FIBA Europe recently opened up the voting for FIBA Europe Player of the Year 2014. The awards are split into four categories: Men, Women, Young Men and Young Women. For each category FIBA releases a list of ten players to vote from based on their performances and/or special achievements at both international and club level in 2014.

Two Phoenix Suns players made the list for the Men's category this year: Goran Dragic and pick #27 of the 2014 Draft Bogdan Bogdanovic. To make it clear: out of all European players ten were selected for this prestigious list and TWO of them are Suns. Kudos to the players, but some props to the Suns front office as well.

For Goran this is nothing new, seeing as he was already on the list last year; mostly because of his outstanding performance in Eurobasket2013 in Slovenia where he also made the All-Tournament Team. He came in 5th place overall, though he had the third most fan votes (final ranking reflects a combination of fan and expert voting). This year FIBA is acknowledging Goran's efforts again:

Fatherhood has failed to slow down Goran Dragic, in fact it has had quite the opposite effect. In 2014 Dragic had his biggest impact on the NBA to date, producing week-in, week-out to earn the 2014 NBA Most Improved Player Award, as well as a spot on the All-NBA Third Team. The lightening-quick point guard was then raising his hand for national team duties, leading Slovenia to seventh spot at the FIBA Basketball World Cup with a team-high 16 points and 4.3 assists per game.

per fibaeurope.com

Bogdan, however, is on the list for the first time this year and it comes as no surprise considering the great year he had in Euroleague combined with excellent performances at the 2014 FIBA World Cup.

In what was an underwhelming season for Serbian powerhouse Partizan Belgrade, local lad Bogdanovic was a shining light for the club, leaving more than one European guard clutching at air as he regularly surpassed 20 points against elite European competition in the Euroleague, deservedly winning the Euroleague Rising Star Award. Following an inauspicious beginning to the FIBA World Cup, Bogdanovic's presence grew as the tournament progressed, finishing in double figures in all four of Serbia's knock out games, including 15 in the gold medal game.

per fibaeurope.com

Another chance to show support for your favourite players Suns fans. You can vote here once a day for three player you put in your preferred order. Voting closes on January 16th. Fan votes will be combined with votes from selected experts and the results from all categories will be announced from January 19 through January 28.

The eight other players who made the list are:  Boris Diaw, Pau Gasol, Alessandro Gentile, Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker, Sergio Rodriguez, Milos Teodosic and Jonas Valanciunas.

What: Phoenix Suns vs. Washington Wizards

Where: Verizon Center, Washington, D.C

When: 4:00 PM, AZ Time

Watch/Listen: Fox Sports-AZ, ESPN Phoenix 620 AM

After eluding the hapless New York Knicks yesterday afternoon, the Phoenix Suns plow straight into the literal and figurative brick Wall that is the Washington Wizards.  In years past, that might have been an ironic sentence, but this season the Wiz are stonewalling opponents in the nation's capital.  Their home record is a stellar 13-2 and they haven't lost there since November 25.  Meanwhile, Phoenix will be looking to win their third in a row after slowly reclaiming their mojo with back-to-back wins.

Phoenix Suns Washington Wizards
G - Eric Bledsoe G - John Wall
G - Goran Dragi? G - Bradley Beal
F - P.J. Tucker F - Paul Pierce
F - Markieff Morris F - Kris Humphries
C - Alex Len C - Marcin Gortat

The Wizards

Want to see what the Phoenix Suns hope to look like in the near future?  Well, then tune in for today's game against the Washington Wizards.  Since cratering in the 2008-2009 season with and abysmal 19-63 record, the Wizards have used lottery picks, savvy trades and a new coach to re-build into an Eastern Conference powerhouse.  Any of that sound familiar?  With a record of 17-6, they own the best record in the Southeast Division and the second best record in the Eastern Conference.

They've gotten their wins with stellar defense (4th in DRtg in the NBA) and above average offense (12th in the NBA, a notch below the Suns).  Additionally, point guard John Wall is playing like a beast. He was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for games played December 8th-14th, during which he averaged 18.3 points, 11.8 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 1.3 blocks per game while shooting .542 from the field and .500 from three-point range.  So, the Wiz got that going for them.

The Suns

Everyone seems to know what's good for the Phoenix Suns except apparently, the Phoenix Suns.  "Give the ball to Dragi?!  Trade Isaiah Thomas for a big man!  Give more minutes to T.J. Warren!"  If Jeff Hornacek, Ryan McDonough, Lon Babby and the players (especially the players!) would just listen to our commenters, the Suns would be cruising (cruising, I tell you!) to a Pacific Division banner.

But since they are stubbornly sticking to their game plan, here's where we're at: Phoenix has won their last two consecutive games, but prior to that had dropped six in a row to some bad, bad competition.  Consistency has been a hobgoblin for this squad and they will need to find some tonight if they hope to get out of Washington with a win.

On paper, the Suns have a balanced attack with a "Big 5" of Bledsoe, Dragi?, Isaiah Thomas, Markieff Morris, and Gerald green all averaging between 14 and 16 points per game.  But that balance has yet to translate into a consistent offensive hallmark, and instead reflects each of those players vacillating between good and bad on any given night.

The Summary

In my eyes, the Washington Wizards are overwhelming favorites here.  Phoenix is playing on the second day of a back-to-back.  Their record is a putrid 1-6 when playing on zero days rest.  They are struggling against good teams and they are struggling against bad teams.  The Washington Wizards are a very, very good team and Phoenix will have to play a consistent 48 minutes to beat them and even that may not be enough.

