The Suns looked a little out of sync in their first preseason game against Flamengo, but still got the win. Will they be able to win a much tougher match-up against the Nuggets tonight?
Where: U.S. Airways Center - Phoenix, AZ
When: 7:00 p.m. (AZ)
Watch: Suns.com (Rise Network Internet streaming)
Listen: AZ Sports 98.7 FM (Locally or Streaming on Internet)
Tonight, the Phoenix Suns will take on the Denver Nuggets at home in their second preseason game of the 2014-15 NBA season.
After a slow start against the inferior Flamengo international team Wednesday night, in which Phoenix was still able to get a win, the Suns will be looking to tighten up their game, and get off to a better start...especially in the first and third quarters.
Meanwhile, the Denver Nuggets are also coming off a win on Thursday night. However, there's was a bit more impressive. They beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 114-101, in a game that featured both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (although they only played around 12-13 minutes each).
The Nuggets were led by the surprising play of Timofey Mozgov, whose 20 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocked shots, and 1 assist posted the best stat line of the night for either team.
If Denver uses him in the same way as they did against the Thunder, Miles Plumlee, Markieff Morris, and Shavlik Randolph will have their hands full in the post. And they will need to fare much better than Steven Adams did for Oklahoma City if they want to get the win.
As for the offense, I expect the Suns to use the fully utilize their electrifying backcourt trio of Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, and Isaiah Thomas to out-pace and out-score anyone whom Denver throws at them. Isaiah got off to a slow start in the first game, going only 1-5 from the field to start the game, but he quickly turned it around, especially in the fourth quarter, and ended up leading all scorers with 18 points off the bench. I expect him to score even more than that tonight.
Finally, one of the other match-ups to watch tonight will be the Morri vs. Faried. Markieff Morris will almost certainly get the start against Kenneth Faried, but Keef could also play some minutes at the five. As such, I expect that Marcus Morris will also see some time matched up with the Manimal, and that will be a good test for Marcus to see if he is able to play the four this season if called upon to do so.
In addition, it appears that Anthony Tolliver may see his first action tonight in a Suns uniform, as was reported earlier today by Phoenix head coach Jeff Hornacek.
Overall, I expect this to be a high-scoring, yet close game...as the Suns and Nuggets are both very young and talented with high-energy players. However, I believe that the Suns highly talented guard rotation will simply be too much for the Nuggets to keep up with in the end, and that Phoenix will pull away late to earn their second consecutive victory in the preseason.
Time will tell.
All good things have to come to an end. This is the end, of #SUNSRANK for 2014-2015...
Who are the five most important names and faces for the Phoenix Suns for the 2014-2015 season? Well, at least according to the staff here...There are players, coaches, front office members, entertainment, and so much more that all come together to form a successful team. Most of the formula has been revealed, now here are the key ingredients.
Everything is connected.
We knocked out 25-6 on here for #SUNSRANK for the 2014-2015 Phoenix Suns season with some big names and other faces that will have a say in how the season goes overall. Go back and check out the lists from this week if you missed them, but lets continue to march forward.
In these rankings some great names were left out of the Top 25 like Casey Prather, Jamil Wilson, Joe Jackson, Earl Barron, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Alec Brown, the Cheerleaders, and the Hip-Hop Squad. They will not be forgotten.
#SUNSRANK is a compilation of 14 writers here on Bright Side that ranked the most important names and faces of the franchise for this one year. This is not a "future rankings" or some Fox News one-sided account of things. Everyone had their own opinion and the rankings are as the staff deemed fit. There were some wild rankings, but we are not going to leak like a sieve a la the NSA in here. We have some integrity.
This is it. Go back and look at the rest of the rankings to see where the rest of the Suns faces ranked here.
