Phoenix Suns point guard Goran Dragic talks to a Slovenian reporter about the team, the changes and the rumours that have been surrounding him lately.

Phoenix Suns erstwhile point guard Goran Dragic made third-team All-NBA last season with a breakout year in which he set career highs for points per game (20.6), shooting percentage and three-point percentage. This year, he's been so far relegated to the shooting guard role on a team loaded with quality point guards.

But does that mean he's ready to leave Phoenix? Not so fast, skeptics.

"I don't know from where (this news came)," he said to a Slovenian reporter over the weekend, translated by our very own BSotS correspondent kajkejti, "I haven't said (anything) about that at all. It's mostly written by media. I feel very good in Phoenix, I have a lot of friends (here), family."

But you can sympathize with Dragic's struggles this season, and none of us would be surprised if Dragic at least listened to other teams before making a free agent decision next summer.

He was one of only a handful of NBA players last year to ever to put up 20+ points and 5+ assists while shooting 50+% from the field and 40+% on three pointers.

Then over the summer, while Goran and his brother Zoran led their Slovenian team deep into the FIBA World Cup, the Suns came around and signed his brother to a two-year guaranteed contract. Even before that, Goran was asked about his own intentions to re-sign with the Suns and made it sound like a high probability that he would stay in Phoenix long term.

But the Suns also re-signed point guard running mate Eric Bledsoe to a $70 million deal for five years and fellow PG Isaiah Thomas to a $27 million deal over four years to replace Ish Smith and form a three-headed "hydra" that on paper didn't look like it could work. Less than a handful of NBA teams in history have successfully employed a system like the Suns' are trying to create this season.

Color the PGs themselves as unsure how this will all play out. Dragic recently spoke to Slovenian media (translated by our own Kajkejti) about his role on the team this season. It isn't specified when the interview took place but our guess is either Friday or Saturday after the game.

"A lot of things have changed," Dragic said. "As you can see we have three play-makers, I'm playing mostly off the ball, I'm not that involved on the pick and roll which is my game. But this is part of sports, the team is playing well, so you have to make some sacrifices for the team. As long as it's working."

Markieff Morris has not shown the instincts to be a proper pick-and-pop player in the Suns system as Channing Frye's replacement because Morris doesn't feel comfortable hoisting several threes a game in a catch-and-shoot situation. Lately, Hornacek has discovered P.J. Tucker's ability to make those threes as the power forward in a smaller lineup. Tucker has hit a number of catch-and-shoot top-of-the-key threes in the past week, something the Suns' offense and Dragic in particular desperately need to spread the floor properly.

For now, they are winning games in a manageable season-opening schedule (ranked by b-ref as 16th toughest in NBA so far) but there hasn't been a night in which all three looked comfortable since the opening night win (they combined for 54 points) over the hapless Lakers.

A look at their raw stats shows that the three players almost are a carbon copy of each other.

hydra-comps-15-games

Both Bledsoe and Dragic's numbers are slightly down from a season ago. Dragic says that's to be expected.

"Yes it's normal," he replied. "If you look at the other players, also Eric doesn't have the same numbers as last year. The team is more complete, we have more quality players - more players who can help on the court, the coach is taking advantage rotating players. I think (so :P) this is good, because we have 82 games, the season is long, so we try to stay as fresh as possible for each game."

Dragic and Bledsoe still play the most minutes and Dragic is shooting the best of all three overall (except for three-point %). But his assist rate (3.1) is the lowest of the three despite Thomas playing 7 fewer minutes per night. And when you look at the advanced stats, Dragic is having a lesser impact on the game than Bledsoe or Thomas.

hydra-advanced-15-games

While Thomas and Bledsoe each get to the line for free throws early half the time, Dragic does not. And each of Bledsoe and Thomas has a higher "true shooting" percentage which factors in threes and FTs.

Much of that is because Dragic is playing "off the ball" a lot more this season than either of the other two. Look at Dragic's "usage rate" - a measure of how often he finishes a possession with a shot or assist. He last of the three (21.9), which is in line with every other season of his except for last season's career high rate.

In fact, Dragic's season in general is paling in comparison to last year's Most Improved Player season in which he set career highs in nearly every category.

dragic-shooting-2014-15-games

*stats per basketball-reference.com

The Slovenian reporter asks him about the reports from the past week (about reporters saying he'll explore other options) and "if that is connected to the changes on the team"?

