Here is your formal weekly recap for the Phoenix Suns with a look at all the games, the news and notes, key stats, NBA Draft updates, Quote of the Week, and more. Let's get it...

The Phoenix Suns went into the week against two playoff teams from last year with five total All-Stars and played against one. For the week they went 1-1 overall, as seen in the recaps below this line, but overall they showed signs in a few different areas that are cause for positivity.

Game Recaps

@ Houston Rockets - L (92-95) Full Recap

vs. San Antonio Spurs - W (121-90) Full Recap

While this is only the pre-season is the pre-season there has been a lot to like about things with this team. There are chemistry issues on offense as new faces and new roles are being broken in, but the other side of the ball has been a pleasant surprise.

On defense thus far in the pre-season they have yet to surrender 100+ points in a game and have been the 2nd best points against defense through four games.

Points per game is a simple way of looking at defense as a whole, while important, because the more times you score more points than your opponent, the more wins you have in the end. The offense has shown flashes of being one that can score points in a hurry with a prime example in the Spurs win, but the offense is being created by their defense. In the heyday of the "Seven Seconds or Less" offense the defensive success (yes, they were better than you remember) was created by the offense. The offense took teams out of their comfort zone and used that as a way to be an effective defense.

This incarnation of the Suns will be looked at as a dynamic offensive team, but that is from their defensive style of swarming, attacking, and moving horizontally well.

As the team goes small they have more athletic, fluid athletes, that are undersized against a traditional wing or forward, but they get into them keeping them in-front and away from the basket. They rotate well getting out on shooters that appear to be open when the pass is on its way, but is a contested shot because of the foot speed of Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas, and Gerald Green on the perimeter or Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, P.J. Tucker, and Miles Plumlee in the interior.

It is easy to discuss the negatives of not having the traditional size at each position, but for all positives there are negatives and for all negatives there are positives. There will be nights where an opposing team will lean on the Suns hard and make the lack of size a weakness for the team.

There will also be nights like against the Spurs in the pre-season where they overwhelm their opponents with the littles running around. What is most important is finding that happy medium to live in for 45-55 games of the season.

Teams are shooting 23.2% from three against the Suns and 52.3% from two through the four games. Teams are turning the ball over at a very high rate (22.25 per game) leading to easy points for the Suns (23 per game) in transition.

I looked at one key for this team being the perimeter rebounding last week and this is going to be the key as the season gets started. Using their speed, quickness, lateral movement, close out ability on shooters, and ability to cause turnovers to get stops on defense will be the teams barometer of success.

Let's dive deeper into this week:

Key Stat

20 MPG 12.5 PPG 5.5 APG 3.0 RPG 2.0 SPG

Plug in Isaiah Thomas with either starting point guard on the court with him and he just seems to fit in well. The most important part of this is that Thomas is playing tremendous in what is realistically going to be his minute allotment in the regular season. There will be some games where he gets over 30 minutes if he is lights out and the team is winning because of it as well as the inverse of that. Bledsoe is logging 23 minutes per game and Dragic 20.5 minutes per game this week, both of which will bump up, of course, but getting more from less with Thomas like they are is going to be the justification of the master plan the front office had this off-season.

Quote of the Week

"We have to use our speed; we have to use our quickness. We just have to get after it. We can't let any plays go during the game. We had a couple stretches tonight where I thought we took some plays off and a team's going to burn you. In those two situations, I think they scored five points. We can't get those little spurts like that. " -- Coach Jeff Hornacek

Rookie Watch

  • T.J. Warren: 33 minutes 12 points 3 rebounds 1 assist 54.5% FG (6-11 FG)
  • Tyler Ennis: 10 minutes 4 points 0 assists 25% FG (1-4)

As the team is trying to figure out a rotation they cut the training camp invites (Joe Jackson, Casey Prather, Jamil Wilson) and limited the minutes of the young guns. The rookies are not playing a lot of minutes, but so far in this reduced role in the pre-season Warren has made good use of his time. He is scoring efficiently and even shooting the ball well from distance. On the other hand, Ennis is not playing a role of significance, but that is to be understood with chemistry needing to be established with the core back-court.

