A year ago, the Phoenix Suns traded away a young pass-first point guard who couldn't win a backup spot ahead of Ish Smith in training camp. Now, with the pick obtained in the trade, the Suns have drafted another pass-first point guard in Tyler Ennis. Is Ennis a better prospect than Marshall?

The Phoenix Suns selected PG Tyler Ennis with the 18th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, and the whole Suns world echoed the same sentiment: "Oh no, another Kendall Marshall!"

Tyler Ennis didn't have the Suns as his #1 choice either. A Toronto native, he had a soft spot for the Raptors who were picking just few picks further down the draft. Now, the Canadian kid gets to find out what climbing into a hot oven feels like.

"This is probably going to be my first year not seeing snow,'' Ennis said of his new home in Arizona, "but I think change is good.''

Still, the Suns were a team Ennis liked and could see himself playing for.

"I had a really good workout in Phoenix,'' Ennis said to Syracuse.com after the Draft. "Their style of play fits mine, and I think with the young talent Phoenix has and me being a facilitator, I think it could work really well.''

When he worked out just a week before the Draft, Ennis was ready to go.

"I think anyone that has a chance to come here and be a part of this organization is lucky," he said after working out in Phoenix. "They have a great staff and a great set of players. If I end up here I'd be more than happy."

The Marshall experiment

Kendall Marshall was the 20 year old sophomore point guard who led UNC's college All-Star team as the best assist man in the past decade. Marshall's college problem was a poor shooting stroke and utter lack of confidence in his shot coupled with a lack of athleticism to keep up with NBA players. As soon as the season ended, Marshall was projected in the Top 10 of the 2012 Draft. By draft time, his stock dropped into the late teens and was eventually taken as the point guard of the future for the Phoenix Suns.

But Marshall spectacularly flamed out in Phoenix. First and foremost, he entered his rookie season with "nothing to prove". After struggling for playing time on a terrible team, his father began ranting on social media about giving Marshall a chance. When Marshall got a chance in the second half of the season, he did exactly what we thought he would do: pass it well, shoot it terribly, and make enough layups against NBA competition to count on one hand.

The Suns imported a "shooting coach turned head coach" who promised to help everyone on the roster shoot better than ever. Hornacek's first bomb was to mention what Marshall and rookie Archie Goodwin needed to do to become quality NBA shooters: remake their shot. Hornacek had done it when he entered the NBA in the late 80s and saw no reason these two young players couldn't do the same.

He said that Marshall needed to raise the release point of his shot to get it off over NBA defenders. He commented that Marshall couldn't just work on consistency, since the NBA players would close out harder once he proved he could make shots. He also worked with Goodwin had a different release point on every shot, making it difficult to find any consistency.

Marshall showed up training camp with the same exact shot. Goodwin showed up ready to start over with his shot.

A month later, only Goodwin was still on the team.

The Washington trade nets Ennis

Now that the dust has cleared, we can see that the Suns traded Marcin Gortat, Kendall Marshall, Shannon Brown and Malcolm Lee for Tyler Ennis.

Those four former Suns were traded for the Washington first round pick that was eventually used on Tyler Ennis last week.

But to put that pressure on Ennis is a bit much. He didn't devise this plan. The Suns did. I just think it's ironic that the Suns traded, essentially, Marshall's future for Ennis' future.

Now the Ennis experiment

Now, the Suns appear to have drafted much the same player in Syracuse's Tyler Ennis. Ennis is a great passer, but inconsistent with his shot and could struggle against NBA athleticism.

However, these players are very different.

Shooting

For one thing, Ennis already has a good shooting stroke with good height at the release point. He does not need to remake anything. He will not struggle to get his shot off against a close-out defender.

In addition, Ennis has made a lot of big shots to help his team win games. Marshall never (as far as I know) made a game-winning shot. Ennis has done that. Ennis scored 12.9 points per game as a freshman, while Marshall scored less than 9 points per game at UNC and has not cracked 10 in the NBA, even with Mike D'Antoni as his coach for nearly 30 mpg his second season.

