing noticeably loose, almost in full exhibition mode.  Miles Plumlee attempted a step-back fade-away jumper as the first shot of the game for the Suns...if that's any indication.

Gerald Green was the main scorer for the Suns through most of the first quarter, scoring the first nine points for Phoenix.  Markieff came in first off the bench to replace Plumlee after about four minutes in.  Then, about midway through the first, Alex Len got the call as the first rookie to check in, replacing Channing Frye.  After that, it was Ish Smith who got the call to replace Eric Bledsoe with about four minutes left in the half. Still no Archie Goodwin.

The Kings started going on a mini-run with some nice play by rookie Ben McLemore and Jason Thompson...but Ish Smith showcased his speed and aggression throughout to help keep it close, including a last second up and under lay-up at full speed to end the quarter.  That team option of his for next season is looking like a pretty good deal at this point.

The Kings led it 24-21 at the end of the first quarter.

Finally, Archie Goodwin was given the call to start the second quarter in place of Gerald Green, and Shavlik Randolph also got his first action of the night as he replaced Alex Len.  Goodwin wasted no time getting on the board with a nice scoop-shot inside, and almost had another but fumbled the ball going behind the back as he drove to the rim.  Still, the aggression and raw talent that made the fans fall in love with him was on full display.

Goodwin went right back to work on an and-one shortly after, scoring five points in his first three minutes of action.  But he wasn't done yet...he then attacked the rime with a SAVAGE dunk on about three Sacramento Kings players earning yet another and-one.  We're talking SportsCenter Top 10 material here...It was absolutely incredible.  Although he missed the following free-throw, his first seven points in the first four minutes of play was probably the best stretch we've seen from him this season.

Lastly, it was Dionte Christmas time as the Suns finally subbed him in at about the seven minute mark of the second quarter, making the bench clearing complete.  Len came back in for Randolph as well, and although he was certainly overshadowed by Archie thus far, he still provided some decent defense out there.  He also attempted a couple of 15-footers in the first half, and although they looked good, they just wouldn't fall.

Goodwin had a couple more highlights to end the first half.  First was a stolen pass for a breakaway 180 reverse dunk, and then a last second put back lay-up to tie the game 47-47.  Goodwin was officially MAN ON FIRE with 11 points in his first 12 minutes of play!  Although it was the Archie show for the Suns, the Ben McLemore show was also in full effect for the Kings, as he scored 18 points in the first half.

The third quarter started with the starters once again, minus Dragic of course.  Gerald Green went glass on a three to start it off for the Suns.  McLemore also picked up where he left off netting another three, and then Plumlee got to the rim for a nice reverse layup. The scoring went mostly back-and-forth again in the same spirit of an exhibition game that we saw to start the game.  You could definitely see that most of the Suns starters were taking this game pretty easy, knowing there was little to play for.

It wasn't long though until Goodwin came back in...after that hot 2nd quarter you knew he wouldn't sit long.  Even with Goodwin in though, the Suns played sloppily and started quickly falling behind.  Alex Len also came back in the game, but just couldn't seem to find a way to get the ball in the basket.

The rest of the bench trickled in, and you could see the change in play as the 2nd unit showed a little more care and consistency on the court.  Still, the Kings were able to outscore the Suns in the quarter, taking a 74-71 lead to end the third.

The bench plus Goodwin and Len stayed in to start the 4th, but Ray McCallum slipped behind the defense for an alley-oop to start things off for Sacramento. Len took another attempt at a jumper, but still couldn't get it to go.  Ish Smith however, provided the Suns' initial spark with a defensive strip from behind and then a fast break no look pass to Markieff Morris who completed an and-one.  Ish also pushed the temp on the next play with yet another nice drive and kick, this time to Marcus Morris who hit the shot to take the lead 79-78.  Smith was once again proving he can provide quality minutes as a reserve, something he's already done countless times this season.

Just when you thought Goodwin was done for the evening, Markieff threw Archie a pass at the rim which he was somehow able to catch and finish with yet another dunk even as he was moving away and to the side of the rim.  Tremendous night for young Archie.

Ish Smith continued to push the tempo of the offense and even showed some nice defensive instincts to bother the Kings on both sides of the court, but Sacramento kept coming and refused to fall far behind.  Goodwin was also active on defense, almost grabbing his second steal but was called for a questionable foul on the play to negate it.

Goodwin continued to attack the rim and converted yet another and-one, after an aggressive drive to the rim.  He got a little careless with the ball on the next possession, losing the ball which turned into a Sacramento fast break, but those kinds of mistakes are to be expected for a young player seeing his first big minutes in an NBA game.

Sacramento once again answered with an impressive and-one at the rim by Quincy Acy to tie it up, but Goodwin wasn't going to let this one slip away.  He had another quick lay-up, and then finally hit a three on the next possession to put the Suns back on top with three minutes to go...scoring 29 points off the bench in all.  Amazing.

Although Ben McLemore scored a game high 31 points, just edging out Archie's 29, the Suns were able to hold on for the lead and win their 48th game of the season...giving us one last night to cheer for one of the more memorable teams in recent history.

Well done Suns...well done.


Rookie Watch

Archie Goodwin:  31 minutes, 29 points (11-13), 4 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 assist

Archie was flat out incredible.  He was definitely the star of the game for the suns, showing all of the impressive talent and play that the Suns hoped for when they drafted him.  He showed that he is ready to start contributing, and should be a factor for the Suns next season.  One more reason to be excited about this team's future.

Alex Len:  16 minutes, 0 points (0-4), 4 rebounds, 1 steal.

Len had a fairly disappointing game overall.  He simply couldn't find the basket on offense and was a step late on a few defensive possessions as well, yet still did fair in that aspect.  Either way, Len has shown the promise to be a formidable big man in this league, and I expect him to contribute much more next season.

Ish Smith: 27 minutes, 8 points (4-7), 8 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 steal

Although Smith isn't a rookie, I'm including him in this list because of not only his first year with the team, but also his "team option" status going into next season.  I think the Suns would be well served to pick up Ish's $985,000 salary, as he is a reliable third option at a very affordable price.  Hopefully we haven't seen the last of him in a Suns uniform.

Time: 7:30 p.m. MST TV: FSA It was not supposed to go down like this. Well, actually it kind of was. At the beginning of the season, the Suns were expected to be bad. Really bad. Tonight’s...

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