The team is shooting 49.9% from the field and 36.3% on three-pointers, 43.5 rebounds, 9.0 steals and 105.2 points per game, all up from last year by a wide margin. On the downside, the Suns are only making 61% of their free throws and committing 18.8 turnovers per game.
Earmarks of a young team and a deep, deep rotation. Seventeen different players have seen action in at least 3 of the 5 games, with 11 of them getting at least one start. Only three players are getting at least 20 minutes per game (Eric Bledsoe, Markieff Morris, Marcin Gortat). And only one player is getting less than 10 minutes per game (Viacheslav Kravtsov), probably an indication that he will start against the Thunder.
While the Suns aren't running as hard as they want to throughout the year, they are playing fairly well and showing some moxie. After the loss to the Clippers last week, Jamal Crawford said, "they played hard. It's a preseason game but they played hard and the guys that came in really produced."
Here are some other random preseason numbers, in relation to the rest of the league:
Clearly, the Phoenix Suns have not stopped making moves. Not one position is solidified for the future with a potential All-Star in the making. Maybe by the end of the 2013-14 season one or two will emerge from among Eric Bledsoe, Archie Goodwin and Alex Len but that's a long shot.
Eric Bledsoe is who he is - a really good all-around player who doesn't excel at the pretty things like scoring. He is a bulldog on defense and gets a lot of steals, rebounds and blocks for a PG but All-Star voters don't respond to that (or Tony Allen would be an All-Star). He can pass, but he's not a natural floor leader. He can shoot, but he can't make them very often.
But Bledsoe will produce roughly 15 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game - his per-36 minutes numbers from last year backing up Chris Paul. This preseason, he's putting up basically those per-36 numbers with a few more assists (though he's only playing 23 minutes per game).
Archie Goodwin and Alex Len have the raw talent to someday be All-Stars but that talent is very, very raw indeed and may never turn into skill. At 19 and 20 years old, respectively, both have a lot of growing to do and will get the time to do it.
No one else on the current roster has the potential to be an All-Star. Goran Dragic and Marcin Gortat are the team's best statistical players, but neither is top-10 at his position let alone rare enough to make an All-Star team.
So, the wheels must keep on turning.
For this exercise, let's focus on the following
With the Suns trying to improve their future, it's okay to include one or more future draft picks if that's what gets the deal done for a better individual player than anyone on the current roster.
Here's what the Suns have:
Within the narrow scope of STAYING young and acquiring only players with upside, I am limiting my targets to players from the 2010-2012 drafts. My assumption is that it's too soon for another team to give up on a 2013 player.
I have also narrowed my choices to teams who want to fight for the playoffs this year. Only they would be wiling to dump younger talent for a chance to win games this season. So, no trades with Philly or Orlando, for example.
Looking for a rookie extension going into his fourth year, Monroe is a good player that deserves $10+ million per year. He would cost a lot to acquire - likely 2 first round picks from among the 2013 (Len, Goodwin)/2014/2015 drafts AND a veteran that would help Detroit win games, such as Channing Frye, Goran Dragic or Eric Bledsoe.
Ed Davis never did establish future stardom in Toronto, then was traded (with others) for Rudy Gay last spring and now sits on the bench behind a really good front line on long-term contracts. He did not attend Summer League, thinking he was beyond that, which frustrated the Grizzlies. I am thinking Davis wants a playing opportunity he won't get in Memphis and would probably leave for a good offer next summer that the Grizz couldn't afford to match.
He's been an incredible disappointment in Washington, with no NBA position besides "undersized center". Has barely played for a really bad Washington team that suddenly wants to make the playoffs.
Another real disappointment since being taken top-5 in 2011. He and Vesely are quite the pair. A tweener who likely belongs at power forward in the NBA as an undersized guy, he hasn't even garnered a rotation spot in Minnesota this year - having already lost a starting spot to Corey Brewer. Corey. Brewer. He may not even get his fourth year option picked up.
A surprise inclusion on this list, and one that likely is a laugher. Yet with Brian Shaw saying he wants to go more traditional in Denver, it's easy to see how an undersized power forward in Faried might not fit the new plan. Especially with Faried certainly wanting $10+ million a year next year in a rookie extension. Maybe the Suns could steal him for a package of prospects?
Turner has no interest in staying in Philadelphia and they likely have no interest in keeping him. They probably want to trade him before having to pull a Thabeet - not giving a 4th year contract to a former #2 overall pick (2010).
Lots of Suns fans - and Suns front office folks - wanted Jeremy Lamb last year. He's currently under a great deal of pressure to succeed in OKC as a third scoring option and likely won't meet their expectations so early in his career. Plus, he's really only a 3-and-D player, like a Courtney Lee once was for Orlando.
Teammate Derrick Favors just got $49 million over 4 years, and Hayward has done more in the NBA than Favors to this point. Would rebuilding Utah give out two big-money contracts in the same offseason (or next year) before knowing if those guys lead to winning? This may be an OKC situation - where the team decides to keep the big and trade the wing. But then again, who knows what Utah will do.
This year the Phoenix Suns have a lot of options in terms of roster flexibility and there has been a phrase that new head coach Jeff Hornacek has been using this summer. He has the luxury, or burden depending on the individual outlook, of carving out this team in his image with little to no hand-cuffs, even as a first year head coach.
The image he has been painting the verbal picture for the past few months is that of a team that will runs, scores off of energy, and plays the right way overall on both ends of the floor. All things that about 29 other teams want to do.
In order to get there Coach Hornacek is going to, in his words, "tinker around."
Last year the team acquired Marcus Morris, brother of 2011 No. 13 Overall Pick Markieff Morris, in an effort to add more young talent. The potential ripple effects of adding Marcus to the fold was that he would ignite his brother and the Suns would have the opportunity to capture lightning in a bottle. When the two played together in college they were one of if not the best duo in the game playing off one another to dominate games.
