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Record: 9-9

Place In Standings: Third

Points Per Game: 83.0

Points Against: 85.2

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The Phoenix Mercury did not have a lions share of games this past week with the All-Star Break taking up the weekend, but they did play one game against their elemental basketball Kryptonite... the Minnesota Lynx. This season the Lynx have taken apart the Mercury in impressive fashion.

On the season they have out scored the Mercury by 80 points and out-rebounded them by 30 in five games.

Injuries have played a major role in the last 24 months for the Mercury and they are not going away. Penny Taylor underwent successful arthroscopic surgery on her right knee. This is not the same knee that sidelined her all of last season, but will be the knee that sidelines her for the next 6-8 weeks. The season ends on September 15th giving Taylor an outside shot to return during the regular season and the playoffs. She has played 90 total minutes scoring 58 points so far. Not a loss in terms of how the season has gone so far, but more more of a loss for the long-term and playoff potential for the team.

The team also resigned Jasmine James to a new 7-day contract on July 28th keeping her on the roster through this Sunday (August 3rd). James was signed after former first round pick Samantha Prahalis was waived a little over a week ago.

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All-Star Game Recap

With two All-Stars on the Mercury roster only one saw 18 minutes of action, Diana Taurasi, while the Western Conference cruised to a victory. She scored her only points on a three-point shot in the first quarter and then after that the collective talent took over the game. Brittney Griner saw no action due to injury, but was out there soaking in the experience with her peers.

The West continued their dominance winning their eighth All-Star Game in the eleven year history of the event.

This was a good opportunity for the team to get healthy, rest, and get used to each other even more heading into the final stretch of the season. New faces like Jasmine James and frequently injured Taurasi, Brittney Griner, Penny Taylor, and Candice Dupree will have had eight days off between games before taking the floor next.

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Second Half Season Preview

This has been mentioned a few times here in the Mercury Meter, but the season as a whole is going to be defined by how the Mercury fair against teams above .500 in the standings. In the "first half" the team was 3-7 against teams above .500 including 0-5 versus the Minnesota Lynx and 2-1 against the Los Angeles Sparks. That translates more to the playoffs than it does the regular season because to get back to the WNBA Championship the Mercury will have to beat one or both of those teams in September.

Looking forward to the final 14 games the Mercury's schedule lightens up.

Only three games in the second half are against teams currently with a .500 or better record. They have a great opportunity to collect wins against the lower level teams that they were a combined 6-2 against in the first half of the season. While they have 11 games to pad their lead in the standings against lower level teams, in the end, it will be their performance in the three games against playoff teams that will define the team this season.

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Upcoming Schedule:

Thursday @ Seattle Storm at 7pm AZ Time

Saturday vs. Atlanta Dream at 7pm AZ Time

It’s just about that time. Under new general manager Ryan McDonough, the Suns have made two compelling draft picks and two trades that will result, or have already, in fine returns. Jared...

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In golden boy GM Ryan McDonough's first month with the Phoenix Suns, he has already pulled off three very well received trades (including trading up one spot in the NBA draft).

In doing so he has effectively turned Jared Dudley, Luis Scola, and a 2014 second round draft pick into Eric Bledsoe, Caron Butler, Miles Plumlee, Gerald Green, Malcolm Lee and a 2014 first round draft pick.

But he's not done yet.

Looking at the Suns roster, they currently have 16 players under contract for next season; not counting last year's third string point guard Diante Garrett or second round draft pick Alex Oriakhi...neither of whom are on guaranteed deals.

Here's a look at the updated roster below:

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In case you were wondering, the maximum number of players that a team can carry on the roster at the start of the season is 15. So it's a certainty that at least three of the players (one under contract) that you see above will be gone before the deadline to submit final rosters at the end of October.