I feel very good in Phoenix, I have a lot of friends (here), family. -Goran Dragic

"No," he said, "I mean, I think everything is connected. But I'm not thinking about that yet and I don't know from where (this news came), I haven't said (anything) about that at all. It's mostly written by media. I feel very good in Phoenix, I have a lot of friends (here), family.. When the season ends, I'll think about it, just put all the cards on the table and see which option is the best. For now I really can't say more (about this)."

The reporter continues to ask him about his comment on there being only one ball and if this is referring to there being overcrowding on the floor. Goran says it was taken a bit out of context, he was just replying to a reporters question on why the 3pgs haven't all had a great night together.

"But this is their (reporters) job," he said (insert cheeky grin), "to make the most interesting story and that people read it."

At the end he talks about Zoran Dragic, says he is training hard, but still has to wait for an opportunity since sadly all the games he was active were close.

1. What impressed you the most over the road trip? Kevin Zimmerman: Phoenix won the games it should. Look, at this point it’s clear the Suns are talented but still working out the kinks. They...

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1. What impressed you the most over the road trip? Kevin Zimmerman: Phoenix won the games it should. Look, at this point it’s clear the Suns are talented but still working out the kinks. They...

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]

Your weekly recap of the week that was for the Phoenix Suns, as well as a look ahead.

After a disappointing 5-5 start, our Phoenix Suns headed east to make things right and after the dust from an extended six-game road trip settled, now find themselves at a respectable 9-6. There were close games (BOS, DET), blowouts (PHI, IND), and a comeback that almost was (TOR).  It all added up to a much-needed 4-1 stretch, and our boys will be coming back home.

This Suns team is clearly one to be reckoned with, despite their growing pains, but unfortunately the competition hasn't changed much out West. In fact, it has only grown stronger.

TEAM W-L
Memphis (1) 12-2
Golden State (2) 10-2
Portland (3) 11-3
Houston (4) 10-3
Dallas (5) 10-4
San Antonio (6) 9-4
Sacramento (7) 8-5
LA Clippers (8) 8-5
Phoenix 9-6
New Orleans 7-5
Denver 6-7
Utah 5-9
Minnesota 3-9

LA Lakers

Oklahoma City

3-11

3-12

Detailed within this wonky table are the standings out West, as recent as 8PM Monday night. The Suns find themselves in a familiar position, being just outside the top-8, but that isn't even the most precarious part of the equation.

Below the Suns are Anthony Davis' Pelicans, plus an Oklahoma City team that everyone knows will be out for blood once they secure the returns of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook from injury. Even the Denver Nuggets, the subjects of such ridicule during the first two weeks of the season, have now ripped off four straight wins and are on the verge of righting the ship at .500.

Last year's bloodbath garnered plenty of headlines as there were three teams (DAL, PHX, MEM) fighting for the last two playoff spots. This year is shaping up to be even nastier, as the Thunder and Pelicans figure to join the Suns in the steel-cage deathmatch, and even the Nuggets might make an appearance as well.

Meanwhile, out East, Brooklyn is currently sitting at no. 8 with a laughable 5-8 record.

There have been countless articles pushing for playoff reform in light of the East/West imbalance, and I won't waste your time by retreading all the fine points that have been made in this regard. It is a silly problem with a painfully obvious solution and frankly I'm tired of hearing about it.

I can only hope that our new commissioner realizes that real change goes beyond sleeved jerseys and 44-minute preseason games, and doesn't step in the same cowpie that his predecessor found a cozy home inside of, ridiculing all notions of progressive thinking while stubbornly clinging to the old tried-and-true method of rearranging problems in lieu of actually providing solutions.

Shunning Anthony Davis and/or our own League Pass darling Suns from the playoffs in favor of the Hawks/Bucks/Nets would seem idiotic to any outside observer, but as is often the case in our society, change isn't achieved until there is no feasible way to avoid it. Perhaps another 48-win team watching from home for the second-straight year will finally push the issue to the front-burner.

At this point the case for playoff reform has been exhausted. The burden should now be on those who oppose it to offer any good reason why it should stay the same. In the meantime, I'm just a fan of a wonderful team that has the rotten luck of playing in the Western Conference.

Moving on.

The Roundup (click the links for full recaps)

Nov 17 @ Boston, W 118-114

Three Suns players reached career highs in this game: Markieff Morris with 30, Alex Len with 19, and rookie T.J. Warren with 7. Boston turned this one into a barn-burner, and Phoenix had just enough tricks up their sleeve to secure the win.

