Our friend Mike Schmitz breaks down Eric Bledsoe’s game and his free agency value. Draft Express: Eric Bledsoe’s NBA free agency scouting report - Valley of the Suns - Valley of the Suns...

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The Phoenix Suns hit NBA free agency at 9 p.m. MST on Monday with the cap space to make major noise. Eric Bledsoe and P.J. Tucker are restricted free agents, Channing Frye is unrestricted and targets...

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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.

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