2015 NBA Draft

  • Los Angeles Lakers: (Top 5 Protected) There is too much fluidity at the top of any draft in May let alone October to speculate names, but with the Lakers looking like a dumpster fire with a motivated Hall of Famer on the roster this pick could land in the Valley. A few names to keep an eye on when the season starts are Myles Turner (Texas, FR.), Cliff Alexander (Kansas, Fr.), and Karl Towns Jr. (Kentucky, Fr.) who all have tremendous athletic upside.
  • Minnesota Timberwolves: (Top 12 Protected) It would be a unique scenario that saw this pick land in Phoenix come draft night, but stranger things have happened. So, if this happens, the Suns can take a hard look at Trey Lyles (Kentucky, Fr.), Montrezl Harrell (Louisville, Jr.), Sam Dekker (Wisconsin, Jr.), or Bobby Portis (Arkansas, So.) all of which have varying skills at the four. All four could see their names called higher, but could fit well into the mix in the 12-15 range.
  • Phoenix Suns: With the front-court as thin as it is right now in the short term a power forward with the upside of those listed above would fit nicely. Anthony Tolliver could be option'd out this summer and the Morrii are locked in for five years, but are not typical fours. In this draft there are a lot of forwards with the potential to impact the long-term future of this team

News & Notes

Suns History Lesson

This week in Suns History: October 22nd, 1976: Tom and Dick Van Arsdale played their first NBA game together and the first game twin brothers played in league history...

This week in Suns History: October 23rd, 1993: Charles Barkley scored 28 points and won the Drazen Petrovic Award as the Suns defeated Buckler Bologna 112-90 in the sixth McDonald's Championship at Olymphiahalle...

Previewing the Week Ahead:

Tuesday, October 21st @ Los Angeles Lakers (1-3)

Wednesday, October 22nd @ Los Angeles Clippers (1-4)

Friday, October 24th @ Utah Jazz (4-1)

Finishing off on the road with three games in four days seems apropos for a final test for the Suns to help with the bonding through adversity. Road trips are the best form of NBA adhesive to assist in the gluing process of a team. Granted, it is the pre-season, so naturally, "take a grain of salt with the pre-season;" but this should tell a lot about a young teams readiness for the regular season.

As mentioned above the Lakers are a dumpster fire and the Suns kick off the actual season against them at home in nine days so that needs little discussion. The other Los Angeles team has been kicking the tires so far giving up 100+ points in all but one pre-season game so far. They do not need this season to prepare as much as other teams, but they are still playing 48 minutes like every other team. Overall the most intriguing game on the schedule this week is in Utah to face a young Jazz team that, may be a few years away from contention, but are loaded with potential young talent. Something said albeit in slightly different context about the 2013-2014 Phoenix Suns. Unless the Suns sit out their better players because of a two week long European trip then this looks like a 3-0 week, ending the pre-season on a high note.

Also, three games in four days in the re-season just before the real action starts? Come on NBA, these guys are already playing insane back-to-backs and at times adding another game just a day later in the regular season. You can do better.

All the blogger NBA previews for the Atlantic and Pacific divisions.

Atlantic Division

Boston Celtics: CelticsBlog | Red's Army | Celtics Green | LucidSportsFan
Brooklyn Nets: Nets Daily | Baller Mind Frame
New York Knicks: Posting and Toasting
Philadelphia 76ers: Liberty Ballers
Toronto Raptors: Raptors HQ

Pacific Division

Golden State Warriors: Golden State of Mind
Los Angeles Clippers: Clips Nation
Los Angeles Lakers: Silver Screen and Roll
Phoenix Suns: Bright Side of the Sun
Sacramento Kings: Sactown Royalty | Basketball Intelligence

Index of all SBNation Previews

Additional Preview Features from Sonics Rising

Gerald Green has played shooting guard for the majority of his career. He is listed as a shooting guard and plays the game like a shooting guard. The problem for Green is, there may not be enough...