Ball Control

While Marshall is a risk-taker in the passing game, Ennis had an incredible assist-to-turnover ratio in his only year in college. He makes the flashy passes as well as the simple ones. He is great with dump off passes under the basket after driving into the teeth of the defense.

Marshall committed a lot of turnovers in college, the NBA, Summer League and even the D-League. Conversely, Tyler Ennis comes in with a 3.2 Assist-to-turnover ratio as a freshman in college.

"I think the thing that stands out most about Tyler Ennis is his composure," GM Ryan McDonough said of Ennis in June. "He was unbelievable in late game situations this year. If you look at his possessions in close and late games he was off the charts in how many game winners he hit, and how many big plays he made down the stretch. He's also got a really good feel. He just catches (the ball) and makes a simple play. He doesn't over complicate it.

"He had a great year as a freshman and he's a guy we're certainly interested in."

Defense

While Marshall has become a turnstile on D in the NBA, Ennis has enough athleticism to at least survive on that end. He still has to prove it at the NBA level, but he is a better athlete than Marshall (though both are below NBA average).

Where Ennis will make his mark is with steals. He has great anticipation on passes in the back court and makes great closing moves to get the ball, leading the Syracuse zone with 2.1 steals per game. Having that kind of anticipation can generate game-changing plays in close games.

Coachability

This remains to be seen, and I will be watching closely. I figure that Kendall will disagree with me on this point, as is his right, but I was less than impressed with his self-awareness in the NBA. He appeared to think he'd already arrived and deserved a chance to be exactly the same player he'd been in college. He's gotten chances on two of the worst NBA teams in the last two years - the 2012-13 Suns and 2013-14 Lakers. The Suns traded him for basically nothing a year ago, and now the Lakers have brought in rookie Jordan Clarkson who will be the same age as Marshall this season (22). Clarkson had been projected as high as middle first-round before the draft.

Ennis did talk about the things he has to work on, showing a bit of self-awareness with his game, when he worked out for the Suns a week before the draft.

"What I want to show is that I can defend the point guard position," Ennis said after his pre-draft workout. "Coming from Syracuse, a lot of people question that. And, I want to show that I can shoot the NBA three. College wise they know I can knock it down, but the NBA line is a little further. So I want to show them I can knock it down off the dribble, catch-and-shoot, and show them that I can also lead guys that are older than me."

Independent Comparisons

But that's enough from me. I'm just one voice. Let's hear what draftniks and NBA scouts have to say about the Ennis/Marshall comparison.

Aran Smith, Editor, NBADraft.net

[Ennis is] definitely a better shooter. Similarly strong PG instincts and intelligence. A little quicker and more athletic, though below NBA average on both. Kendall really struggled with his shot and I think Ennis can improve as a shooter to where you have to respect him. Interesting that he ended up going where Marshall failed, since they're compared to one another.

[On defense being a challenge for him] That's so difficult to say with a Syracuse guy. He's starting from scratch as an on ball defender, so that will take take. His foot speed isn't a strength so probably always more below average than average, but then again he's very cerebral and focused.

Mike Schmitz, Scout, DraftExpress.com

[Ennis is a] much better shooter and a better defender [than Marshall]. Bright future. (via twitter)

Kris Habbas, Editor, NBADraftInsider.com and Bright Side contributor

The similarities between future Phoenix Suns point guard Tyler Ennis and former Kendall Marshall are limited. For the most part they are surface value similarities like each have good size for position, play with pace, and are not the best athletes for their position.

Marshall as a non-athlete played in a system that allowed his strengths to shine in the open court as a passer and limited his weaknesses in perimeter shooting. For Ennis, who played in a combination system where his teams were opportunistic in transition and worked for the most part in the half-court on offense. Marshall was never effective in the half-court.