Profile: 5'9" 185 lbs. Point Guard -- Fourth Year Washington
Stats (Last Season): In 34.7 MPG 20.3 PPG 6.3 APG 45.3% FG 34.9% 3PT
Interesting Fact: His name was derived from a bet between his father (Lakers fan) bet on the 1989 NBA Finals, where the Lakers were swept, and Thomas was named Isaiah after the Pistons star, but tweaked for a biblical connection.
Analysis: The little guy is going to be huge in Phoenix next year. From an on-court perspective, he'll grant Coach Hornacek so much more freedom than he had last year. Hornacek can have his two point guard system flowing all game, and not have to worry about any drop in productivity. Thomas will be a feisty little spark plug off the bench; with him, Gerald Green, Marcus Morris, and Tolliver coming off the bench together, they should be a devastating second unit that will surely be contention for highest scoring bench in the league. Thomas is a gritty player too. It never hurts to have guys that play with a fire, and he could very well be one of the vocal leaders on this team.
As far as off of the court, I think Thomas is going to hugely resonate with the fans. Who doesn't love a 5'9 underdog? He's already connected to the community with his backpack giveaway and school supplies drive in August. Thomas seems really happy to be here, and I think the fans will just continue to embrace him once they see him on the floor. He'll be fan favorite for years to come. -- Garrett Benson
Important Question: Will lightning in a bottle be satisfied as a 6th Man and a limited role?
Profile: 6'10" 245 lbs. Power Forward -- Fourth Year Kansas
Stats (Last Season): In 26.6 MPG 13.8 PPG 6.0 RPG 48.6% FG 31.5% 3PT
Interesting Fact: Markieff got the master bedroom in their Phoenix home after beating Marcus in a game of Madden 2013... True story.
Analysis: As a reserve last year Markieff made the leap to being a consistent, relied upon option for the Suns and a legitimate 6th man of the Year candidate. Playing behind Channing Frye and with a loose second unit highlighted his strengths and masked his weaknesses. That is one thing that Coach Hornacek does very well with his young players, mask weaknesses, and emphasize strengths. The changes to his game were obvious. He shot nearly a full three-point shot less per game from year one to year three, almost tripled his free-throw attempts, and shot the ball immensely more efficiently from the field because of that on more shots overall. There was visible progression to his game. This year Markieff looks to be in even better shape than last year and genuinely happy. Growing as a leader, as a rebounder, and as true "power forward" are the next steps in the evolution of his game. All the tools are there for Markieff to be a viable third option on a good team hunting for a playoff spot, but now there is not the safety net of Frye playing 25-30 minutes a night in front of him.
This season he will have more responsibility in the pick-and-roll game. More times where he has to make the decision on plays that will impact the outcome of a game. How Markieff plays in this role could be the barometer on the teams overall success. -- Kris Habbas
Important Question: Can Markieff be the third best player on a playoff team?
Profile: 6'1" 190 lbs. Point Guard -- Fifth Year Kentucky
Stats (Last Season 43 Games): In 32.9 MPG 17.7 PPG 5.5 APG 4.7 RPG 47.7% FG 35.7% 3PT
Interesting Fact: He is a man of few words.
Analysis: How apropos is it that I get to blurb Eric in this exercise? Somehow my disdain for all things Bledsoe caused me to rank him as high (tied) as anyone else on the staff. I guess not everyone else can see his value.
I still think Eric is a bit of an enigma. I wasn't really able to ascertain exactly what I think of Bledsoe based on last year's half season sample. Will he be Flash Gordon or Eric Gordon? If he can continue to tap into his vast potential and eliminate some of his puzzling lapses, perhaps it's the former. The thing is, Eric turns 25 in December and has just done so little this far into his career. Even last season he was just a very good player (when healthy), not a great one.
Here's hoping that a full, healthy season will allow him to hit that next gear because for now the Suns have hitched their franchise to his wagon. -- Jim Coughenour
Important Question: Is this his team?
Profile: Head Coach -- Second Year
Stats: Former Utah Jazz shooting coach, traded for Charles Barkley, made 2,055 three-pointers, one time All-Star, and two times Finals Runner-Up.