I'm going with the Wizards here, 105-96.  Tell me why I'm wrong in the comments!

The Phoenix Suns have won two straight games and are back to .500, but the current win streak shouldn’t fool anyone; this team still isn’t playing great basketball. At 14-14, the Suns are...

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NBA trading season is underway and teams are trying to snipe off one or more of the Phoenix Suns three starting quality point guards before the February deadline.

The Suns have started poorly this season - 14-14 overall despite an easy slate of opponents - while Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas and Eric Bledsoe have all made mention at various times of the need to "sacrifice" their games for the sake of the current point-guard-glutted roster.

By far, the leaders in the sacrifice club are Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas. Dragic is playing much more off the ball than ever before with a career-low in usage rate, while Thomas is playing a career-low in minutes per game as the backup among the three.

Not helping matters is that Thomas is a bit hobbled by an ankle sprain while Dragic has a tight back that limits his effectiveness on occasion, including Saturday's early game against the New York Knicks.

Blame has been vehemently levied at coach Jeff Hornacek for not shaping the offense around All-NBA player Goran Dragic from day one, even while Dragic is nursing a sore back, and for not finding a way to make all the players play as hard as they did a year ago.

Blame has also been levied at Isaiah Thomas for dominating the ball during his few minutes of designated playing time, despite the extension of those minutes being entirely dependent on his effectiveness that night on a play by play basis. Thomas has always been a score-first point guard, so when you tell him the only way he will get extra time is playing great, he's going to chuck it.

And finally, blame has been levied at Eric Bledsoe for being Eric Bledsoe. He's quiet and just plays the game the way he knows how, but somehow still gets rated poorly by fans even after double-doubles in winning contests. Nitpicking is fun, isn't it? In fact, I think some great philosopher once said the key to a happy existence is to nitpick everything and anything that doesn't jive with your latest narrative. Or not.

For good reason (mostly), none of the blame has been levied at All-NBA point guard Goran Dragic. He's been the victim in this scenario, asked to play off the ball more than at any time in his career while the other two run the show most of the time.

Still, Dragic has been quite effective. He leads the team in scoring per game (16.0), the second highest scoring output of his career, and is pulling down the most rebounds per game of his career (3.3), while shooting the best 2-point percentage of his career (55.1%) and playing the second-most minutes on the team (32.4, behind Bledsoe's 32.9).

His usage rate is the second-highest of his career (22.0%, a measure of how many of the team's plays are used by Dragic while he is on the floor). Dragic's 22% usage rate is higher this year than 2012-13 when he was a full time point guard, and higher than every season except last year, when he was the team's only point guard for half the season.

But how he's using his touches is different this year. Dragic's assists are way down. His 4.1 assists per game are the lowest since he became a regular, and his assist rate (21.1%, a measure of how many of his teammates field goals are assisted by him when he's on the court) is the lowest since his rookie season. That means a greater percentage of his touches are ending in a shot attempt than ever before in his career.

So, he's now a shooting guard who moonlights as an opportunistic passer when he gets the chance. Is that what you do with your All-NBA combo guard from last season?

Maybe. Maybe not. Certainly, Dragic would prefer to have the ball in his hands at all times, and that could play a part in his free agent decision in July.

Already, other teams are lining up to acquire his services and they don't even want to wait until July to nab him.

Multiple teams already are inquiring as to what it would take to break up the Suns' three-guard rotation of Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas -- with Dragic, a prospective free agent, garnering the most attention. Coincidentally, executives have gotten the impression that Dragic is the one Phoenix would most like to keep if they do, indeed, decide to make a move.

--Ken Berger, CBSSports.com

According to Berger, teams want Dragic but the Suns don't want to trade him.

Dragic, for his part, has decided not to burn any bridges (just as any impending free agent would do).

"Right now, I'm going to be 100 percent focused on the team and helping the team," said Dragic of trade rumors, in the CBSSports.com article. "... If it's going to happen, then it happens. The only thing that I can do is be professional and try to be ready every game and help my teammates. In the end, we're going to see."

That position - keeping Dragic above all others - is entirely consistent with everything the Suns have done to this point, not the least of which was signing his brother Zoran Dragic to a guaranteed multi-year contract last offseason despite the logjam at guard that already existed.

The Suns want to keep Dragic, and they want to keep his Bird Rights in order to be able to outbid any other teams next July.

Still, Dragic fans worry about their player. They want the Suns to succeed with Dragic at the helm and will eschew anyone who gets in the way, including Bledsoe, Thomas and Hornacek. For evidence, just look at the post-game grades given to each player, regardless of wins and losses. Bledsoe often gets failing grades even when he was a great night.

Sadly, some Dragic fans might even prefer Dragic on another NBA team as the lead guard rather than see him "suffer" on the Suns as a secondary (yet still leading scorer) option.

For those interested, here's an interview from yesterday. My guess is that no matter where you lean, you'll hear what you want to hear in his words.

I, for one, hear someone who's just trying to be nice, not burn any bridges, make everyone happy and will ultimately re-sign with the Suns in July.

I've interviewed Dragic about 100 times in the past three years. He's always engaging and considerate of the questions asked, and he never burns bridges.

Here we go, sorry this is late.

Rank the players in the game against the Knicks yesterday.

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