They are both very good passers seeing angles with Marshall as more of a risk taking passer (2.8 TPG in college) and Ennis as a pick-and-roll master that was as efficient with the ball (1.7 TPG) as anyone in college in recent years. There were only four games in Ennis college career (one season) where he had more than two turnovers in a game.

Shooting and leadership are what separate Ennis from Marshall. While he did not shoot an incredible percent from three last year, Ennis is a much better mechanical shooter and was a terrific scorer late in games in college and in college.

What hurt Marshall the most was his attitude, aura, and leadership as a point guard. They were all lacking. Ennis is the consummate leader on the court and in the locker room by all accounts with the way he took over games late in the final five minutes. Ennis is craftier with the ball, more efficient in the pick-and-roll, a better perimeter shooter, a better finisher in the paint, and carries himself as a leader with a better atmosphere. Defensively they are about the same in terms of being limited, but Ennis wins that one by a nose with his instincts in passing lanes and slightly better lateral movement. However, the 2-3 Zone protected and enhanced Ennis' defensive output.

Attitude, shooting, half-court efficiency, and leadership are the primary intangibles that make Ennis a better prospect than Marshall. Most of Marshall's flaws were on display, but unfortunately the ones that hurt the Suns the most came out after he was drafted in his lack of leadership and aura he carried himself with as an established star before he played.

Summary

Tyler Ennis is not Kendall Marshall. That's for sure. He's a better prospect in the NBA and could become a starter if he can develop consistency in his shot and use his quick hands to negate his slow feet. Many NBA players have become passable on D with "athletic hands" as their calling card.

Ennis is also a hard worker, according to the only guy that matters: Jeff Hornacek. Hornacek likes guys who bust their butts. The Suns drafted two guys who killed in their workouts, while bypassing guys who did not. Workouts aren't everything, but they do show you who's got the natural work ethic when you've got them running non-stop the entire time. If you've got two equal talents but believe one of them works harder, you'll take the harder worker.

Where he fits on the current Suns team is immaterial. You don't draft for today, especially a 19 year old kid. You're drafting Ennis for the future.

Summer League

Unless he is traded in the next two weeks in a deal for a star, expect to see Ennis running the point in Summer League this year. Last summer, Marshall put up 7 points and 4 assists per game as the starting PG for the 7-1 Summer Suns.

That's not a high bar for Ennis to exceed. I expect once we see Ennis play in the Suns system, we will forget all about that former pass-first point guard who couldn't shoot straight.

More on Ennis

What have the Phoenix Mercury been up to as they hit the road and continue to shine as the best team in the WNBA at nearly the halfway point in the season?

Record: 11-3 (.786)

Place In Standings: First (+0.5 on Minnesota)

Points Per Game: 84.64

Points Against: 77.14

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This needs to get prefaced with the fact that Brittney Griner is a dynamic physical talent that has all the potential in the world. She has gotten better incrementally from year one to year two.

Last season Griner scored, rebounded, and blocked shots because she was 6'8" and everyone else was not. She has taken the next step offensively this year with her ability to score the ball in a variety of ways with vastly improved strength, footwork, skill in the paint. She, at 6'8" Griner is going to score because she is 6'8", but adding moves and footwork make her nearly unstoppable on the offensive end 10-feet in.

Adding the strength to play at this professional level is a major reason for the boost in improvement as well as her play overseas, one-on-one coaching sessions with assistant Olaf Lange, and maturity.

As a rookie Griner hung her hat on being the biggest player on the court and shot-blocking. Those were her primary skills as a basketball player. With that she had a quality rookie year by the numbers 12.6 points (55.6% FG) 6.3 rebounds 3.0 blocks per game in 25.9 minutes. This year she has improved in nearly every offensive category. Griner is averaging 16.7 points (59.6% FG) 8.4 rebounds 4.1 blocks in 30.7 minutes per game.

The next step in her progression is to become a great rebounder. Right now she is getting rebounds because she is a 6'8" and not because she is a great rebounder. That is her biggest area of improvement to take the leap as a star in this league.

