This offseason was expected to be filled with splashes full of excitement for the Phoenix Suns. Instead, it was mostly filled with a lot of “meh” and confusion by Suns fans. The confusion...

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In honor of Shark Week on the Discovery Channel I offer suggestions that returning Suns can take to forestall shark attacks in the near future. We all want it to be safe to go back in the water.

Discovery Channel's Shark Week is now under way and brings those interested all shark all the time.

Rob Lowe is "so sharky" in tv spots promoting the sharkfest.

They've even got Shark After Dark for those of you who like after dark shows. They seem to be all the rave these days.

This got me thinking about which Channing Frye Suns from last season might be in danger of getting bit by a shark in the foreseeable future. Let's take a look at how some returning Suns can avoid turning into blood in the water.

Goran Dragic - Make the All-Star team. Some of you will retort that this is something that Dragic can't directly control based on the selection process. Others will scoff at the importance of such trivial matters. I place real value in the honor. If Dragic makes the team it will mean that he picked up right were he left off last season and made it impossible for him to be passed over in a Western Conference that is ludicrously stacked at the point guard position. It will mean that the Suns have an All-Star for the first time since 2012 (Steve Nash) and only the second time in five years. It will mean that the casual fans will have someone to draw their interest. Believe it or not a lot of people that own Suns gear and attend games, who aren't fanatical devotees, don't even know that Dragic is Serbian Slovenian. It will mean that I have a more vested interest in watching the All-Star game. You may not care about that, but I do. I watch the game very year and this will further pique my interest. Plus, I'm pretty sure Goran will be pretty stoked about the selection.

Eric Bledsoe - Sign his contract. As this saga drags on interminably the sharks begin to circle. Posturing and gamesmanship aside, even a person as dimwitted as myself can process the possible outcomes stemming from this situation. They have already been covered ad nauseam so I'll refrain from expounding on those here. The fact that the Suns offer is so blatantly fair seems to exacerbate the animosity in these dealings. No, not the perceived "express lane to ruin" between Bledsoe and the Suns, but the animosity from fans toward Bledsoe for his impertinence and childish behavior. Seriously, Eric, this doesn't need to take the form of a political stalemate. Turning this into an ugly divorce would definitely make my clench my Jaws.

Markieff Morris - Make us forget Channing Frye who we hope gets bit by a shark. Markieff appears poised to follow in the polarizing footsteps of the Frye Guy. How will this transition go? Markieff struggled with playing as a stretch four before blossoming in a role that emphasized his strengths in the mid-range game and around the basket. Will the Suns once again ask him to turn from an apple into an orange? If Morris does have manifest difficulties "finding himself" even early in the season he will be an easy target for criticism. After all, he may be stepping into the only position on the team that suffered any major attrition.

Marcus Morris - Keep T.J. Warren on the bench. After his impressive summer league performance many fans are slavering over the prospect of seeing Tough Buckets Warren befuddle opponents with his arsenal of unorthodox scoring mechanics, but he has a major stumbling block in his path. Marcus Morris. Marcus needs to be impervious to the rookie's advances. Morris can fill a major role for the Suns this season as a volume three point shooter that hits at a 40% plus clip. If he can continue his ascendance from last season he will keep T.J. carrying his luggage instead of taking his minutes. Outplaying Anthony Tolliver is equally important here. The Suns are much better with a 24 year old Marcus providing impressive production at the three/four than a 29 year old journeyman. Marcus either solidifies himself as a piece the team can grow with or increases his trade value. Win-win.

Gerald Green - Earn his last big payday. When Green was drafted by the Boston Celtics in 2005 he probably imagined his career NBA earnings would top $16 million by 2015. They haven't. After his breakout season last year indications adumbrate auspiciously that he can top that total in his contract next summer. Green is 28 years old and that will be his last chance to merit a lucrative deal. If he can duplicate last season's impact he will. Green amalgamated volume scoring and efficiency while showing a proclivity to burst into flames and take over stretches of games. He was fearless in taking big shots and foudroyant going to the rack for highlight reel dunks. Getting minutes (he played a career high 28.4 per game last season) will be a dogfight as the potential backup small forward and fourth guard going into training camp.

