The Suns just swept the Lakers and are 3-0 on an eight game homestand. It turns out the Suns might be pretty good, but an upcoming brutal stretch will reveal much more about the team. The winds of trade rumors are also still swirling as Miles Plumlee's name is making headlines.

Sean Sullivan is the guest of honor this week and joins me in discussing the red hot, trade happy Phoenix Suns. The Suns had a light week, but swept a pair of games... including one that gave them a season sweep over the hapless Lakers. We talk about the next potential ex-Suns, Miles Plumlee and Gerald Green among others, as Ryan McDonough continues to wheel and deal. We wrap things up by speculating on whether the streaking Suns are really coming into their own facing a daunting stretch of games against the league's best.

Sean also calls out Isaiah's boy Floyd Mayweather for dodging Manny Pacquiao. Let's make this fight happen, IT.

Enjoy.

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#Top5Protected Report will take a look at draft possibilities for the Phoenix Suns both with their own first-round pick and the Los Angeles Lakers first-round pick, which the Suns will own it falls outside of the top five. I'll be bringing you frequent posts on all of the players graded around this range of the draft and their fits in Phoenix.

Kevon Looney

PF/SF, 6'10", 210 lbs, Freshman (19 in February)
32.1 MPG, 13.0 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.3 BPG, 1.2 SPG, 46.0 FG%, 30.4 3P%, 63.8 FT%

There aren't going to be many prospects that cause more intrigue than Kevon Looney. Looney was all over the place on draft boards last June and most of those draft boards didn't have him in the first round. The talent was there, but most scouts saw him as too unpolished of a player and thought that he needed at least two years in school to reach lottery status. Well, it didn't take that long.

Looney emerged out of all the summer camps as a top 10 player on draft boards, even reaching the top 5 in some. The raw potential of his rare skill set has some scouts drooling looking for that "maximum ceiling" in a prospect. Looney has point forward skills combined with the length and ability to be a very good rebounder and shot blocker on the interior. Looney looks like a mix of Lamar Odom and Marreese Speights and that's pretty freaking riveting as an NBA prospect. There's so much that jumps out about Looney's game that we don't really know what is real and what's not and that risk is what makes him so fascinating.

Point Forward Skills

At 6'10" Looney played point guard for his high school team in his senior year. He has decent enough ball handling and passing skills to get this done at his height, but what separates him is his floor vision. Looney understands where to attack defenses and the unique matchups he presents lets him decide what to do with the ball in his hands. He can glide past a bigger and stronger defender and either finish at the rim or execute a drive and kick.

Defenses are starting to pay a lot more attention to him now and Looney has started to notice more where his shooters are on the floor. With these attributes in mind, Looney is still only averaging 1.8 APG so it's not like he's an emerging playmaker. Then again, this requires him to have the ball in his hands a lot more on the perimeter and that's not really where you want Looney anyway. The proficiency with the ball in his hand is there though and that's the most important thing about his overall package.

Jump Shot

The biggest wildcard of Looney's game is his jump shot. The scouting report on him is to obviously let him shoot, but he can have games like he did against Stanford where he shoots 7-12 with a lot of those makes being jumpers. The progression of his jumper over the past year brings promise that he could actually be a legitimate threat off of the dribble and that's not even going over his potential with being a spot-up shooter as a stretch four.

This of course is the most optimistic way of going about Looney's improvement as a shooter. Looney still needs to add the necessary range to his jumper and that's especially true if he is going to play small forward in the pros. He's shooting 30% from deep this season, but that's only on 1.3 attempts a game and his makes aren't necessarily that convincing. We will get to this next, but the most important part of him being a jump shooter is that we could see him start to drift away from the basket. With his ability as a rebounder, I don't think he should be playing dominantly as a small forward.

Rebounding

While Looney's versatility with the ball in his hands is a big reason he's this high on draft boards, he really excels when he's working on the glass. He has perimeter tendencies, but Looney has a great nose for the ball and really understands how to rebound like a true 4. He's a good enough athlete with both his leaping and his length to get that extra advantage. He's really going to need put on some weight (210 lbs.) to keep that advantage in the pros, but he's only 18 so that will come with time.

Flaws and Consistency

The one big worry about Looney is the consistency in his complete game with some of the other weaknesses he already has. His flaws are that he doesn't have a real post game yet, struggles with his left hand, and is not terrific enough as a ball handler to have you feel supremely confident when he tries to go off of the dribble. With all that in mind, you still have to rely on Looney's jump shot and hope he doesn't get outmuscled and bullied on the glass.

Sometimes Looney is just a monster. He had 27 points and 19 rebounds in a double overtime win against Stanford, including 17 free throw attempts. He showcased everything in his wheelhouse during that game and that's the footage you will see on his scouting tapes. Other times, he will not get to the free throw line and struggle with his jump shot. His turnover numbers aren't very worrisome, which is a huge relief, but there's still that concern about his overall steadiness as a basketball player besides his rebounding.