Despite playing 30+ minutes a night on average she has only finished three games with double-digit rebounds. Two dominant 18 rebound performances and one 10 rebound performance. One night it is 18 rebounds and the next it is 4 rebounds. Gaining that consistency and dominating the glass is the biggest area of opportunity for Griner and her progression as a star.

The sky is the limit for Griner and her glass ceiling is nonexistent. Very few basketball players have that type of future.

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WNBA All-Star Game Early Returns...

On June 23rd, the WNBA released the first returns for the 2014 WNBA All-Star Game voting. The Mercury have two players in the running for a starting spot in former MVP Diana Taurasi (10, 487 -- 5th Overall) and Brittney Griner (10,214 -- 6th Overall).

The team has a respectable amount of players on the ballet close enough to potentially becoming an All-Star this year.

Candace Dupree (4,801 -- 7th Forward in West), Erin Phillips (2,453 -- 8th Guard in West), and DeWanna Bonner (3,170 -- 9th Forward in West).

Balloting an voting ends on July 2nd at 9 p.m. local time in Arizona. Fans can vote for up to 10 players a day on either WNBA.com or via Twitter using the hashtag #WNBABALLOT with your individual selections. The starters will be announced on July 8th on ESPN during the Los Angeles Sparks vs. Minnesota Lynx game that tips at 6 p.m. local time. Reserves will be announced on July 15th during the ESPN2 televised Los Angeles Sparks vs. Indiana Fever game at 5 p.m. local time.

Get online to vote and vote often!


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

The WNBA season is shorter than the NBA season. That is a starting point worth mentioning going into this conversation, but last year the Phoenix Suns went on a magical run that was special to the fans and now the Mercury are embarking on their own similar season.

At this stage the Mercury have played 14 games (11-3) which would equals 34 games in the longer, marathon of an NBA season. So far the Mercury are 41.17% of the way through their season. Time is flying.

The Mercury have a .786 winning percentage while the Suns (21-13) had a .617 winning percent at the same exact juncture in the season. Fourteen WNBA games is equivalent to 34 NBA games and both teams were playing at a very high level early in the season. Right now the Mercury are hitting their stride with team play, defense, and offense all clicking at a high level right now. Same could be said for the Suns nearly halfway through their season. Similarities.

Going to keep a watchful eye on this as the season progresses. The Suns finished with a .585 winning percentage last season which would translate to a 20-14 season for the Mercury. More than halfway there.

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Upcoming Schedule

Wednesday vs. Chicago Sky at 7 p.m. AZ Time

Sunday @ Los Angeles Sparks at 1:00 p.m. AZ Time

Free agency is nearly upon us. With the Phoenix Suns looking to be major players, there is almost no way last season's roster remains intact. What are the odds of your favorite Sun remaining in Phoenix?

The Phoenix Suns' roster is about to undergo some changes.  Fan favorites will be lost, fan favorites will be gained.  Regardless of whether or not the LeBron James-Carmelo Anthony pairing comes to fruition, there will be blood.  The following players ended the 2013-14 season on the Suns' roster.  Below is my best guess at the odds of any one player being on the roster come tip-off of the 2014-15 season.

I'm not speculating as to how or why they will no longer be Suns because the possibilities are too myriad to contemplate at this point.  But I'm more than happy to speculate about whether or not they will be here at all.

Goran Dragic

As of right now, The Dragon is not just a fan favorite, but the face of the franchise.  He achieved new career heights this year and shows no signs of regressing to any kind of mean.  He's also a complete steal at $7.5 million.  It wouldn't be unwise for the Phoenix Suns to capitalize on his peak value by trading him as part of a blockbuster deal.  But considering owner Robert Sarver went out of his way to personally bring Dragic back to Phoenix, I think he's safe.

Odds of remaining a Sun: Does a Dragon breathe fire?