Interesting Fact: Sure, Karl Malone was "The Mailman," but Hornacek was "The Paperboy" in some circles. There is an APB out on a John Stockton nickname...
Analysis: The success of the team rests on Jeff Hornacek and his staff. The staff appears to be really good at devising schemes (8th on O, 15th on D with a very inexperienced team) and developing player skills, including Miles Plumlee, Keef Morris, Dragic and Bledsoe among others. But to make it work and win games in the process, the head coach has to know how to instill confidence in him, in themselves and in the scheme. Hornacek is a natural. For the Suns to win in year two, Hornacek will have an even tougher job this season. No longer are the Suns surprising themselves. They expect to win a lot and make the playoffs, yet they are still a very young team who could regress in the face of adversity. So Hornacek will have to make sure they don't get too down or too up and just stay even keeled all year while the expectations mount. -- Dave King
Important Question: How does he manage expectations?
Profile: 6'4" 180 lbs. Point Guard -- Seventh Year Slovenia
Stats (Last Season): In 35.1 MPG 20.3 PPG 5.9 APG 50.5% FG 40.8% 3PT
Interesting Fact: Dragic only started playing basketball after an injury derailed his youth soccer career. Good choice.
Analysis: Goran Dragic is the face of the franchise. The Dragon's rise to All-NBA status has been nothing short of remarkable, especially considering the timid, lost rookie he was just a few years ago. After he's shown an impressive level of improvement in each of the last few seasons, it will be fascinating to see where Goran's game goes this year. Nonetheless, there's no reason to doubt Gogi-we all know what kind of a competitor he is and how remarkable of a campaign he just had a season ago while splitting time at both backcourt positions. He's in the prime of his career and is likely to remain in Phoenix after he inevitably opts out of his bargain of a contract next summer. The Suns brass knows how valuable Khal Dragic is to the franchise-this no doubt played a role in the signing of Zoran Dragic, or Dragon Ball Z if you will. As the only remnant of the Steve Nash era, the Prodigal Sun will no doubt play a key role in the next chapter of this franchise's story. After Goran Dragic's brilliance last season, I can't imagine anyone else being ranked #1 in terms of importance to the Phoenix Suns. -- Sreekar Jasthi
Important Question: Is this his team?
Ohhh Nelly.... We saved the best for last.
Ending the write-in ballot's the right way, with Dave, Sean, and Mike's (sans Mike as he is on his fifteenth vacation this week):
The reason I think Bright Side of the Suns is so important to the team is that it gives the die-hard fans a place to come and read quality, in-depth articles about the inner-workings of the organization and the players, while also providing great stories and game coverage. But that's just the beginning. BSOTS is an interactive network of fans in which the community can comment and communicate with each other as well. In this respect, the fans have a place to talk to others while watching the games, or while reading articles about the latest happenings with the team. It is a community as much as it is a site to read about team news. In my opinion, it's by far the best site for all Suns related information and interaction. There's just no other place like it. -- Sean Sullivan
I first joined BSotS because I wasn't finding enough Suns news to chew on every day. I started writing because I realized that other fans felt the same way, so maybe we could generate some conversation through my posts. And now, I just can't get enough of it. I love being around the Suns - my team since Kyle Macy was the point guard - and BSotS is to thank for that. -- Dave King
After an historically great year in Phoenix, Suns guard Goran Dragic finds himself surrounded by an even deeper back court this season as the Suns fight for the playoffs.
Dragic was one of only four players in NBA history to average 20 points and 5 assists per game while shooting better than 50% overall and better than 40% on three pointers. The others were Larry Bird, LeBron James and... his current head coach Jeff Hornacek during his best year as a Phoenix Sun.
Dragic didn't make the All-Star team last season because he rose so quickly from mediocrity that the national audience didn't quite warm to him fast enough. His exclusion could partially be blamed on lack of TV exposure, but he wasn't chosen among the reserves (votes by coaches) either due to the pure depth at guard in the West.