Fit in Phoenix

Looney's fit like anyone else in the draft depends on where the Suns roster is on draft night and your perspective on where that roster should go. If the Suns still have T.J. Warren, Tyler Ennis, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Archie Goodwin, and their overall balance on the roster, does that mean they can afford a risk like Looney? Or does that mean they have too much development still to do and they need a more polished prospect?

I think it's the latter because the Suns are still going to have areas they need to improve in June. Looney's such an alluring prospect, but the consistency issues and wondering whether he is a small forward or a power forward is too much risk for the Suns in my opinion. This the Suns final draft to stock up and seal the door on their final core and I don't think they can afford to miss, especially with the Lakers pick, which is what they would need to draft Looney with. He's a captivating prospect, but there are better fits for the Suns in June.

1. The Suns next five games is quite the gauntlet (Por, Hou, LAC, Wash, Chi), is there a way for the Suns to go 3-2 or better in their next five? Gerald Bourguet: The Suns have already proven they...

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That was fun. The Suns played 30 of the first 43 games of their schedule against teams not in the Western Conference playoff race and have put together a 25-18 record to place them squarely in 8th place of the 10-team race.

But the schedule hasn't been quite as easy as some would think. More than half those games were on the road and nine of them were on the second night of a back-to-back, but the young Suns overcame some head-scratching losses to cellar-dwellers to match last year's win pace that just might be enough to make the playoffs this time around with a deeper conference.

Most of the Suns' games against the West elite have been on the road so far, which has not been kind. The Suns are 1-8 on the road against the other 9 teams in the West race versus 3-1 at home.

Still, a 25-18 record is something of which to be proud for one of the league's youngest teams and by far the least experienced among the playoff hopefuls.

Foolishness

The Suns have been favored in most of their games so far this season, leaving players more time to think about their individual stats and playing time than the Suns front office would hope.

First, it was two of the Trips - Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas - wondering how the three-guard rotation would work out. Now it's the other guards who are letting the world know they are being squeezed out of minutes. Gerald Green has not spoken to the media (much) in months, but rumblings are that he's not in love with reduced playing time. Archie Goodwin, all of 20 years old, gave the most candid comments though, to SN's Sean Deveney yesterday.

The front line hasn't wanted to be left out of the spotlight, (un)fortunately. Markieff Morris leads the league in technical fouls. Marcus yelled at his coach on national TV. And now Miles Plumlee wants to be traded after Brandan Wright came in to take most of his minutes, according to "sources".

Time to focus on opponents, not playing time

However, now the rubber hits the road, so speak.

And the players will, at least for a while, have no time to fret about who's playing what minutes. It's all about getting wins in games they are not favored to win - something the team has stepped up to face all season long.

"We've been playing better at home lately," Isaiah Thomas said after beating the Lakers last night. "We just got to be focused each and every game, knowing that we're playing against the top teams in the NBA the next few games. We just got to bring it each and every night and be ready."

The Suns are 3-1 at home against the West elite so far, though two of those wins were in the opening two weeks of the season (San Antonio, Golden State). The home wins over Dallas and Toronto were a good one recently, and the ability to close out a hot and desperate LeBron James-led Cavaliers team was a good sign as well.

But it's the next two weeks were we get a strong glimpse at how far this team can go this season:

suns-sked-next-8

In the next eight games, the Suns play the West elite six times while facing the East elite twice. Every one of those opponents has a better record than the Suns' 25-18 this season.

Fortunately, 6 of these 8 are at home in the friendly confines of US Airways Center.

A young team needs support to win close games and the home fans - even the quiet ones in Phoenix - can help a team close out close games. The Phoenix crowd has always been great at the end of tight games.

For the Suns to remain in the playoff picture, a successful run in these eight games would be a great way to start.

Meanwhile, the Suns primary competition for playoff positioning are hitting a soft part of their schedules. The Suns have a 3+ game lead on each, but much of that lead could be gone if the Suns lose most of their next eight games.

Pelicans, 4 back of the Suns, next 8 games:

Pelicans-next-8

Thunder, 3.5 games back, next 8 games:

Thunder-next-8

Each of them has four tough games versus the Suns' eight tough ones.

The Suns will get a bit of a respite after this 8-game gauntlet, as they get to face the Jazz and Kings in the two following games while the Thunder and Pelicans play a home-and-home against each other.

By then, we will know a lot more about the Suns playoff chances this season. And the Suns playoff position will likely determine the Suns decisions at the trade deadline, just a couple of weeks after this gauntlet ends.

As the season reaches the midway point for most teams, we look at what they learned in the first half.

      
 
 

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