Miles Plumlee - Develop an offense game that isn't cringeworthy. After a great start to last season while suddenly thrust into a starting role Plumlee stumbled down the stretch with curtailed minutes and diminished effectiveness. One of the reasons behind Miles' reduced play was his lack of offensive polish. Plumlee's repertoire consisted almost solely of alley-oops and cuts to the basket for dunks. While Miles is a solid rebounder and rim protector he really needs to develop a go-to move or two around the basket so he is a viable option on the offensive end. This is his natural progression to being a quality starter instead of a placeholder.

P.J. Tucker - Be accountable... and a leader. P.J. has a great opportunity to move past his offseason transgressions and cement himself as the leader of this team. In a lot of ways he is already its beating heart. If the management didn't think so it seems very dubious that they would have tendered his three year deal with knowledge of his incident. Having just turned 29, Tucker is the veteran presence on this team. His example on the court and in the gym surely impact the impressionable young players on the roster, but his overall conduct needs to serve as a bellwether for the team. I look forward to seeing the same indomitable will that made him the first back-to back recipient of the Majerle Hustle Award, not a player who has "made it"... like his unexpected antics might suggest.

Alex Len - Get on the court. Len has already been shark bit through his early career. Multiple injuries have limited him to 362 mostly forgettable regular season minutes (except for that crucial three point play to propel the team past the Celtics in the waning moments of a playoff race game - yes, I remember) and one summer league game. Not what most teams would expect from a #5 overall pick by this point. This can be the season Alex puts those concerns to rest, instead of being labeled as one of those unfortunate athletes that just can't seem to stay healthy. He better be able to play, too, since he's the team's only real backup center.

Archie Goodwin - Stay away from Bakersfield. Goodwin turns 20 next Sunday. He showed glimpses of tremendous talent in the 2013 summer league and has done very little since. Well, there was that 29 point game against Sacramento in the season finale. However, Archie's performance in Las Vegas this summer was utterly underwhelming as he failed to show any new wrinkles to his game. Once again, he's just about to turn 20. Despite that, though, I am hoping that the wunderkind can push the players in front of him instead of being buried behind the depth. I want him to be one injury or trade away from making a significant contribution... instead of floundering on the end of the bench as a garbage time exile.

Shavlik Randolph - Nothing Randolph could do would be noteworthy enough to raise fins from the water. But... If you replace the vli in his first name with an r... it would actually be Shark. This leads me to believe that he is in fact a shark in disguise ready to bite anyone above on the list should they fall prey to the pitfalls described. Randolph's new moniker will be "Bitey". Maybe we can get him a costume. Phoenix already has a gorilla, why not a shark?

*Any mention of anyone getting bit by a shark is purely metaphorical and meant for amusement. I really hope nobody mentioned in this article does get bit by a shark because I would definitely look like a supreme ass. No sharks were harmed during the writing of this article.

In honor of Shark Week on the Discovery Channel I offer suggestions that returning Suns can take to forestall shark attacks in the near future. We all want it to be safe to go back in the water.

Discovery Channel's Shark Week is now under way and brings those interested all shark all the time.

Rob Lowe is "so sharky" in tv spots promoting the sharkfest.

They've even got Shark After Dark for those of you who like after dark shows. They seem to be all the rave these days.

This got me thinking about which Channing Frye Suns from last season might be in danger of getting bit by a shark in the foreseeable future. Let's take a look at how some returning Suns can avoid turning into blood in the water.

Goran Dragic - Make the All-Star team. Some of you will retort that this is something that Dragic can't directly control based on the selection process. Others will scoff at the importance of such trivial matters. I place real value in the honor. If Dragic makes the team it will mean that he picked up right were he left off last season and made it impossible for him to be passed over in a Western Conference that is ludicrously stacked at the point guard position. It will mean that the Suns have an All-Star for the first time since 2012 (Steve Nash) and only the second time in five years. It will mean that the casual fans will have someone to draw their interest. Believe it or not a lot of people that own Suns gear and attend games, who aren't fanatical devotees, don't even know that Dragic is Serbian Slovenian. It will mean that I have a more vested interest in watching the All-Star game. You may not care about that, but I do. I watch the game very year and this will further pique my interest. Plus, I'm pretty sure Goran will be pretty stoked about the selection.

Eric Bledsoe - Sign his contract. As this saga drags on interminably the sharks begin to circle. Posturing and gamesmanship aside, even a person as dimwitted as myself can process the possible outcomes stemming from this situation. They have already been covered ad nauseam so I'll refrain from expounding on those here. The fact that the Suns offer is so blatantly fair seems to exacerbate the animosity in these dealings. No, not the perceived "express lane to ruin" between Bledsoe and the Suns, but the animosity from fans toward Bledsoe for his impertinence and childish behavior. Seriously, Eric, this doesn't need to take the form of a political stalemate. Turning this into an ugly divorce would definitely make my clench my Jaws.