Coach Hornacek has seen a little - maybe a lot - of himself in Dragic since he rejoined the Suns as head coach last summer. One of the first moves of the organization was to acquire an elite guard to share the back court with Goran, much like the Suns acquired Kevin Johnson in 1988 to share the court with Hornacek.
Now the coach must help Dragic, who is not a ball hog, keep his place among the league's elite while the offensive options around him improve seemingly every month that goes by. In Wednesday's preseason opener and last Saturday's scrimmage, Dragic barely scored while Thomas, Bledsoe and Green dominated the stat sheet.
Eric Bledsoe, Isaiah Thomas and Gerald Green all averaged more than 15 points per game last season. Unless the Suns plan to score 120 points a game, Dragic will have a hard time repeating his 2013-14 season in raw numbers.
But that's nothing new to Hornacek.
"When I was in the league, it seemed like every team had 3-4 All Stars," he said.
Hornacek spent his entire career playing elite talent around him. In his own historic season, he was flanked by Kevin Johnson (19.7 points, 10.7 assists), Dan Majerle (17.3 points, 3.3 assists, 5.9 rebounds) on the wing, plus the aging Tom Chambers (16.3 points, 5.8 rebounds) and young Tim Perry (12.3 points, 6.9 rebounds) in the front court.
With Utah, he was in a lineup with future Hall of Famers John Stockton (14.7 points, 12.3 assists in 1994-95) and Karl Malone (26.7 points, 10.6 rebounds) as they reached two NBA Finals together.
Both Utah and Phoenix, during their heydays, were considered less talented than the league's elite, yet won more games than they were supposed to win. Between Phoenix and Utah (not counting the hiccup year in Philadelphia), Hornacek made the playoffs 13 times, including five Western Conference Finals berths and two NBA Finals appearances.
Hornacek was never the most athletic player on his team, or the most nationally loved. But he thrived on teams by finding his niche as one of their hardest workers and surest shooter. He was also an elite secondary playmaker (4+ assist per game in each of his first 14 seasons) and underrated team defender.
Dragic has a chance to mold himself into Hornacek 2.0, if not even with a slightly higher ceiling. Suns fans can only hope that includes him wearing a Suns uniform for the rest of his career. Hornacek was traded by the Suns in 1992 to acquire Charles Barkley - a trade that propelled the Suns to the NBA Finals.
Ironically, it was Hornacek who first suggested they acquire Barkley - a malcontent in Philly - as their missing piece to win a title. No wonder Dragic didn't lobby hard for Kevin Love this summer.
Dragic must find his comfort level in the back court rotation. And there's no better coach than Jeff Hornacek to help him do just that.
"I was a little bit jealous," Dragic said with a chuckle of brother Zoran getting the biggest roar of the night from a crowd that was less than half full. "It was great."
Zoran Dragic entered the preseason game on Wednesday night with only 2 minutes left, and received a spontaneous roar from the crowd no matched by any other player on the night.
But coach Hornacek doesn't care. He wants to see production from his regular season guys, and he wasn't seeing it most of the time against poor competition.
"You still want to win the game," Hornacek said the rookies of not playing much. "You want to establish a winning mentality. We're not out there just playing some pick up game."
The Suns starters did not play well as a unit, resulting in the Suns playing from behind for the first 16 minutes of the game, and then losing their lead again in the third quarter before a big run by the second unit put the game away.
"Heck, every game you step on the court you should think it's a big game," Hornacek said with a scowl after the Suns barely beat Flamengo. "That's probably what drove me nuts. I saw it this morning at shootaround. They weren't ready to go. Luckily we have a deep team."
Now the Suns begin to face NBA competition. If the Flamengo game is any indication, the coaching staff is more interested in the chemistry and production of the regular rotation players than he is showcasing rookies unless it's a blowout one direction or another.