Nov 19 @ Detroit, W 88-86

The antithesis of the Celtics game, the Suns were lulled into 48 minutes of sedated rim-clanging that only barely resembled a game of basketball. Eric Bledsoe led the way with 18 points, including a clutch go-ahead layup.

Nov 21 @ Philadelphia, W 122-96

The Suns did what they needed to do against the maladroit Sixers, who are an NBA team in name only. Isaiah Thomas led the way with 23 points on only 9 shots.

Nov 22 @ Indiana, W 106-83

The Pacers are a team of injury-replacements at this point, and the Suns were never really threatened in this one. Gerald Green tormented his former team with 23 points. Just a reminder, because I never tire of pointing this out: Miles Plumlee, Gerald Green and Bogdan Bogdanovic for Luis Scola.

Nov 24 @ Toronto, L 104-100

The only loss out East. The Suns mounted a thrilling fourth-quarter comeback only to come up short on a handful of bungled offensive possessions down the stretch. Jonas Valancuinas dominated with 27 points on 10-11 from the field, while Bledsoe had perhaps his best game of the season with 25/7/6.

On The Horizon

  • Wednesday, Nov 26 vs Denver
  • Friday, Nov 28 @ Denver
  • Sunday, Nov 30 vs Orlando

The Suns swept the season series versus both Denver and Orlando last year, but the Nuggles have won four-straight and apparently aren't content with entering Western Conference Doormat status, while the Magic are at 6-9 and might be the best "bad" team in the NBA.

Of course, Sunday's game will feature the return of Channing Frye, which leads us to...

The Shark Tank

That damn shark just won't go away. Who swam ahead and who was sucked under?

"Faster than sharks, so it's no big deal": This week's Faster Than Sharks award goes to Alex Len. He achieved his career high in points at Boston, and during the Eastern portion of the road trip he shot 17/22 from the field, showing off his offensive arsenal to go with his already imposing presence in the paint. He used to be a gymnast, so I imagine he has the requisite moves to evade a dumb ol' shark.

"We're gonna need a bigger boat": I'm sacrificing Marcus Morris to the shark this week. During the five-game Eastern swing of the road trip, Mook had games of 5 points vs DET, 6 points vs IND and 5 points vs TOR. Factor in his 3 points vs the Clippers back when this road trip started, and the Suns haven't seen a whole lot of production from a guy who is supposedly in the starting lineup to fill the hoop.

Thanks for reading. See you next time, Suns fans.

We've got a reason to look forward to the next Philadelphia/Phoenix matchup.

DEFENSE? IN PHOENIX? Alex Len and Miles Plumlee are embracing their roles as stoppers in the frontcourt.

"He's been sensational. He's got a great attitude, a great knowledge of the game and is making rapid, rapid progress," Suns President Lon Babby said regarding Len's improvement.

There's plenty of talent at the forward position as well, with the early success of T.J. Warren creating a welcomed logjam.

We're now deeper into the season, but Suns general manager Ryan McDonough said he was "comfortable" with the team's performance through 11 games.

Markieff Morris is looking to "tap all of his talent." And it's a whole bunch of talent.

"Film doesn't lie." Isaiah Thomas has been doing a little more homework recently. Let's hope that the film study is something that continues.

Eric Bledsoe is convinced the Philadelphia 76ers were out to get him during last Friday's 122-96 Phoenix road victory over the league's only remaining winless team.

And the Sixers are on the brink of history, if you didn't know.

So, evidently Bledsoe did sign his qualifying offer this summer, he just didn't send it in because "I wasn't worried about it. I knew everything would take care of itself." Wow.

Check out this new ShotTracker system that will be available starting in December. It's a wristband that will finally prove once and for all that you in fact have no jumpshot.

You will never again see Kobe Bryant play in an important basketball game. Let that sink in. Could the Lakers make a play for Goran Dragic when the season is over?

Who's the X-Factor so for this season for the Suns, who has the best 1 on 1 move, and who has had the best post-bucket celebration so far in 2014?

Charles Barkley refuses to call the basketball team in Washington the "Wizards." They'll always be the "Bullets" to The Chuckster.

Speaking of the Wizards, check out this advice that former Washington LEGEND Gilbert Arenas had for Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls.

The NBA is well represented in GQ's Least Influential list.

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