But what are the most likely scenarios? Here is a look at some of the more popular options in no particular order:

1. Waive Malcolm Lee:

Malcolm Lee was basically the cost of the Suns moving up from the 30th pick to the 29th pick in the draft in order to draft Archie Goodwin. Lee was originally the 43rd pick in the 2011 Draft who signed a three-year contract with the Timberwolves before becoming plagued by injuries that significantly limited his playing time over the past two seasons. His guaranteed salary is only $854K, so the Suns could easily waive him prior to the start of the season. This is certainly the easiest option for the Suns which would require no further trades at this point.

2. Trade Kendall Marshall

The rumor about the Suns' interest in trading Marshall has been floated around since the Suns' new staff arrived, but gained momentum during Summer League when a supposed "source" leaked the information that the Suns were actively shopping him. Marshall was part of the decisions made by the old regime, and his future with the Suns is now very much in question with McDonough taking over for Lance Blanks. Still, would the Suns be able to trade Marshall for a first round pick without taking any players back in return? If the Suns do in fact trade Kendall, the more likely scenario in my opinion would be to include him in a larger trade...perhaps like the one below.

3. Trade Marcin Gortat

This trade has to happen at some point soon. The Suns are a rebuilding team looking to acquire youth and draft picks, and while Gortat is without question one of the best players on the team, it doesn't make sense for Phoenix to keep the 29 year old center after his contract expires at the end of this season. With both Jared Dudley and Luis Scola already gone, it's only a matter of time before Marcin is dealt as well. But will it be before the start of the season? The Suns may choose to hold onto Gortat until closer to the trade deadline for a couple of reasons. First, his value will likely increase by that time as potential playoff teams become more desperate to shore up their rosters before the postseason. Also, the Suns could choose to hold onto him for the time being to mentor Alex Len, and as a bit of security in case Channing Frye doesn't actually return. Again, it's only a matter of time before the Suns trade Gortat, but I'm not so sure it's the next move the Suns will make.

4. Trade Michael Beasley

Of course this is the dream scenario for a lot of Suns' fans...but is it likely? First, one has to realize that nobody, and I mean nobody, is looking to acquire Beasley. The Suns would love to free up his $6 million per year contract that doesn't expire until the end of the 2015-16 season, but it would cost them in order to do so. The Suns could attach Beasley to another deal, but all that will do is stifle the assets Phoenix would get in return. The other option is to basically pay another team to take him on by giving up one of our first round draft picks next year. Again, is it really worth it? The Suns aren't to the point of desperation in order to get under the cap, so I don't see this as being very likely at all.

5. Stretch Michael Beasley

The other option the Suns have with Beasley is to use the stretch provision on him. The current NBA CBA allows teams to waive a player and stretch their remaining salary over twice the years the player is under contract, plus one year. In Beasley's case, he is under contract for two more seasons with approximately $12.25 million guaranteed in all. If the Suns waived Beasley now, they could stretch his salary and his cap hit over the next five years at only $2.45 per season. This would minimize the effect of cutting him on the salary cap, especially in later seasons as the salary cap continues to rise. The only downside of course is the dead salary the Suns would have on the books for five years instead of just two. Still, if the Suns plan on ridding themselves of Beasley, I see this as the most likely scenario.

The Big Picture

Of course, these are only some of the more likely trades or moves the Suns could make before now and the start of the season. There are any number of other possibilities with Phoenix's current roster that could still happen as well. The Suns are loaded with relatively cheap and/or expiring contracts that they could put together to make another big move if the opportunity presented itself.

Not only that, but the Suns could make more than one move between now and the start of the season. For instance, it's entirely possible that they choose to waive Lee, stretch Beasley, and also make an additional trade in order to free up an additional roster spot or two...anything's possible.

It's also worth mentioning that the Suns still have plenty of time to make their decision. They can invite up to 20 players to participate in training camp before making their decision and finalizing their roster, so there's no need to move hastily at this point.

My guess is that another trade could happen at any time; McDonough has proven he is aggressively pursuing assets and is looking to make major changes. However, I don't believe the Suns will waive anyone until they have a chance to take a look at everyone and make an informed decision about what's best for the team.

Poll
What do you think is the next move the Suns will make?