Channing Frye

Oh, Channing.  We love you.  We hate you.  You are the most polarizing member of this current squad.  Any opinion I state here is going to set off a tire fire in the comments section.  Well, here's the spark to that conflagration.  Frye's ability to space the floor and play both the 4 and the 5 were essential to the Phoenix Suns' success this year, especially with Alex Len on the shelf to start the season.  However, his production fell off toward the end of the year, he's has opted to test the free agent waters, and he will have suitors.  He's not exactly expendable, but he's not irreplaceable either.

Odds of remaining a Sun: 38.5%

Gerald Green

Gerald Green was an offensive terror for the Phoenix Suns this season.  He was conscience-free marksman from deep and an acrobatic madman on the break.  No other Sun provided highlights like Green last season.  He's also a journeyman whose career has been marked by inconsistency and a mediocre defender.  But for $3.5M, he provided a cheap and effective offensive spark as both starter and substitute.

Odds of remaining a Sun: About the same as having a second consecutive career year.

Alex Len

The fifth overall draft pick had a rough rookie year.  After starting the season injured and seeing his projected role as primary big man supplanted by Miles Plumlee, he played limited minutes in limited situations.  He flashed potential but is far from a finished product.  But he's a Ryan McDonough draft pick and a skilled if unpolished big man on a rookie contract.

Odds of remaining a Sun: Ukraine is game to you?! I take your little board and smash! (He's not going anywhere.)

Eric Bledsoe

Is he injury prone?  Does he want to be in Phoenix?  Can he lure LeBron James?  Can LeBron James lure him?  Eric Bledsoe is Phoenix Suns' restricted man of mystery.  Paired with Goran Dragi?, he was half of one the most effective backcourts in the NBA.  His athleticism and aggression were a perfect complement to Goran's craftiness and dead-eye midrange game.  He also missed a hefty chunk of the season due to knee surgery and will be looking for something in the neighborhood of a max contract.

Odds of remaining a Sun: He's played 240 of a possible 328 games in his career, so let's call it 73.2%.

Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris

The fact that I have to treat these two as a package deal might be problematic.  While Markieff shows considerable promise as a young power forward, Marcus' contributions as a small forward are less essential to this franchise.  Or any franchise.  Where as Kieff took his game to new heights this season and vied for Sixth Man of the Year, Mook looked like almost any other backup 3 in the league.  Markieff will have to blossom into a hell of a player for Marcus to be part of the price of obtaining his services for the rest of his career.

Odds of remaining Suns: The same odds as someone being able to correctly identify them without their jersey numbers.

Miles Plumlee

Miles started his career as a Sun by out-hustling Marcin Gortat in camp and then going bananas with double-doubles in his first two regular season games.  With his insane vertical leap and energy, he looked like a rich man's version of Lou Amundson.  However, as the season wore on, he looked more and more like just a taller Lou Amundson as his offensive game took a nose dive 2 feet from the rim and his defense involved more movement than effectiveness.  But he's young, cheap and tall and that doesn't exactly grow on trees.

Odds of remaining a Sun: Considerably better than his odds of making a free throw.

Archie Goodwin

Like fellow rookie Alex Len, The Mongoose had a bumpy rookie season.  While he showed flashes of potential (especially against like competition at Summer League), more often he looked like a 19 year-old kid finding his way in the man's world of the NBA.  He was always a project so that's not really a big negative.  He still oozes potential as a 2-way player with loads of athleticism.  And he's got the benefit of being a Ryan McDonough acquisition.

Odds of remaining a Sun: The same as him eventually making the Suns' Ring of Honor.  So, like 92%.

Ish Smith

Pharaoh Head, as I have affectionately been calling him for the last week, provided a decent change of pace to the brilliance of either Dragic or Bledsoe when he came off the bench.  He always gave his all and never backed down from a challenge.  Unfortunately, he frequently wasn't up to a lot of those challenges, especially if they involved creating offense.  And the Suns just drafted Tyler Ennis.

Odds of remaining a Sun: You saw this coming, right? 4.3%.

