Suns rookie T.J. Warren sets to play his first pro game in his home state, where former All-Star David West tutored him.

1. Are the Suns defensive issues fixable? How so? Jeffrey Sanders: Barring a trade I am not so sure. Their interior defense just can’t match up with bigger teams like Detroit or Memphis. What...

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Will the Suns stop the bleeding with a much needed win at home tonight?

What: Phoenix Suns vs. Milwaukee Bucks

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena: Phoenix, AZ

When: 7 p.m. MST

Watch: FOX Sports AZ / NBA League Pass

For the first time in the Ryan McDonough and Jeff Hornacek era, the Phoenix Suns are below .500...a place most never imagined they would be, at least not this soon, after jumping out to a 12-8 start in the first 20 games of the season.

The Suns have lost five games straight since then, and now sit at 12-13. Those visions of 50+ wins, making the playoffs, or at least improving on last season, all seem in danger of becoming dreams instead of realities.

The good news?

Well, at least for now, they are still technically the eighth seed in the Western conference, with New Orleans also losing last night with a hurt Anthony Davis, and Oklahoma City still half a game behind after winning their last six straight.

But even the good news casts a shadow of gloom on the Suns current situation, realizing the Thunder's ascension into the top eight is merely a matter of time, while both the Pelicans and the Sacramento Kings also await their own opportunities to overtake the struggling Suns.

As for the Milwaukee Bucks, they are currently sitting at 12-12 in the much weaker Eastern Conference, good enough for the sixth seed for the time being.  But they are feeling pretty good about themselves after a big win over the Los Angeles Clippers, a team the Suns suffered a heartbreaking loss to in overtime just last week.

The Bucks are led by Brandon Knight who is having a very good year, averaging 17.4 points per game, the Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo (I still have to spell check this name every time), and star-rookie Jabari Parker (no spell check!) -- both averaging 12.5 points per game.

Here is the complete list of probable starting match-ups:

Probable Starters:

Eric Bledsoe vs. Brandon Knight

Goran Dragic (or Gerald Green) vs. O.J. Mayo

P.J. Tucker vs. Jabari Parker

Markieff Morris vs. Giannis AntetoKounmpo

Miles Plumlee vs. Larry Sanders

Keys to the Game:

  • The other end of the court: The Suns are known for their potent offense, currently the fifth best in the league, averaging 104.7 points per game.  But their defensive rating is 16th in the league, and for a team in the Western Conference fighting for a playoff spot, that just isn't getting it done.  To quote former New York Jets' LB Bart Scott, the Suns "couldn't stop a nose bleed" last night against the Thunder.  They were either fouling, out of position, or just flat-out not trying hard enough. Not having Goran Dragic wasn't the issue, the lack of defense was.  If the Suns want to right the ship and get a win tonight, they have to play just as aggressively on the other end of the court.
  • Low(ly) Post - Miles Plumlee is averaging only 5.4 points per game, and 5.7 rebounds in 22 minutes per game.  Alex Len, who has shown some impressive flashes, has been plagued by inconsistency (normal for a guy who's basically a rookie), and is only averaging 5.3 points and 4.7 rebounds in 18.2 minutes.  Although the Suns are driven by their back-court, they need better play by their front-court players, specifically the center position...especially rebounding.
  • Find the spark - The Suns have too much talent to be slumping the way that they have been.  Is it a mental thing?  Is it a chemistry thing?  Is it a coaching thing?  Whatever the case, the Suns need to figure it out, and move past it.  When the Suns are playing with energy and intensity, attacking the defense on offense and pestering/frustrating the offense on defense, Phoenix is a very hard team to beat.  They don't need to out-muscle the opponents, they can out hustle them.  The Suns did this last season, which is one of the reasons they over-achieved to 48 wins.  If the Suns want to make the playoffs this season, they have to find that spark once again.  Let's hope they can re-ignite that flame tonight.

Just as trade season kicks off and new Phoenix Suns point guard Isaiah Thomas is eligible to be traded, he fired his agent Andy Miller who had negotiated his Suns contract. Does that mean Thomas will push for a trade? And, would the Suns comply?

It is December 15, and with the Phoenix Suns riding a 5-game losing streak it's time for the Suns to consider shaking up the roster. Isaiah Thomas just might be preparing to give the Phoenix Suns a push to enter the fray.

Many folks consider December 15 as the start of NBA trading season because that's the first day on which teams can dump the guy they signed over the summer to improve their team.

Teams have been allowed to trade players this whole time - the Sixers being the most notably active so far this season - as long as they were signed prior to this offseason. Most of the Suns team has been eligible all season so far for trade.

Eligible starting today, December 15

But with so much turnover year over year, December 15 is the first day that 95% of the league is trade-eligible. As of today, Suns players Isaiah Thomas, Anthony Tolliver and P.J. Tucker are eligible for the first time this season to be traded.

Isaiah Thomas reportedly fired his agent, Andy Miller, and plans to have a new agent within days. Funny that the timing matches his eligibility for trades.



Thomas wanted to start, and has expressed surprise that he didn't get a starting gig in Phoenix, a team that already had an All-NBA combo guard and a younger PG negotiating a big extension. But hey, I guess it's all Andy Miller's fault eh?

Who could the Suns acquire for Thomas, if he demands a trade through his new agent?

One such player from another team eligible to be traded today is PF-C Greg Monroe, but only with his consent. Monroe is a really bad fit in Detroit and has been marginalized by the team due to his impending free agency, and quite possibly due to his lack of focus and attention to defense. Yet he is still a 15/10 player who can score in the paint like few NBA players can.

Because Monroe signed his qualifying offer ($5.5 million), any team acquiring Monroe can only do so with Monroe's consent, and would not have any Bird Rights this summer as Monroe becomes a free agent. Lack of Bird Rights means that the acquiring team would not have the right to offer higher raises or more years to Monroe to entice him to stay.

Another player who can rebound is Jordan Hill, but with the Lakers looking like they don't want to tank the season it's unlikely they will trade Hill.

The player getting the most early buzz for trade is Lance Stephenson. He signed with Charlotte and has been a malcontent and bad fit, often sitting out entire fourth quarters for quite possibly the season's most disappointing team. The Hornets are reportedly interested in trading him and his $27 million contract for reasonable value or a future first round pick.

Not eligible until later this month

Not everyone can be traded as of today. Players such as the Suns' Eric Bledsoe and Zoran Dragic cannot be traded until three months have passed since they signed their contracts with the Suns.

For Bledsoe, that's somewhere around December 24, and for Zoran that's somewhere between September 29 and January 2. Yet I don't see either player being traded today, so I wouldn't worry about the exact date.

The Suns negotiating power

Not only do the Suns have reasonable contracts for use in trade, they also have nearly $5 million in cap space to acquire more salary than they send out.

With the team on a 5-game losing streak, the Suns could potentially be open to trading anyone and everyone as long as their long-term future remains bright in the wake of trades.

My guess is that the Suns will not make trades to help this season if it materially impacts future seasons. Don't plan on the Suns trading all their youth away for veterans for a playoff push. Though, with so many young assets, the Suns could afford to trade a couple of kids and still have that bright future.

Trade Deadline

The deadline for in-season trades this year is February 19. That's right at the end of an unusually long All-Star break of 10 days this season, and just before the Suns kick off the remainder of their schedule on February 20.

So, fire up those trade scenarios folks! We've got two months to discuss all the myriad ways to improve the team through magical trades that somehow improve the team this season and for future seasons, while at the same time convincing other teams that our trash is their treasure.

Ready... set... go!

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