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Here's a look at the Suns' center position this season, and what you can expect these players to bring to the team.

Although the Phoenix Suns are going to depend on the play of their guards to carry the load offensively this season, the play of their centers may be what ultimately determines their overall success.

There's no doubt that the Suns have scary talent and potential at the guard position, but they will also need significant contributions from their big men inside.  Not just to score, but more importantly, to defend the rim and grab rebounds...something the Suns simply cannot rely on their guards to do...no matter how talented they are.

Here's a look at who the Suns will be using at the center position this season, and how they will be depended upon.


Miles Plumlee, 6'11" 255 lbs, Center

2013/14 Per-Game Averages:  24.6 min, 8.1 pts, 7.8 rbs, 1.1 blks, 51.7 FG%

After trading Marcin Gortat to the Washington Wizards just before the start of the regular season, Miles Plumlee became the starting center for the Phoenix Suns last year.  While most thought of Plumlee as the third string center upon his arrival, he quickly proved to be much more than that with the athleticism, hustle, and defense he provided on the court.  Phoenix let go of one of the better centers in the league as part of the rebuilding process and handed the reigns to Miles, who proved to be more than adequate in the starting role for the Suns last year.

So what can we expect from Miles this season?

Although Miles has been working on his offensive game, including his hook shots, his post moves, and even his free throws and jumpers, I don't expect a big jump in either scoring of efficiency from Plumlee this season.  While I think Miles is more than capable of providing the Suns with adequate scoring in the post, especially in the pick-and-roll, he is still limited in this regard, and will not be one of the main options in the Suns offense.  Instead, Miles will continue to score opportunistically on tip-ins, and dunks/lay-ups when open and rolling to the basket.

Plumlee's main job in the Suns' system is to provide defense...and this is where I believe he will continue to make the biggest difference on the court.  Miles is an excellent rim protector in the post, and is very skilled at challenging the opponent and blocking shots while remaining vertical.  His presence on the court completely changes the way in which the opposing team attacks the basket.  He changes and alters shots with his athleticism and ability to time his jumps just right, causing the opposition to often miss their shot even when he isn't able to block it.

One area I would like to see Miles improve in this season is his rebounding.  Miles has always been one of the most athletic players in the post, so it is a natural habit for him to go after the rebound rather than box-out the players around him.  This still worked for him pretty well last season, when he averaged 7.8 rebounds per game, but if he could improve on boxing out his man when the shot goes up, it will not only give himself a better chance to get the ball, but allow his teammates to help grab loose balls that bounce out of his reach.


Alex Len, 7'1" 265 lbs, C

2013/14 Per-Game Averages:  8.6 min, 2.0pts, 2.4rbs, 42.3 FG%

Alex Len is by far the biggest question mark going into the season...not only for the center position...but on the team as a whole.  Len was the Suns' fifth overall pick last year in the 2013 NBA draft.  Phoenix drafted him because of his potential to become an elite starting center in the NBA.  Len has the rare combination of true-center size at 7'1" with a body that can support the added bulk needed to defend against NBA big men, and also the mobility and agility to play on a fast-tempo team who likes to run up and down the court.  This is truly a rare commodity among big men in the league, and there is no question that Alex is one of the very few big men in the league who possess these highly sought-after traits.

However, at least so far, Len's professional career has been hampered by injuries which have stifled his development and prevented him from contributing.  Before the beginning of last season, Alex underwent minor surgeries on both of his ankles to fix small fractures that could become bigger issues later on if they weren't addressed.  The good news was, the Suns doctors believed Len would make a full recovery and have no lingering effects from the procedures, and that his ankles would be as good as new.  Although this prevented him from playing most of last season, and adding the strength and weight he had planned on, the Suns didn't mind being patient, and viewed Len as a long term investment who would reap the benefits of having a red-shirt season in the NBA and taking his time to learn the system.