P.J. Tucker

Like Gerald Green, P.J. Tucker is a journeyman basket-baller who had a career year on this incarnation of the Cinderella Suns.  Unlike Gerald Green, Tucker made his living as a defensive and rebounding pitbull who surprised everyone by adding a corner 3 to his otherwise limited offensive repertoire.  Also unlike Green, he is due for a big payday this offseason.  Marcus Morris, on a mid-first round rookie deal, made twice as much as the guy he was backing up this season.  P.J. Tucker is going to get PAID by someone.  Thanks to Bird rights and restricted free agency, it's probably the Phoenix Suns.  But maybe it's not.

Odds of remaining a Sun: About the same as me crying for my mommy if I were ever to anger him.

Dionte Christmas

Dionte Christmas did... things for the Phoenix Suns this season.  He was a spirited cheerleader during games and by all accounts a spirited competitor in practice and just a big a locker room presence as anyone else on the team.  But none of that really translates into on-court production or wins and 12th men in the NBA are as interchangeable as Lego blocks.

Odds of remaining a Sun: It might be a cute saying, but there is no Christmas in July.  Except maybe at Summer League.

Leandro Barbosa

Leandrinho provided a heart-warming dose of nostalgia in his brief stint as a Sun this season.  He also provided some scoring punch off the bench in January and February while Phoenix was missing Eric Bledsoe.  Unfortunately, due to injury, he only played in 2 more games after February 19, ending the season on the Suns' inactive list.

Odds of remaining a Sun: Meep-meep.  In this case, he's the coyote and remaining a Sun is the roadrunner.

UPDATE: Forgot a couple of forgettable big men here.

Shavlik Randolph

Here's what I can tell you about Shavlik Randolph: He is a filthy liar.  His real first name is Ronald.  Why doesn't he go by Ronald Randolph?  Or even just Ron Randolph?  I'd by a used car from Ron Randolph or maybe even some wall-to-wall carpet.  But instead, he tried to trick us into calling him Shavlik.  Does he think he's a Viking or something?  I'm not buying a car from Shavlik and I'm certainly not signing him to the veteran's minimum.

Odds of remaining a Sun: The same as your first name being "Shavlik."

Emeka Okafor

Remember when Emeka Okafor was a great asset as an expiring contract?  He was going to be the missing piece in a big trade to put the Suns over the top.  Well, now he's a $19M cap hold (!) and actual impediment to getting anything done in free agency.  He will be renounced and his name will be forever emblazoned in the Never ORNG Hall of Fame.

Odds of remaining a Sun: Exactly equivalent to the number of minutes he played as a Sun.

What do you think?  Who's staying?  Who's going?  Lay your own odds in the comments.

Welcome to the Madhouse! Bright Side of the Sun is an amazing and diverse community and it deserves a place where the tyranny of topicality does not rule. And that's what The Madhouse is. It's Bright Side of the Sun's place to talk about whatever you want, whenever you want: favorite TV shows, news from around the league or how 'Merica is the greatest country on earth. It's all fair game FREEDOM here.

You thought the Phoenix Suns would be happy with just getting second tier guys? Think again.

Draft night has come and gone, and whether or not you're feeling good about the Phoenix Suns's haul of T.J. Warren, Tyler Ennis, and Bogdan Bogdanovich, there is at least one small silver lining to take away from the night; Kevin Love has still not been traded, which means that we can still entertain the possibility of the power forward making a new home in the valley. Tweets like these, from Minnesota sports beat writer Darren Wolfson, only add fuel to the fire:

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You better believe this has us going nuts. Are we delusional? Probably. We like to dream big. But hey, why stop there?

How does a core of Eric Bledsoe, Kevin Love, AND LeBron James sound?

I know, I know. It's a ridiculous hypothetical. But after the most recent Wojbomb, it seems like the Suns are putting the fullcourt press on LeBron. It's not as out there as you think.