It is hard enough to get two brothers to share an XBox remote playing a game let alone get them to share the spotlight of a basketball career. These two are different. They want to play with each other as they have their entire careers to date and Coach Hornacek and the Suns are going to give them that chance again.
The team has questions all over the roster, but the three and the four, the forwards, seem to be the most in the air based on comments by the coaches and the pre-season to date.
So far Markieff, Marcus, P.J. Tucker (last years starting three), Miles Plumlee, and Gerald Green have all started at least one game at one of the two forward positions. There is uncertainty at the forward position as to who starts, who plays, and what the roles will be for each team going into the season. The logical long-term option would be to give the Morrii a chance as the youngest combination, former lottery picks, and as the duo with the most potential as well as experience playing with each other.
During their time at Kansas the duo went 68-6 overall and 4-2 in the NCAA Tournament as starters. They were dynamic for their positions and caused mismatches nightly.
What made the Morrii unique and special was that they did things that other players at their position could not do. Marcus, a combo forward, was capable of handling the ball a little, score in the paint, and rebound the ball from either the three or the four position. He was a classic tweener coming out of college, not big or strong enough to play in the paint for 30 minutes a night, but also not quick or skilled enough to play on the perimeter for those same minutes nightly. That makes for a versatile player, but it also limits the gameplan when he is on the court. In the end he is a small-ball four that will play some at the three in the NBA as seen in Houston and now in Phoenix.
Markieff was the counter-balance. He was another tweener, but from the four and the five which is easier to fit into a gameplan. In his final season with Kansas Markieff was the Big 12's best rebounder by total rebounds (316), per game (8.3), and percentage (19.7) proving to be the leagues best rebounding and defensive big man prospect.
In college they balanced each other out, against non-comparable competition, but nonetheless they each carved out roles.
Marcus was the scorer and Markieff was the rebounder defender that catapulted the duo into the 2011 NBA Draft Lottery. Over time Markieff was seen as the better long-term prospect because of his rebounding and defensive potential. He had the size to play the four and lampoon the five at times. That was the idea when he was drafted one spot ahead of his more offensively skilled brother to the Suns and onto a team that was attempting to fill the void of the loss of Amare Stoudemire.
The one common element that made the Morrii a productive duo at Kansas was the threat of the three-point shot. It was something in their back pocket as a pace change, like a change-up in baseball, and made them hard to guard.
In college each brother shot the ball exceptionally well from the field. Marcus (55.5%) and Markieff (55.3%) were efficient from the field and both played inside the three-point line. Back then Markieff was a true post player and popped out for a three (40.4%) from time to time (5.5:1 two-to-three point shot ratio) to keep the defense off balance. His threes were rationed and more meaningful. Since coming to the NBA he has shot 40.4% from the field, same as his three-point percentage in college with a 3.2:1 two-to-three point shot ratio.
The three-point shot has become more of their identifier versus the change-up that kept the defense on their toes.
Shooting is an important element for an NBA team for spacing and overall court balance. Through two seasons in the NBA the Morrii have shot their share of threes (508 combined), but have not produced (34.6% collectively) from behind the arc. Since they were drafted Markieff has logged more minutes and starts shooting 34.1% from three (40.4% from the field) providing little spacing as a "stretch-four."
From the field Marcus (41.0%) and Markieff (40.4%) have become less efficient players overall as well. They provide shooting, but so far not in a positive way.
With Coach Hornacek "tinkering around" with things one element he mentioned was playing the Morrii together. They got very little time together in this system in Training Camp and in the pre-season to date. Last year however they logged 132 minutes together as a three-four duo with a center on the floor with them according to 82games.com data. Those line-ups had an effective plus/minus of -36 and an overall win record of 5-11 based on the data collected.
There were very effective line-ups last year, but in the time the brothers shared on the court last season they were not as dynamic as they were back in Lawrence.
Shooting aside they just looked uncomfortable on an NBA floor together. To date Markieff has been the more productive NBA player, but throughout their careers playing together Marcus has always been the better half. It was that way in high school and in college.
Coach Hornacek has a full season to see if the Morrii Experiment can work at this level.
Based on the projected starters for every other NBA team and the individual career shooting numbers the Morrii would be the least efficient starting forward duo in the league in terms of field goal percentage. With Marcus at the three and Markieff at the four the Suns would be one of five teams in the entire league with a three shooting under 45% and a four shooting under 50% for their careers.
A basic baseline for shooting at the three is about 45% for an average-to-good shooter and 50% at the four. In fact, if you factor out Wesley Johnson, the Lakers projected starting three, Marcus would have the lowest career field goal percentage entering the season for a starting three and Markieff is the lowest shooting four entering the season. As a rookie Cody Zeller is not factored, but in college he did shoot 59% from the field.
The team can go in numerous directions with the starting three and four, including the Morrii, but there are other combinations that are equal or better in terms of shooting.
A P.J. Tucker (47.4%) and Markieff would be an improvement in overall field goal percentage, but gives them little spacing as Tucker is inconsistent as a shooter from three-point range, especially from the weak-side corner. Re-introducing Channing Frye (44.5%) to the starting line-up with Marcus would be better and with Tucker would be statistically the best combination. The forward positions are up in the air with no player taking the reigns and standing out in the pre-season as a locked in starter.
There is a lot of tinkering that can be done here still. Long-term the Morrii are the youngest players with the most potential as Tucker (28) and Frye (30) are on the back nine of their careers.
If the Morris brothers can learn to share court time as productive and cohesively as their matching tattoos then all this tinkering will be well worth the time.