  3083 votes | Results

When an amnesty provision allowing teams to eliminate one salary from their cap emerged from the muck of the 2011 lockout, we knew it would provide teams under the cap with a means to add veteran...

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Pop Quiz: In the world of the NBA what are Robin Lopez and Luis Scola worth?

If that question was posed to Phoenix Suns fans a day before each of the players were traded the answer would in no way be a "first round pick in the incredibly talented 2014 NBA Draft," but that, believe it or not is the answer. The two former Suns big men netted the team a second and a third pick in the first round of the draft this year.

Last year in a three team trade that sent Robin Lopez and Hakim Warrick to the New Orleans Pelicans for a lottery protected first round pick from the Minnesota Timberwolves that is only Top 13 protected for a team on the verge of the playoffs. In a top heavy Western Conference the Wolves have as good a chance as their middling peers of making the playoffs as a seven or eight seed.

Fast-forward a year and the team was able to ship away a Larry Bird favorite in Scola to the Indiana Pacers for a lottery protected first round pick, Gerald Green, and Miles Plumlee.

Couple that with the Suns own first round pick, likely in the Top 5, and the team has positioned themselves well for the upcoming draft. They have three tickets to the party that every team wants to get into.

What does this mean though?

No games have been played in college just yet, but the talent has been making waves over the years in high school, recently in tournaments, and creating an overall impression on the NBA decision-makers. One thing is fairly clear at this point. Andrew Wiggins (Kansas, Fr.) will be the first player off the board if (when) he declares for the 2014 NBA Draft.

Another thing is very clear. No matter the combination of picks, packages, money, and thorough begging no team is trading the top pick after they get it.

If the Suns win the lottery they win both Wiggins and two more talents with their picks, but if they do not there are plenty of potential franchise changing players coming from college and overseas. After Wiggins the Top 5 will feature in no order Jabari Parker (Duke, Fr.), Julius Randle (Kentucky, Fr.), Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State, So.), and Dante Exum (Australia, Undecided).

Any of those three could be building blocks for years to come.

Parker has been referenced to a Paul Pierce type with his methodical offensive skill-set, but he is built like Shawn Marion. A unique offensive combination at the four in a league that is becoming smaller and smaller. A more traditional four man, Randle, has drawn direct comparisons to Zach Randolph and Al Jefferson. At the 2013 Nike Hoops Summit several NBA decision-makers told me and other scouts just that.

The next tier features both Smart and Exum, combo guards that can be every bit as effective as a floor leader or off the ball scorer. Smart made the decision to return to school despite being in the running for the Top Overall Pick. Then there is Exum who has burst onto the scene with recent performances in tournaments showing he can compete and even out perform his peers.

Those are options in the Top 5, but as we see every year a Victor Oladipo or Damian Lillard can come from seemingly out of nowhere to go in the Top 5 of any draft. Time will tell who the 2014 version of that is.

If the Wolves sneak in the Playoffs or at the very least finish at No. 14 in the standings after the lottery then the team gets the opportunity at another lottery talent. In that range there are very talented prospects including Glenn Robinson III (Michigan, So.), Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (Arizona, Fr.), Adreian Payne (Michigan State, Sr.), Dario Saric (Croatia, 1994), and Mitch McGary (Michigan, So.). All of these prospects have Top 10 potential, but could be available between 14-17 with the Wolves pick.

The Pacers are another story. They will compete for an NBA Championship which starts in the regular season where they will be one of the better teams no matter conference. That pick is likely going to be in the 25-30 range.

At that point there could be another Archie Goodwin in the mix for the Suns. Looking at prospects like Mario Hezonja (Croatia, 1995), Montrezl Harrell (Louisville, So.), Noah Vonleh (Indiana, Fr.), and Spencer DinWiddie (Colorado, Jr.) as options there. The draft process just started so there are other names that will be at each position of the draft, but just like this year it gives Ryan McDonough an excuse to see anyone and everyone in private workouts.

For more draft coverage checkout NBA Draft Insider.

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