Link: WojBOMB

Armed with an offer that no else in the NBA can make - a chance to partner with Carmelo Anthony on an instant championship contender - the Phoenix Suns are planning an aggressive pursuit of LeBron James on Tuesday, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Suns officials understand the bid will be something of a long shot, but are determined to get a meeting with James to convince him how the possibilities of two full max contracts, a roster stocked with talented, young players and the chance to pick the superstar free-agent partner of his choice ought to make Phoenix one of his most appealing suitors.

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The Suns' flexibility allows for James to pick any free agent - this summer or next - for himself. It could be Anthony or Chris Bosh this summer, Kevin Love next summer.

Getting LeBron AND Love would take some crazy front office wizardry from Ryan McDonough, but it's well within the realm of possibility, and really, is it any crazier than James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh teaming up in Miami in 2010?  We would be remiss if we didn't at least have a discussion about the possibility, right...?

If I haven't lost you yet, let me break down how it would work.  LeBron James will become a free agent on July 1.  Unfortunately, a close relationship with Eric Bledsoe and a decent Suns 2013-2014 campaign probably won't be enough to sway the King to sign in Phoenix.  That means the Suns would have to turn Phoenix into a more attractive destination (the promise of a dry heat just isn't going to cut it).  The best way to do that is to land Kevin Love.

The Plan

You throw the kitchen sink Minnesota.  Anyone and everyone not named Bledsoe is expendable (remember, Bledsoe is going to be a key part in luring James to Phoenix).  It will require jettisoning many, if not all, of the assets Phoenix has painstakingly acquired over the last few years, but this is exactly what they were attained for.  For the Suns to come out on top of the Summer of Love, they would likely have to offer some combination of Goran Dragic (gulp), the Morris twins, either Alex Len or Miles Plumlee, and that juicy Laker's 2015 pick.  Even that may not be enough.  It might require giving back Minny's 2015 pick, or future Phoenix picks, or Gerald Green, and taking back contracts like Corey Brewer or Kevin Martin.  Fine, so be it.  It's all part of the plan.

The loss of Dragic would be tough to swallow, but it would be a necessary sacrifice.  Dragic, a player who could surely coexist on the court with Ricky Rubio, would be the selling point.  Flip Saunders is going to be in win-now mode as the new head coach, so he's going to want players who can actually win him games.

Let's say the trade looked something like this:

Phoenix gets:

  • Kevin Love
  • Kevin Martin

Minnesota gets:

That's a pretty good deal for both teams, and Minnesota isn't going to find anything much better than that.  Phoenix gets their All-Star and hangs on to Bledsoe, while Minny gets a wealth of young, quality players.   The Suns take on a little over $3.3 million in contracts, putting them at around $30.4 million on the books for 2014-2015, by my calculations (This is with Warren and Ennis's projected salaries being around $1.9 million and and $1.6 million, respectively).

Next comes Bledsoe.  With any luck, the Suns could sign Bledsoe up for a little less than the max before suitors come around, but the more likely scenario is someone will sign Bledsoe to a max offer sheet and Phoenix will be forced to match.  His max is projected to be around $14.2 million.  We're now looking at about $44.6 in salaries for the Suns, which would only leave them with $18.6 million to offer LeBron, more than a few sheckles short of his full max.  This would require renouncing Frye and P.J. Tucker's respective bird rights, as well.

Unless they get a little sneaky with the rules.  I'm no CBA expert, but I believe the Suns could get away with renouncing the bird rights to Frye and Tucker, signing LeBron to a full max, and then signing Bledsoe to his max using the Bird exception to exceed the cap.  This way, both players are paid the max amount of money possible.  In order for this to happen, however, Phoenix would have to convince Bledsoe to 1. Talk LeBron into coming here (shouldn't be a problem with newly acquired Kevin Love and their close relationship!) 2. Not sign any other team's offer sheets 3. Hang tight while they take care of LeBron, with a wink-wink that they will give him his max afterwards.

