The Bench Mob was lacking depth, but kept their composure to bring you another episode. While the Mob has been able to keep its composure, lately the Suns have been struggling to do so. In this...

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The Suns have assigned both second year guards to Bakersfield for a short stint with the team.

The Suns announced today that second year wings Archie Goodwin and Reggie Bullock will be assigned to the Bakersfield Jam.

This is Reggie Bullock's first assignment to the D-League. The Clippers are among the half of the league that doesn't have a solo affiliation with a D-League franchise and, as such, they never found it a great option to send Bullock down to get in reps.

Goodwin, meanwhile, returns to the D-League after recently being named the MVP of the D-League showcase where, despite some troubles with shooting efficiency, he looked like a dominant player. This is Archie's third assignment to the Jam this season, and for the year with Bakersfield he is averaging 19.5 points on 44% shooting,  5 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game.

With Bullock, it seems likely the Suns are just looking to get the young player minutes, without necessarily focusing on a specific aspect of his game that needs improvement. The Suns are still in a feeling-out period with Bullock, who was acquired by trade from the Clippers on January 15th and has appeared in just one game, for 2.5 minutes since then.

As for Archie, it seems likely that the emphasis for this stint is going to be the same as it has been all season: making smart decisions with the ball, hitting open jumpers and playing observant team defense. While the latter has notably improved this season, the two former points need more work, as we covered in an earlier piece.

If the pattern holds, the Suns will leave Bullock and Goodwin in Bakersfield for the weekend, and recall them after they've had a chance to play in a few games. This has been how McDonoiugh and Hornacek have used the team all season, and there aren't any indications they plan to change that behavior now.

Phoenix- Head coach Jeff Hornacek wasn’t kidding when he said the Phoenix Suns (27-20) would be rotating players back and forth from Bakersfield, their D-League affiliate. On Thursday...

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Less than 40 games to go, and the Phoenix Suns still have a strong lead for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

All season, the magic number has been 50 wins. No team in NBA history has won 50 games and failed to qualify for the playoffs. Under the current playoff rules - 8 teams per conference - no team winning at least 49 games has missed the postseason either.

Last year, the Phoenix Suns won 48 games but missed the playoffs by one win but, effectively, two games. Memphis won just 49 but had taken the season series so really the Suns would have had to win 50 games outright to qualify. Prior to that, only Golden State several years ago had as many as 48 games and missed the playoffs.

50 is the magic number.

But as the season wears on, its becoming more and more apparent that the 8th seed will need something less than 50 wins to make it to the big dance.

No way to 50

Here is the latest 50-win watch:

  • Suns need to go 23-12, a 67.6% winning percentage the rest of the way, to finish 50-32
  • New Orleans Pelicans need to go 26-10, a 72% winning percentage
  • Oklahoma City Thunder need to go 27-9, a 75% winning percentage

As you can see, it's quite unlikely for any of these teams to reach the 50-win mark. Of the three, the most likely team would be the Suns, who have won 15 of their last 21 games since inserting Alex Len in the starting lineup and deciding to play the Trips together on a regular basis.

Suns in the lead

According to the popular playoff odds sites, the Suns have the best chance to make the post season. Both ESPN and Basketball-reference give the Suns twice the odds of OKC or the Pelicans, but just above 50% chance overall.

Many say that the Thunder are being undervalued, given the early season injuries, but the Thunder are also just 6-6 in their last 12 games. Not exactly that vaunted 70% win rate that Durant/Westbrook enjoyed last season when they played together. And even then, a 70% win rate from now on just gets the Thunder to 48 wins or so. Is that enough? Maybe. But let's see the Thunder start playing at that pace before anointing them.

Trials and Tribulations

On the plus side, the Suns haven't lost to a lesser team since mid-December, while the Thunder just lost to the Knicks last night and the Pelicans lost to the Nuggets.

The Suns problem is that they still haven't shown an ability to beat the top teams in the West on a regular basis (4-3 at home vs. 1-7 on the road) and still have 18 games against those teams the rest of the way, leaving only 17 games against the rest of the league.

But the Suns problems are lesser than OKC's or the Pellies' unless the Suns fall off the face of the cliff in the second half. The only way either OKC or NOLA makes the postseason is if the Suns stumble, because the Suns are 3 wins up on the Pelicans and 4 wins up on OKC.

The Pelicans have 15 remaining games against the West's best, including two against the Suns. The Thunder have 17 of their own. The Pellies and Thunder have a home-and-home against each other this coming week. But worse news for these teams is on the injury front. Kevin Durant (big toe) sat out the last two games for the Thunder, and Anthony Davis is getting an MRI for a groin injury after a nasty fall the other night.

Just win, baby

The Suns just need to keep winning games, wherever they can and maybe, just maybe the race for 8th won't be as nail-biting as recent blown leads at home.

But then again, this IS the Suns. They wouldn't be doing it right if they didn't give up the lead on 8th in the final couple weeks only to close it out (or not) in the final game or two.

The Suns will not have a very large contingent at the upcoming All-Star game in New York and one of their possible representatives was unable to make the cut with starting center Alex Len being left off the Rising Stars World roster.

Alex Len will get some extra rest over the upcoming All-Star break.

The Suns 21 year old starting center didn't get the nod for the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge World team, which is voted on by the NBA's assistant coaches.

Alex suffered through an injury plagued rookie season, but has been healthy as a sophomore and is really blossoming as the season progresses. In his 22 games as a starter he is averaging 7.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks a game. His presence in the paint on the defensive end has been a key element in the team's 15-7 record since he took over starting duties from Miles Plumlee.

Still, it's hard to argue that this is a snub. Each team, U.S. vs World, consists of four frontcourt, four backcourt and two wildcard players. It's not difficult to make a case that Gorgui Dieng, Rudy Gobert, Steven Adams, Kelly Olynyk and Nikola Mirotic are playing at least as well as Len this season.

Len's recent performance hasn't buoyed his statistics to the point where he compares favorably with his peers. He is averaging less points than any of these players and is not leading in any category. The 21 year old Len is the second youngest of this group (Steven Adams) so hopefully he can concede this small victory and win the much bigger battle of becoming the best player over the course of his career.

The full Rising Stars rosters can be viewed here.

The Suns have also been shut out of the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest and Foot Locker Three-Point Contest, so their last chance will be a nod in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge. Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe (and maybe Isaiah Thomas?) might be considered for that competition.

I guess the Suns' last chance for representation is riding on a chalupa.

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