Markieff Morris - Make us forget Channing Frye who we hope gets bit by a shark. Markieff appears poised to follow in the polarizing footsteps of the Frye Guy. How will this transition go? Markieff struggled with playing as a stretch four before blossoming in a role that emphasized his strengths in the mid-range game and around the basket. Will the Suns once again ask him to turn from an apple into an orange? If Morris does have manifest difficulties "finding himself" even early in the season he will be an easy target for criticism. After all, he may be stepping into the only position on the team that suffered any major attrition.

Marcus Morris - Keep T.J. Warren on the bench. After his impressive summer league performance many fans are slavering over the prospect of seeing Tough Buckets Warren befuddle opponents with his arsenal of unorthodox scoring mechanics, but he has a major stumbling block in his path. Marcus Morris. Marcus needs to be impervious to the rookie's advances. Morris can fill a major role for the Suns this season as a volume three point shooter that hits at a 40% plus clip. If he can continue his ascendance from last season he will keep T.J. carrying his luggage instead of taking his minutes. Outplaying Anthony Tolliver is equally important here. The Suns are much better with a 24 year old Marcus providing impressive production at the three/four than a 29 year old journeyman. Marcus either solidifies himself as a piece the team can grow with or increases his trade value. Win-win.

Gerald Green - Earn his last big payday. When Green was drafted by the Boston Celtics in 2005 he probably imagined his career NBA earnings would top $16 million by 2015. They haven't. After his breakout season last year indications adumbrate auspiciously that he can top that total in his contract next summer. Green is 28 years old and that will be his last chance to merit a lucrative deal. If he can duplicate last season's impact he will. Green amalgamated volume scoring and efficiency while showing a proclivity to burst into flames and take over stretches of games. He was fearless in taking big shots and foudroyant going to the rack for highlight reel dunks. Getting minutes (he played a career high 28.4 per game last season) will be a dogfight as the potential backup small forward and fourth guard going into training camp.

Miles Plumlee - Develop an offense game that isn't cringeworthy. After a great start to last season while suddenly thrust into a starting role Plumlee stumbled down the stretch with curtailed minutes and diminished effectiveness. One of the reasons behind Miles' reduced play was his lack of offensive polish. Plumlee's repertoire consisted almost solely of alley-oops and cuts to the basket for dunks. While Miles is a solid rebounder and rim protector he really needs to develop a go-to move or two around the basket so he is a viable option on the offensive end. This is his natural progression to being a quality starter instead of a placeholder.

P.J. Tucker - Be accountable... and a leader. P.J. has a great opportunity to move past his offseason transgressions and cement himself as the leader of this team. In a lot of ways he is already its beating heart. If the management didn't think so it seems very dubious that they would have tendered his three year deal with knowledge of his incident. Having just turned 29, Tucker is the veteran presence on this team. His example on the court and in the gym surely impact the impressionable young players on the roster, but his overall conduct needs to serve as a bellwether for the team. I look forward to seeing the same indomitable will that made him the first back-to back recipient of the Majerle Hustle Award, not a player who has "made it"... like his unexpected antics might suggest.

Alex Len - Get on the court. Len has already been shark bit through his early career. Multiple injuries have limited him to 362 mostly forgettable regular season minutes (except for that crucial three point play to propel the team past the Celtics in the waning moments of a playoff race game - yes, I remember) and one summer league game. Not what most teams would expect from a #5 overall pick by this point. This can be the season Alex puts those concerns to rest, instead of being labeled as one of those unfortunate athletes that just can't seem to stay healthy. He better be able to play, too, since he's the team's only real backup center.

Archie Goodwin - Stay away from Bakersfield. Goodwin turns 20 next Sunday. He showed glimpses of tremendous talent in the 2013 summer league and has done very little since. Well, there was that 29 point game against Sacramento in the season finale. However, Archie's performance in Las Vegas this summer was utterly underwhelming as he failed to show any new wrinkles to his game. Once again, he's just about to turn 20. Despite that, though, I am hoping that the wunderkind can push the players in front of him instead of being buried behind the depth. I want him to be one injury or trade away from making a significant contribution... instead of floundering on the end of the bench as a garbage time exile.