So, to recap, the Suns would:

  • Make the trade with Minny for Love and Martin, payroll at $30.4 million for the 2014-2015 season
  • Renounce the bird rights to Frye and Tucker to have access to $26.33 million in cap room
  • Sign LeBron to his full max (approximately $23.7 million a year)
  • Sign free agent x with rest of cap room (Maybe if we're lucky Frye or Tucker will take a big paycut to play with LeBron and Love)
  • Resign Bledsoe to a max contract, using his bird rights to exceed the cap

Dream Team Assembled

And with that, the Phoenix Suns instantly become the most entertaining team in basketball.  Try to imagine Love flinging a full court pass to LeBron for a breakaway jam.  Or Bledsoe slashing his way to the hoop and dishing it off for a Love three.  Saying James and Love would thrive in Jeff Hornacek's is an understatement; it's like it was made for them.  Frye had an impressive year as a floor-spreading big man on the Suns, and, although Love only shot a hair better than Frye, he would arguably shoot better in a system that catered to his shooting and found him more open looks.  James is the athletic small forward the Suns have not seen since Shawn Marion.  He becomes the go-to guy Phoenix has desperately needed, and his playmaking would nullify the team's shockingly abysmal assist rate.  Both James and Love give the team low-post options as well, something it sorely lacked outside of Markieff Morris last season.  With Bledsoe slashing, James playmaking, and Love destroying the post and three-point line, the Suns would jump from an already impressive offense to a top three offense (Kevin Love helped Minnesota rank third in offensive rating last year, so just imagine what he could do with LeBron and Bledsoe in a fast paced offense).

Love's shortcomings would become moot points on this wonderful hypothetical team; he could let LeBron handle the clutch duties and could be easily hidden on defense.  Plumlee proved to be a capable rim protector last season.  Bledsoe and James would be an absolutely nightmarish defensive tandem.  The rest of the team could pick up Love's slack, so long as he keeps up the good work on rebounds.

We've also never seen LeBron play with a competent point guard before (Sorry, Mo Williams).  Bledsoe is the perfect point guard for him, as he is, you know, mini-Lebron.  With Love spacing the floor, it's hard to imagine how much damage James and Bledsoe could do off the drive or pick-and-rolls.  Remember that play Phoenix used to run last year, where both Plumlee and Frye would screen Dragic's man, with Plumlee rolling to the basket and Frye popping out to the three-point line?  Now picture that with Bledsoe, LeBron, and Love.  That play is unstoppable.  Hornacek would have some new weapons to scheme for, and it would be interesting to see what he would come up with.

As far as the rest of the team goes, Plumlee and Martin would round out the starting lineup.  In a perfect world, which, let's be honest, this isn't far from one as it is, Phoenix would be able to talk one of Frye or Tucker into taking a paycut; they could be paid with that little bit of extra cap room after signing LeBron, or with the room exception after the team is over the cap.  If not, the Suns would have to find some other veterans to sign with that money.  The rest of the bench mob would consist of Archie Goodwin, Ennis, and Warren.  That unit is incredibly young, but ideally Goodwin would develop enough that he could start, and Martin could go to the bench to help balance things out.  Throw in a shooter, and the Bledsoe-James-Love core would be flanked with youth and shooting.  That's a contender.  Just imagine all of the small ball lineups Hornacek could tinker with.

But unfortunately that's all we can do with this scenario: imagine.  It's incredibly unlikely that Phoenix gets one of these guys, let alone both of them.  James and Love would both be perfect fits in the valley, but I wouldn't expect to see them donning the purple and orange next season.  Sure, cross your fingers, just don't hold your breath for them.  It's fun to pretend, though, isn't it?  And hey, if it doesn't work out this season, maybe LeBron will only sign a one year deal with Miami and Love will opt out from whatever team he lands on next year, and we can try this again in 2015.  Even a slim chance is some chance.  The thing to take away here, however, is that the Suns have a lot of flexibility to land big name players.  They have tons of assets to swing a trade, and tons of cap space to land a star free agent.  So don't be too upset if it's not Love or James; there are plenty of other options out there.

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