Len participated in the Suns' summer league where he performed fairly well overall in his first game, but suffered a small fracture in his right pinkie when it got caught in another players jersey.   The good news was, it wasn't a major injury and would be healed in plenty of time for training camp to start.  Over the off-season, Alex was finally able to commit to a workout regimen that would have him gain 15 lbs of muscle, and give him the NBA body he needed to compete with the big boys.  As I detailed in my article here, both Len and the Suns' coaching staff were excited and encouraged by his progress, and expected big things from him this season.

Before the first preseason game, news broke that Alex once again fractured the same pinkie on the same hand, but in a different location, while going up for a dunk during a scrimmage in practice.  Although this sounds like another minor setback, it's beginning to seem as though Len is a bit snake-bitten when it comes to injuries.  Len is expected to fully recover and be able to participate by the beginning of the regular season, and pwrhaps in preseason games as well, but the amount of injuries that have plagued Len's very short career are starting to become a concern.

The Suns need Len to stay healthy this season, above all else.  Whatever Alex can contribute to the team while getting playing time and backing up Miles at the center position this year will be a big boost to the team.  Right now, Phoenix is relatively thin at the center position.  Having Alex Len as an option at the five suddenly gives the Suns a legit big man to help defend the bigger post players in the league, and a quality back-up to help spell Plumlee.  Len could be one of the more important complementary players on the team this season, if he can avoid injury.


Shavlik Randolph, 6'10" 240 lbs, PF/C

2013/14 Per-Game Averages:  6.8 min, 1.4 pts, 1.8 rbs, 50.0 FG%

Randolph was brought back to the Suns this season in order to provide depth at the center and power forward positions.  Although Randolph came to the Suns late last season, and was used sparingly as a reserve, his veteran presence, hustle, and ability to rebound are all characteristics the Suns covet.

Shavlik worked on his game in the off-season to increase his range, and improve on his shooting.  The former high-school blue chip prospect who played for Duke was no stranger to scoring when he was younger, so the ability is still there.  However, he had settled into his role in the NBA as a post player who was needed for rebounding and defense, so scoring hasn't been an area of his game he has focused much on.

Although he will still be used in a back-up role this season, Shavlik understands that in the Suns offense' big men are expected to shoot.  I don't expect him to play big minutes this season, and neither does he.  In fact, at the moment he is in direct competition with Earl Barron to even stay on the roster.  However, if he does make the final roster, his versatility and dependability could see him play spot minutes at either the four or the five whenever the Suns need him.  Shavlik will be ready when or if his number is called.


Earl Barron, 7'0" 245 lbs, C

2012/13 (Not in NBA for 2013/14) Per-Game Averages:  13.3 min, 3.3 pts, 5.1 rbs, 35.3 FG%

Earl Barron wasn't part of the plan going into training camp.  The Suns had already signed the maximum number of players, 15, to guaranteed contracts prior to preseason starting, so it was assumed that their four invitees--Earl Barron, Jamil Wilson, Casey Prather, and Joe Jackson--would only be on the roster for the short term.

However, after Alex Len was sidelined with yet another minor injury, Earl Barron was given a regular spot in the preseason rotation, and has been outplaying the presumed third-string center, Shavlik Randolph.  It now seems very possible that Barron could get a spot on the roster and that Randolph could be released.

The competition is certainly real at this point, and it will almost certainly come down to the Suns keeping one or the other...They simply will not be able to keep both.  However, if the Suns decide to keep Barron, I expect him to continue doing the same things he has for the Suns during preseason.  He likely won't see many minutes, but if he is called upon to play, he needs to help defend the post, and most importantly, help rebound.  I think Earl has shown that he is capable of both as a reserve.

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