Shavlik Randolph - Nothing Randolph could do would be noteworthy enough to raise fins from the water. But... If you replace the vli in his first name with an r... it would actually be Shark. This leads me to believe that he is in fact a shark in disguise ready to bite anyone above on the list should they fall prey to the pitfalls described. Randolph's new moniker will be "Bitey". Maybe we can get him a costume. Phoenix already has a gorilla, why not a shark?

*Any mention of anyone getting bit by a shark is purely metaphorical and meant for amusement. I really hope nobody mentioned in this article does get bit by a shark because I would definitely look like a supreme ass. No sharks were harmed during the writing of this article.

This. Is. War.

Record: 26-4 (.867)

Place In Standings: First (+2.5 on Minnesota)

Points Per Game: 84.27 (1st)

Points Against: 74.20 (2nd)

******************************

Gritty. That is the way the Phoenix Mercury played this past week showing that they are style, and substance. For 16 games the team won by a wide margin and dominated the league. The last five games however have been a grind for the Mercury winning by 3.4 points per game, going 4-1 in that span. A loss to the Minnesota Lynx, a test from the Fever, an ugly win against the Dream, an overtime affair with the San Antonio Silver Stars, and a Diana Taurasi buzzer-beater to avenge the loss to the Lynx.

While it is fun to watch the Mercury win by 20 at home against a lowly non-contender it is the games against the Fever, Lynx, and Silver Stars that prep the team for the playoffs.

Each game represented a different type of challenge.

Each game was against a playoff caliber team and in all likelihood a playoff team.

What was most impressive about the Mercury's most recent win, avenging the loss to the Lynx that ended the streak, was how the game ended. All season the Mercury have struggled on the glass. Even during the winning streak the team as a whole was out-rebounded by most opponents. Candice Dupree is a skilled rebounder and Brittney Griner is a force of nature, but as a unit the Mercury are inconsistent at best on the glass.

In the win over the Lynx at home rebounding was the story. On two occasions in the final two minutes of the game the Mercury secured multiple rebounds on a possession to earn the comeback victory. DeWanna Bonner pulled down some fierce rebounds and Griner kept the ball alive. Down the stretch against the Lynx when the team needed a rebound or a defensive stop the overall confidence and atmosphere were not positive.

When they had the ball the confidence was there that they could score when needed, but despite the improvements defensively this year the perception on the Mercury is still that they are lacking on the defensive end.

Pulling out a win the way they did against the Lynx is more of a sign of defensive improvement than an entire season of being in the top two defensively in points allowed. Playing ugly is never ideal, but if you can win ugly then that becomes a weapon in the grind that is the playoffs.

The last five games were a test for the Mercury and they passed with with an 80% grade heading into a few tune-ups before the real season begins.

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Mercury Versus The Best...

This season the Mercury are 9-2 against the current Western Conference Playoff teams (2-1 v. SA, 4-1 v. LA, 3-1 v. MIN)

This season the Mercury are 7-0 against the current Eastern Conference Playoff teams (1-0 v. ATL, 2-0 v. WAS, 2-0 v. IND, 2-0 v. CHI)

Right now the Mercury are slated to take on the Silver Stars in the first round. They have been a thorn in the teams side all season with multiple overtime games and are the only team to beat them at home this season. Worst possible scenario for a round one opponent before an eventual duel with the Lynx in the Western Conference Finals.

Not too bad overall: 16-2 against potential playoff foes with only one loss at home to any tea.

******************************

...and Let's Compare The Mercury/Suns.

At this point there are only four games remaining with 88.2% of the season completed so far. The Mercury have the best record in franchise history, the longest home winning streak in franchise history, the second longest winning streak in WNBA history, and have already clinched home court throughout the playoffs...

At this stage the Phoenix Suns were 43-29 in the fifth game of their six-game winning streak, which was the most all season. They were clawing towards the playoffs in a three team battle for two spots.

******************************

Upcoming Schedule

Tuesday @ New York Liberty (Madison Square Garden) at 4:00 p.m. AZ Time

Wednesday @ Atlanta Dream at 4:00 p.m. AZ Time (NBA TV)

Saturday vs. Los Angeles Sparks at 7:00 p.m. AZ Time (NBA TV)

Sunday @ Seattle Storm at 6:00 p.m. AZ Time (NBA TV)

The Suns clearly drafted the better Bogdanovic.

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